The front of Stan Hywet

Great Mentors — Great Place

In 1915, Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens of Akron, Ohio was completed and F. A. and Gertrude Seiberling moved their family in. They lived there for more than 40+ years.  It is a beautiful historical mansion and originally consisted of thousands of acres.  Stan Hywet means ‘Stone Quarry’ in Old English, (which is what it was built on and not named after a guy named Stan).  F.A. along with his brother Charles, founded Goodyear Rubber and Tire in 1898, and they named it after Charles Goodyear, who had discovered vulcanized rubber.  The mansion was designed by architect, Charles Schneider, and the grounds by landscape architect, Warren Manning.  Manning was also the landscape architect for the Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina.

Stan Hywet’s goal within the gardens is to have them look as they did in the 1920’s.  This puts the perennials, trees, and shrubs at a more mature level, but not overgrown.  Unfortunately, the gardens did fall into a very bad overgrown state and it’s just within the past two decades that they have been brought back to the more glorious looking days. Most of the gardens have been torn out and replanted and are now carefully pruned, and within reason, kept at a 1920’s scale where possible.  There are so many more facts that I could share, but it’s not my intention to have a history lesson here.  I just want you, as the reader, to get an idea of the deep meaning that comes from working at such a place.  I always thought that if FA and Gertrude could see the house and grounds now, they would be so proud.

It is here where my title of this blog takes on its meaning and I think is what has made me into who I am today.  Like I said before, I loved school, I truly did, homework and all.  When I started at Tri-C, I thought I knew a lot about plants, after all I’ve been gardening all my life.  But, and that’s a big but, was I never more wrong about that.  I can remember sitting in my first plants ID class and listening to these very strange Latin words and thinking, “what the hell is he talking about?” I kept telling myself, “just keep writing, you can figure it out later” …and I did!

One of my very most favorite professors at the college was Jim Funai, who is an amazing educator and a great person. His wife, Shelley, just so happened to be a horticulturist at Stan Hywet and grounds manager.  One class at college was all hands-on learning that taught us pruning, planting, mulching, etc.  Stan Hywet needed springtime help with some very overgrown Forsythias so our class went out there to volunteer our services.

A few Fridays later, I knew I was hooked on this place.  I was going to find a way to work there or else, which wasn’t easy because nobody ever left.  In April 2012, I started volunteering every day that I was not in school and when summer came I went there like it was my job.  Forty hours a week and I loved every minute of it.  I shadowed Shelley, my other favorite professor, every day and I learned so much from her.   I was taught about arboriculture (the study of trees), from the Director of Horticulture, Arborist, and my former boss, Tom Hrivnak.  I learned about greenhouse plants and care from the Greenhouse Manager, Pat Henson. It was over five years of the best continuing education that you cannot learn from any book or class.  Great mentors and a great place equaled the greatest experience ever.

So, when I say that I have the experience to design your gardens. I do.  You want a low-maintenance garden to care for?  Piece of cake.  You say your gardens are all in the shade?  I know exactly what you need.  You have plants that need pruning, fertilizing, transplanting?  I can do that.  You have a deer problem?  I can fix that too.  You want to entertain with an outdoor kitchen or just a cool patio and firepit?  Of course, who doesn’t, right?  I can give you an outdoor space that’s exactly what you are looking for, and even show it to you in 3D, so you feel like you’re already living in it.

My best advice is that when you get a chance to learn something new. Do it.  If you’re lucky enough to hang out with experienced mentors like I was, DO IT.  You’ll be glad you did.  According to the dictionary, “Learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.”

On to the next blog and on to more learning.  Till then, think spring!

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