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Columbus Commons Blog

Beautiful Flowers Bloom at the Commons

Shortly after Columbus Commons opened in 2011, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens branched out from its first and only home at Franklin Park, located two miles east of Downtown Columbus, to design and maintain twelve large garden beds lining the great lawn at Columbus Commons. The Conservatory, which has been in operation since 1895, was brought on by Capitol South, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Commons. Capitol South Chief Executive Office, Guy Worley, explains, “We knew a key component of Columbus Commons would be world class gardens. Instead of bringing on a general landscaping firm, we reached out to the premier horticultural organization in Central Ohio, Franklin Park Conservatory, to design and maintain gardens that would complement the classically-designed park.”

Once brought on board, Franklin Park Conservatory set about designing gardens with four-season appeal, which over the past three years have contributed greatly to the overall aesthetic appeal of the Commons. They have also attracted wildlife – birds and insects of all sorts – that may not have found a comfortable home elsewhere amongst the high-rise buildings Downtown. Some flowers and plants are chosen to attract butterflies and seed heads are left on plants to dry out, instead of being dead-headed, for birds to snack on.

Although many of the plants you will see in the gardens at Columbus Commons are similar to what you would see at Franklin Park Conservatory or any other botanical garden, there are some ways in which a truly urban garden, in a high-traffic area needed to be designed differently. To account for the difference in audience and environment between Downtown Columbus at the Conservatory at Franklin Park, great care was taken to select plants that would reach maturity quickly – within one to two years, so that the gardens would appear full and lush today, rather than a few years from now.

Over the past three years, Amanda Bettin, the Horticulture and Design Supervisor at Franklin Park Conservatory primarily responsible for the gardens at Columbus Commmons, has documented and analyzed the success of, or in some cases the failure of, the plants at the Commons. When plants do not thrive as anticipated, she will adjust the design of the gardens until the desired effect is achieved. There is also a Franklin Park Conservatory Horticulturalist dedicated to the day to day maintenance and success of the plantings at the Commons. Jeremy Thomas holds this position and has done a remarkable job ensuring the gardens look pristine and healthy every day. The Director of Planning, Horticulture, and Facilities at Franklin Park Conservatory, Garry Clarke, believes this sort of responsibility for such prominent, impactful gardens, like those at Columbus Commons, lends his staff a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Garry Clarke also counts Franklin Park Conservatory’s presence Downtown at Columbus Commons as a great opportunity for the organization. And with the success of so many events drawing folks from around Central Ohio to the Commons for events like Picnic with the Pops and Downtown Live, a new audience is seeing and experiencing the technical skills Franklin Park Conservatory has to offer. And although more events and increased foot traffic at the Commons means the stakes are high for the Franklin Park Conservatory gardens to look better and better every day, the over 100-year-old organization has met the challenge – the gardens could not be more beautiful!

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One way Franklin Park Conservatory keeps the gardens looking so spectacular is by utilizing individual volunteers and volunteer groups. If you would like to volunteer at the Columbus Commons gardens maintained by Franklin Park Conservatory, email Tracey Barnes, Volunteer Coordinator, at tbarnes@fpconservatory.org