Each year, my eight-year-old son and I make a "bucket list" of things we want to do over the summer and visiting Ohme Gardens is always on it. My son loves exploring the wandering stone pathways, towering turret-like viewpoints, and imagination-inspiring ponds. Personally, I adore the story behind the flowered alpine meadows, rolling lawns, and shady evergreens that stand out like a lush green citadel on the side of a barren, rocky hill.
In 1929 Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard. The purchase included a dry, rocky bluff with stunning views of the Cascade Mountains and Columbia River. Herman and his wife, Ruth, would stand on that bluff and dream of a garden oasis.They started transplanting small evergreens, hauling in native stone to form paths and boundaries, planting low-growing ground cover, and forming pools. All of this was done by hand and initially, the gardens were watered with five-gallon buckets hauled from the river below. What a Herculean effort!
Eventually Herman and Ruth, due to great interest from the community, opened the Gardens to the public. It is a treasure of the Wenatchee Valley and a true labor of love. When I enter the garden, the magnitude of ardor and dedication required for that transformation overtakes me. And the thrill of the hunt overtakes my son because each summer, gnomes and fairies come to play in the gardens.This year there are sixteen 4"-10" tall figurines waiting to be discovered by adventurous and curious visitors. When we paid to enter the garden and told them we were there for the gnome and fairy hunt, we were given a special map that shows a general location of each figurine, and a small punch card to mark off the ones we find.
With anticipation, we raced up the path to the first location. I use the term "race" loosely as I was recovering from a knee replacement and the paths, predating the ADA, are irregular and steep. Fortunately, Ohme Gardens lends trekking poles to anyone who needs a little extra balance.Each year, it takes my son and me a while to find our groove. This year, we started off searching in the wrong spot and then passed the first gnome several times before we finally spotted him in a little stone hideaway (most likely amused by our bumbling missteps). Once we finally found the first two mischievous little guys, we became quicker at spotting them.
The scavenger hunt is an intriguing way to explore the entirety of the Gardens from lawns to lodges, waterfalls to wishing well, hobbit bench to watering stump, and of course, the flowers! We lose track of time, especially when the temperatures in town rise to uncomfortable, tire-melting temperatures. The gardens feel 10 to 15 degrees cooler, inviting us to spend a little extra time exploring. My son is perpetually fascinated with the schools of tadpoles and fish in the pools and I wander around making note of landscaping ideas and native plants to add to my garden.It's an added bonus to mark off each gnome and fairy we find along the way.If you find all sixteen gnomes and fairies living in the garden (and honestly, we've never completed the hunt in one day - I seem to have passed down my short attention span) you leave your punch card at the admission desk and are entered to win a $20 gift certificate to Froyo Earth Yogurt and an Ohme Gardens Family Season's Pass.Ohme Gardens is currently owned and managed by Chelan County. It is open seven days a week from April 15 to October 15, 9 am to 7 pm (6 pm after Labor Day). Kids 0-5 are free, Youth 6-17 are $4, and adults are $8. Be sure to check out their other events like Yoga in the Gardens and Concerts in the Garden!Did you know Ohme Gardens is 89 years old - Oh MY indeed!