Oglebay’s garden, grounds crews busy

BUSY TIME OF YEAR — Longtime Oglebay Park heavy equipment operator Rick Hempelman mows the rolling fields of grass above Schenk Lake. -- Scott McCloskey

WHEELING — Whether it’s picnicking on a grassy hillside or walking through Bissonette Gardens to view the rows of tulips or nearby flowering trees, the recent snap of warm weather has not only attracted thousands of visitors to the park, it has kicked off that time of year that the park’s grounds and gardening crews are at their busiest, according to park officials.

Bissonette Gardens and the surrounding area at Oglebay Park are providing visitors with a display of color now that the warm weather has arrived, according to Chris Schenkel, director of horticulture at Oglebay. Spread across nearly 16 acres of property between the former guest house and the Mansion Museum, the gardens retain the same beauty they have had since the early 1900s, according to the park’s website.

“We use a lot of Darwin hybrid lilly flowering tulips. That puts us in the window of about the third week of April, first week of May for bloom time. So this season it was a little bit cooler, so it took them a little bit longer to come along,” Schenkel commented.

He said the garden crews generally plant approximately 30,000 tulips bulbs and an additional 20,000 daffodils in different areas around the park’s arboretum. Considered on one of the park’s crown jewels, many visitors have been spotted strolling through or photographing the gardens over the past two weeks. Many prom pictures have been taken with this backdrop.

Oglebay Park Grounds Manager Ryan Wilson said May is the busiest month of the year for grounds and gardening crews. With more than 1,000 acres of fast growing grass to keep mowed and trimmed, including weeding and spreading mulch in the many flower beds around the park, crews are busy.

Wilson said over the next couple of weeks crews will begin to pull up the tulip bulbs and plant a variety of summer annuals by Memorial Day weekend. Schenkel said they always try to finish planting all of their summer flowers by mid-June. Wilson said the park is limited on the type of summer flowers they can plant due to the large deer population throughout the park.

“Early May and mid-May, it really starts picking up,” Wilson said.

He said the park typically has about 15 part-time employees working on a variety of grounds and landscaping projects around the park this time of the year, including an addition five full-time employees. Mowing and trimming grass, weeding flower beds, pruning shrubs and water planting are just a few of the general maintenance duties crews contend with on a daily basis, according to Wilson.

“The last couple of weeks, there have been a lot of people just out walking around,” Wilson said.

He said while the grounds and gardens require a tremendous amount of work, the fruits of their labor are well worth it when he sees the many visitors who turn out each spring and summer season to take in the beauty surrounding the park.