July 28, 2014

Elyria
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Building a land of imagination – Schoepfle Garden

It’s not finished yet, but children’s garden is starting to take shape

BIRMINGHAM — The aromatic smell of flowers will be sure to tickle the noses of the smallest Schoepfle Garden guests when the park’s newest project — an interactive children’s garden — opens Sept. 1.
In fact, the entire garden concept is designed to tantalize each of the five senses with musically inspired touches in a way that will delight kids as well as all those who are still kids at heart. After all, it is smack dab in the middle of the late Otto Schoepfle’s legendary 70-acre garden.
So, naturally the park is going to be special. But who would have imagined this special?
We’re talking about a grand piano-shaped shrub maze, a 24-foot in diameter sensory cymbal planter and a crawl-through tunnel that combines the elements of a flute and caterpillar.
What else could something like that be called but a flute-a-pillar?
But that’s just the beginning, said Dan Martin, director of the Lorain County Metro Parks.
“We want to use it as both an educational and teaching site for children who visit the garden. But we also wanted to have a little fun with the garden,” he said. “It will definitely be something for the kids. They’re going to play on it and play in it.”
Every aspect of the quarter-acre children’s garden is designed with tiny hands and feet in mind. Schoepfle’s love of music and children will be seen all over the place, Martin said.
There is a serene garden in the shape of an eighth note, a walk-through bamboo forest that leads to a beautiful chimed arbor and a “G” clef-shaped rock pile and slide.
“It’s got that ohh factor that kids love,” Martin added. “It will be fun to see how each element turns out.”
In all, the park has nine key elements that until they are completed as a whole can only be done justice in the one area kids reign supreme: our imaginations. Only there can we actually see beyond the half-paved pathways and unplanted plots and truly embrace the colorful landscaping proposal.
But you don’t have to close your eyes to see one feature taking shape.
All you have to do is talk to local artists around the county who have been refurbishing a beautiful 20-animal carousel with vivid colors reminiscent of the gardens many flowers.
Of course, there will be carousel horses. But this unique wonder will also have a chicken, dog, reindeer, pig and rabbit.
It could be the best part of the garden, said local artist Toni Kruse. Then again, Kruse is probably a little biased. She and her mother have been commissioned to paint one of the aluminum horses.
“This is so special to me because it is something I am working on with my mother,” said the 44-year-old Elyria woman. “I know each time I pick up a paintbrush all I can think about is one day I can see one of my grandchildren sitting on that horse. I can’t wait to see it all together.”
Kruse and her mother, Shelia Rieger, have been entrusted with “Hickory,” a commanding butter-pecan-colored stallion that is outfitted with a brown saddle and pink and purple detailing. It is a horse sure to delight any little girl who loves roses and violets, Kruse said.
“It’s just so pretty with all the little hand-painted flowers,” she said. “It just sparkles.”
The mother and daughter duo received Hickory last month and have since put in about 40 hours of work at Ann Maiden’s Clay Dog Pottery studio on Lowell Street.
However, they are not alone. Besides the many artisans that are volunteering their time to paint carousel horses, eight local landscaping firms have committed themselves to at least one design in the park.
The children’s garden will only add to the beauty of the Schoepfle Garden. Located along the Vermilion River, the Schoepfle Garden is home to acres of botanical gardens and natural woodlands.
There is a formal garden highlighted by a wide central path lined with hedges and topiaries and a shade garden that is draped in a cool canopy of pines with shade plants lining the garden floor.
In contrast to both are nearly 50 acres of natural woodlands that offer a seasonal display of indigenous trees and wildflowers.
And, perhaps best of all, it’s all free.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.

Who is Otto Schoepfle?
Born in 1910, Otto Schoepfle began his career as a banker in the 1930s. After World War II, during which he worked for the U.S. Navy Costal Office, he took a job at The Chronicle-Telegram, where he eventually rose to chairman of the board of the paper’s parent company, Lorain County Printing and Publishing.
He was even invited to a White House luncheon for newspaper editors.
In 1936, Schoepfle purchased the house and land originally owned by his grandparents. When they died in 1924, it had been sold and used as rental property and had become quite run down.
Over the years, with a great deal of attention, work and help from local young people, Schoepfle was able to turn it into the beautiful garden, which he donated to the Lorain County Metro Parks in 1969.
He continued to live in the house on the property until his death in 1992.