Dayton Grotto Gardens
Frank Mundt Memorial Garden
The gardens start at the intersection of Kentucky Ave. and West Virginia where the Grotto sign is located. This garden is aptly named for Frank Mundt.
In 1868, Frank Mundt, a resident veteran and florist by trade, began planting vines in the rock walls and native flowers in this former quarry that he collected from nearby farms. His initial efforts inspired others to develop the Grotto and Gardens into a destination attraction for as many as 500,000 visitors a year. Designers Chuck Dickerson and Susan Pearson chose a patriotic garden theme to get your attention and inspire you to explore and enjoy the newly restored gardens just ahead.
Charles Beck Memorial Perennial Garden
Major Beck oversaw the gardens from 1875-1906 and was called the architect of the original area. In his honor, the Master Gardener Intern Class of 2013 has developed this site as a lasting perennial garden. The brick walkway, uncovered during this endeavor, was built by Civil War veterans (residents) during the late 1800’s. It was the first garden developed by the Master Gardeners during the spring of 2013. The historical nature of the walk is enhanced by the sedum planted in the drainage ditch along side the walk. Pat Bethel, Gail Carone and Chuck Dickerson designed this Garden.
Elizabeth Rohrer Memorial Butterfly Garden
Elizabeth Rohrer of Germantown became interested in the original gardens at the Grotto and contributed large numbers of plants from her own gardens.
Terry and Harry Calcutt and Sue Howorth are the designers of this garden. One of the original Grotto fountains (non working) was brought in to be the focal point of the garden. Stonework and nectar and host plants for butterflies complete the garden design and welcome you in for a closer look at the butterflies attracted to the garden. Down below a dry rock stream was added to bring focus to the outcropping that the garden sits on.
C. B. Davis Memorial Boulder Garden
Mr. Davis, an architect, was appointed to lay out the garden in walks, promenades and flowerbeds.
After hiding under honeysuckle for decades, wonderful boulders and a stairway were revealed. Master Gardener, Sue Howorth, has planted the staircase with low growing evergreens and summer blooming sedums to highlight the stone. At the top of the stairs, dwarf pink snow berries were planted to add fall and winter interest and spring bulbs complete the garden for a year round display.
Emma Miller Memorial Tranquility Garden
Emma Miller was known as the ‘Little Mother of the Soldiers.’ She began caring for soldiers of the Civil War and when the Soldiers Home opened in 1867 she was transferred here. This garden was developed to promote healing for patients, families and staff. All humans, regardless of age or culture, generally find nature restorative. It was designed with colors, textures and scents to produce a calming effect. A wheel chair accessible path was added and a bench placed in a quiet alcove where the whole of the peaceful Grotto can be viewed.
The garden was funded by a generous donation from the Four Seasons Garden Club and was designed by Susan Baker, Karen Berney, Karen Beal, Pat Durbin and Diane Harm.
Joseph Guy LaPointe, Jr. Purple Heart Garden
This garden is about heroes, and Joseph Guy LaPointe was a local hero. As a conscientious objector and a medic, when his unit came under fire in Vietnam, he was killed shielding two wounded soldiers with his body as he tried to bring them to safety. For his extraordinary bravery, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart Medal.
The garden was again the brainchild of Robert Kincses. I took the challenge of designing the garden and with the help of many volunteers, the sod was removed and the garden was planted. The Purple Heart is the nation’s oldest military award, introduced by George Washington in 1782. It was lost for 150 years and was reintroduced on February 22, 1932 on the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. The medal is inscribed, “For Military Merit” and is awarded to those “wounded in as a result of hostile enemy action.
Thomas B. Van Horn Memorial Natural Springs Garden
This garden was named for Chaplain Thomas Budd Van Horn who laid out the administrative areas of the Central Branch Campus. The natural underground springs constantly seep water through the limestone rock that is the backdrop of the garden causing a bog-like environment. Designer, Jane Falck has had the challenge to find the plants that will survive in these conditions. Variegated Japanese willows have been planted along with irises, hostas, native bog plants, and ferns. The mature bald cypress with its distinctive knees defines the garden and Jane has added a weeping bald cypress at the other end as a counterpoint.
John H. Martindale Memorial Planters
Raising plants became profitable. In 1877, the original greenhouse raised almost 20,000 plants and shrubs for use on the Home campus and additional plants for sale to the community earning a profit of $1500. A conservatory designed to grow rare plants and palms not seen in northern climates was built. It was named for Major General Martindale, the 2nd Secretary of the Board of Managers.
The containers were designed by Susan Pearson to showcase historically accurate plants or plants that were likely to have been used in 1890 with consideration to growing conditions and durability.
The McPherson Boathouse Garden
The Boathouse was part of the original garden from which small boats were launched to give veterans and visitors for a leisurely row around the upper lake. One of the boats was named the for Ohio-born Major General McPherson, the highest ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War. The boathouse was also sometimes called the swan house because it sheltered resident swans that took up residence underneath.
This garden is planted with plants that bring color and texture to a shade area. The garden was made possible by a grant from the OAGC Foundation.
Lewis B. Gunckel Fountain
The Dr. Clarke McDermont Perennial Garden
The Dr. Clarke McDermont Perennial bed is named in honor of the first Surgeon of the Dayton National Soldier’s Home. He served continuously at the Central Home from its
organization until August 1874, with the exception of fourteen months spent as Surgeon of the Southern Home at Hampton, VA. Dr. Clarke was born in Ireland in 1823, received his medical and surgical education in this country and was one of the first to enlist when President Lincoln
called for troops at the outbreak of the War of the Rebellion. Initially he was appointed Chief Surgeon of the Second Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Leaving behind him wife,
child and his practice, he followed his regiment to Washington and engaged with it in the first battle of Bull Run.
From that time on to the close of the war, he was either engaged with marching regiments or in hospital service. He had charge of some of the largest general hospitals in the country. When
General Cox was elected governor of Ohio, he appointed Dr. McDermont surgeon-general of the state, an office that ended at the conclusion of the war. He died in 1881 and is buried at Woodland Cemetery.
The perennial plants for this garden are chosen for their ability to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Many are natives to Ohio that thrive in full sun, require good drainage provided by the hillside location and once established are drought tolerant.
Charles Harper Garden
More history can be viewed at the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs Virtual Museum