Hi, I'm Steve Bennett, and I've been
working for several years to create a 40 acre botanical garden,
nursery, and orchard of unusual and exotic trees. I have a very large greenhouse. I've been planting and protecting several hundred trees,
one by one. Now, thousands of trees and plants are waiting in pots
for the next step:the clearing and terracing of hillsides and the
encirclement of more than 40 of our 57 acres with a deer fence. This
is crucial for the protection of young trees, and the reason I've
started this fund-raising page. Once this greater level of protection
is in place, this botanical garden will one day be a tranquil,
peaceful paradise for everyone to enjoy. There will be a tea house,
waterfalls, beautiful trees, and harvests of fruits and teas not
easily found in this area. That's the nutshell version of my plan.
If you'd like to know more, please read on.
In 1998 I started a vegetable garden.
Little did I know then that growing in the soil would be my passion
and career. The fascination did not die, but grew through the years.
I dreamed about it and experimented, trying things others said
couldn't grow. I was saddened when a trial would fail, but the
happiest person alive with every success. At first it was just a
backyard garden, which took over the other yards and empty fields.
The dream grew like a giant bean stalk but was entirely real. Now I
am at a threshold; I know my chosen career. I've held on to my
passion to build orchards and a nursery, pomegranate terraces and
banana fields, greenhouses to produce 100s of pineapples and papaya,
greenhouses where all the world can come and see the botanical
vastness. I want to build an iconic organic garden where people can
come and admire the waterfalls as they sip home-grown tea from inside
my Chinese pagoda or view the terraces from above at the
Mediterranean-inspired Summerhouse cafe. I want to be efficient and
streamline in the protections of my bananas transforming their
Thai-inspired Winter storage house into a massive open-air pavilion.
I want to market my year-round produce from a downtown store and
coffeehouse. And when entering my self-made paradise, massive stone
gateways inspired from the temples at Angkor will mark the beginning
to the Botanical garden where the roads are lined with palms.
I learned so much on my own from
reading endlessly and learning from the experts that crossed my path,
even working as an apprentice at a nursery with a focus on all things
edible. I received my first citrus tree in 2002, my first fig in
2003, pomegranates in 2004, planted my banana grove in 2006, and
began to plant cold-hardy palms in 2008. In 2006 I built, by myself,
two greenhouses from kits which were later destroyed by strong winds.
From the beginning, I was swept away by all the exotic plants listed
in catalogs but I always noticed that so few were reliably hardy. I
had to find a way, I had break that invisible wall and grow them
anyway. A palm in Florida is among the many, but a palm in Ohio,
that is a treasure. As I learned , I found that every family of
plants has a few species that do break that wall and survive cold. I
envisioned gardens where all these trees and vines and shrubs would
be grown together to make a cold-hardy paradise like no one has even
seen. Among the more than 200 species of plants I am currently
growing, many that are hardy, such as tea, persimmon, some palms,
magnolias, and plants that require some outside protection: bananas,
more palms, figs, pomegranates, even avocados, to the truly tropical
and subtropical in my largest greenhouse measuring 48' long by 30'
wide and 18' high. My greenhouse exotics vary from starfruit and
mango to papaya and egg fruit, even peanut butter fruit and miracle
fruit. Half of the greenhouse is devoted to citrus, and I do believe
I have the largest collection in Ohio with more than 75 varieties of
Impossible to fit into a few
paragraphs, to learn more about me and my plants please continue
I'm lucky to live on one of the highest
hills in the county which means longer growing seasons, full sun all
day, and a higher winter low on the coldest night of the year. The
view is beautiful, and it will only improve with future botanical
development. This land has been in my family since my
great-grandparents bought it and called the 57 acres "Sky Ranch."
It's become a sanctuary where no matter the issues in life beyond
the 57 acres, we have peace here. I'm completely devoted to making
this place a paradise.
In just 2010 alone, I planted over 200
trees and perennials from jujubes and mulberries to jasmine, gardenia
and Italian stone pine. I have 1,000 trees and plants potted,
waiting for the next step. Not very much can go forward, though,
until a strong deer fence encloses all acres I intend to develop.
Organic (vegan) growing,
sustainability, the long-term results, that is what is important
here. In 2002, I was given one of my first citrus trees. I still
pick its navel oranges. In 2005, I buried my first fig tree. This
ancient method of winter protection results in near-100% success
thanks to the warmth of the earth. It was my inspiration to try that
with more types of plants here and has resulted in proving every
pessimistic gardener wrong. In the spring of 2012, I unearthed the
first known avocado to survive an Ohio winter outside. I have become
an expert in keeping palms outside through the winter, as well. With
only about 30 palm trees outside right now, 100 in pots waiting, my
ambitions are far from fulfilled. I want, passionately, to become a
major grower of some of the world's least-known plants that are often
threatened in their native habitat, but could offer us so much in
building a cold-hardy paradise.
My goals may seem lofty, and they will
take several years to see complete fruition, but it's not too
different from what I have been consistently doing for the last
Within the next year, I hope to have
the fence completed and a sizable portion of land cleared for this
first cycle of plantings. My focus at the moment is on our
south-facing steep hillsides which I intend to terrace like giant
stairs, planting mostly tea there, like in Asia. Other mentioned
plants will also benefit from terracing here. I will reserve some
land at the peak for future development of what I call the "Summer
House," an overlook cafe with tower made from recycled materials
and Mediterranean-inspired. From high up, I intend to have a 20'
waterfall pour into a pond below, surrounded by vining kiwis, tree
ferns, and more exotics. On a neighboring slope, I want to build a
"Tea House," a small pagoda serving tea grown here, Ohio's only
tea plantation. Downhill will be the main banana grove and in the
middle, I want to have a small Thailand-inspired winter storage house
of the growing banana stalks, which often survive only by lifting in
the fall. This storage house will morph every season into a
pavilion. Some planting schemes include: an orchard of star anise,
a sugarcane field, row after row of the threatened trachycarpus
takil, a very hardy Himalayan palm. Districts will be devoted to
regions of the world. I already have areas uniquely made up of
variegated plants and red-leafed plants, and a South American
From my youngest years, I have explored
this land, including the 400-year-old red oak and giant tulip trees
and the paw paw grove along the tiny creek. This is the oldest
forest here and will remain that way, but with walking paths and
additional plantings of native species.
Ultimately, I want to unite all these
gardens, buildings, and concepts to build something that gives back
to the world and preserves the pure beauty in nature which often
becomes fleeting, thanks to human error. It means the world to me if
you choose to support my future endeavors and help make my goals of
paradise a reality.
I am only 23 years old, and to a great
extent, self-taught. Already, I've done a lot with my life. But I
have so many ambitions that are often hampered simply by not enough
finances. Yes, choosing to donate helps me, but it also pushes my
long-held dream one step closer to reality which I sincerely hope
will give back to the world.
When I am in my 40s, I hope to see a
plethora of palms here growing strong and tall, daily harvests from
the orchards, fields and greenhouses of formerly "impossible"
fruit. I want the hill to be a landmark, where anyone can come on a
magnificent summer day and say," This is paradise." I want to be
the source for that rare plant you've only read about in books.
Thank you so much for reading my story. Your consideration to make a
donation is greatly appreciated.