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Enchanting gardens: John Hippley’s private patch open to all

John Hippley’s private patch open to all

Submitted photo The Train Garden, one of numerous themed gardens at the Gardens at Hippley Village in Columbiana, is the oldest garden at the site. The garden features a 6-foot water wheel constructed of cedar wood that is powered by an electric pump.

COLUMBIANA — Floral and fauna seem to be at the core of John Hippley’s life.

They are, at the very least, intertwined within both his professional and personal spaces because when it comes to the beauty of nature, John Hippley’s got quite the display — right in his own backyard. Hippley’s three-acre homestead contains an array of open shrubbery plots, known by locals (and apparently some not-so locals) as “The Gardens at Hippley’s Village.”

Owner / operator Hippley said of the estate, “We’ve had people come in from as far away as Europe to see the gardens.”

And he is only too happy to share the space, by opening it up to everyone.

“Anyone who wants to is welcome to a self-guided tour of the grounds,” Hippley said.

The “Gardens at Hippley Village” actually is a sprawling private series of patches located on the northern edge of Columbiana. It is situated on a three-acre parcel of land off Stanton Avenue and features eight gardens and eight waterfall features.

Since 1999, the gardens have been the site of several wedding ceremonies, showers and receptions. It is operated and funded by The Hippley Foundation, a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status.

The gardens have become a main life focus for Hippley, a retired teacher who worked at various area schools. Notably, he spent two decades in the Marlington school system in Alliance, though his first teaching gig was in McDonald in Trumbull County. He retired in the spring of 2013.

The subject matter of his courses? Horticulture and landscaping, naturally.

The now 59-year-old Lisbon native moved to Columbiana “when I was 22 years old because I was looking for a place to indulge my passion.”

In 1997, the first garden was constructed. It encompasses a plot highlighted by a miniature grist mill.

“There are numerous species of miniature plants that help to complement the 25 miniature buildings in our ‘tiny village,'” Hippley explained.

In 1999, Hippley had a train garden built within the oasis, followed by the addition of a tiny stone potting shed imported from England.

Since 2008, six more gardens have been added to the complex, along with a small 20-by-48-foot indoor pavilion. In fact, the Gardens at Hippley Village is a really more of a sequence of private gardens than one mere plot.

Hippley went to work for the garden’s original owner, who Hippley credits with a transformation of the grounds that ultimately led to its current state.

“Today, it’s free and meant for people to enjoy. It’s private, but I allow people to come by via appointments,” said the friendly community activist who refuses to charge for visits.

Hippley maintains the gardens himself, with the help of another retired teacher who offers his services to his former colleague for free. One paid employee helps maintain the grove every weekend.

“People from at least 44 states have visited, and actually many people from other countries, as well,” he said

Hippley, originally a landscaper, has been an assistant basketball coach at Walsh University in Canton for the past 17 seasons. In 2008, he authored his first book, “Living in the Shadows,” which took fans through the 2007-08 season with the Walsh men’s basketball team.

Before his part-time coaching spot at Walsh, Hippley was a varsity assistant coach at Warren G. Harding High School. After earning his Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture / landscaping from Kent State University, Hippley was named head basketball coach at Jackson-Milton High School in 1987, according to his biography on the Walsh University website.

To contact the Gardens, call 330-692-7909.

To suggest a Saturday profile, contact Features Editor Burton Cole at bcole@tribtoday.com or Metro Editor Marly Reichert at mreichert@tribtoday.com.

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