I went to a conference in Chelan last September, and Jon came over to meet me for the weekend. We had already been to Chelan, so we decided to stay about 30 minutes away in beautiful Wenatchee. We went to Ohme Gardens, which is a garden created by a couple on a rocky outcropping overlooking the city. Herman and Ruth Ohme got married in 1929, during the Depression, and really didn’t have any money, but they had purchased a 40 acre orchard property that included this plot of land high on a hill overlooking town.
It was arid, with scrub brush and no trees, but they stood on the dry outcropping and imagined something much more lush. They set about transforming it into an oasis in the desert. You may not know, but Wenatchee only gets 9 inches of rain per year, so creating a garden with plants from the Cascade Mountain range was quite the feat.
In the beginning, the couple would head out for the day to public lands, and dig up plants that they wanted to transplant to their garden. Don’t do this, by the way, it is illegal. But this was back then, and obviously nobody stopped them. Once they transplanted some plants, the hard work began. There was no irrigation system, so they had to drive a truck with barrels of water up as high as they could go, and then they hand watered the whole garden using buckets. Buckets! The garden was smaller in the beginning, but that’s a lot of tramping up and down the hill with a 5 gallon bucket of water…
Ohme Gardens eventually grew to the 7 acres that it is today, and has an irrigation system, multiple ponds, mature pine trees and sunny grassy areas. Due to its location on a steep slope, exploring it means climbing up and down the hill on a series of garden paths and stepping stones. Don’t wear heels… There are plenty of shady nooks and crannies to keep you relatively cool in the hot summer sun, and apparently it is a popular wedding venue.
When Mr. Ohme became too elderly to keep up the garden by himself, his children started helping, and Mr. Ohme died at the age of 80 in 1971. In 1991, they donated the garden to the State, who eventually transferred it to Chelan County. I would love to come back sometime when the spring flowers are blooming – I bought their tourist guide and the photos in springtime look amazing. And I had no idea this gem was even there!
I didn’t bring my larger camera, for some crazy reason, so the pictures didn’t turn out as nice as I would have hoped, but I hope you can tell how neat this place is. If you have a chance, go – it is certainly worth the $7 admission.