Every year hundreds of thousands of people visit Grove, Okla.
Grove is home to Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, more commonly known as Grand Lake. Grand Lake is the result of the Pensacola Dam, the single longest multiple arch dam in the world, performing the masterful engineering feat of holding back the waters of the Neosho, Spring, and Elk rivers.
Grand Lake, which has nearly 48,000 acres of water surface, is known for world-class bass fishing, deep waters, sail boating, and “on the water” lake houses.
In fact, Grand Lake is so popular that many retirees choose to spend their retirement years “living the lake life.” It is not uncommon for a person who has spent his or her career working in Tulsa, Wichita, or Oklahoma City, to sell off everything and buy a lake house in Grove or one of the many other smaller Grand Lake communities.
My mother and father-in-law happen to be two of those retirees on Grand Lake. He, a retired optometrist, and she, a retired nurse, introduced us recently to one of Grove’s treasures, Lendonwood Gardens.
Lendonwood Gardens was conceived, designed, and built by Grove area dentist Dr. Leonard Miller in 1995. Lendonwood was Miller’s home and the place where he toiled in his labor of love of raising rhododendrons, azealeas, and many other wonderful plants.
Miller’s love for planting was influenced by Japanese gardening and horticulture and resulted in a unique creation of American and Japanese natural beauty that is Lendonwood.
Lendonwood is home to seven different and distinct garden areas. There is the Display Garden, which features hostas, heuchera, and colorful annuals. The Japanese Pavilion Garden is where you can check out the Himalayan Cedar and feed the koi.
The Angel of Hope Garden is a serene space dedicated to those who have lost loved ones, particularly children. The more formal English Terrace Garden highlights sunny beds and rhododendrons. The American Backyard Garden is full of drought tolerant “Oklahoma proven” plants chosen for their ability to weather the ever-changing climate of the four states area.
The Oriental Gardens features shade plants such as hostas and dogwoods. The Azalea Garden, in April, is breathtaking with pinks, lavenders, reds and whites.
By the numbers, Lendonwood boasts 25 varieties of dogwoods (who knew there were that many?), 75 varieties of Japanese Maples, 125 varieties of hostas, 200 varieties of conifers, and 25 varieties of vibernums. Oh yeah, I can’t leave out the 500 varieties of daylilies, which helped Lendonwood achieve the status of Display Garden for the American Hemerocallis (daylily) Society.
If you are not yet impressed, Lendonwood is also home to the largest U.S. collection of native Japanese false cypress trees, totaling more than 80 varieties. The American Backyard Garden is home to the largest collection of rhododendrons in the Midwest.
So, next time you visit Grove, make an effort to see Miller’s Lendonwood Gardens. Lendonwood is a perfect example of someone pursuing their passion of gardening, investing their finances and sweat to make their vision a reality, and then literally giving the entirety of it away for others to enjoy and appreciate.
Whether you are looking for a quiet and serene place to remember a lost loved one, a romantic walk off the beaten path, or you just love the beauty of nature, Lendonwood Gardens is where you can find it.
And the retired people, like my in-laws, who are “living the lake life,” are very friendly people who will be happy to tell you about a great antique shop or local favorite place to eat.
By James Oaks
(James Oaks can be reached at 417-483-3430 or Trusdad@gmail.com.)