The Ridges of Eastern Lake County

Jen Gerger

by Mark Gilson

The Historic Nursery Region of Lake County is three to seven miles deep and about twenty miles long, extending from Mentor to Madison. Once covered by glacial lakes there are three sand/gravel ridges that define the ancient shorelines. North Ridge sits ten to twenty feet above the ‘lake plain’ that runs a couple miles north to the current shoreline of Lake Erie. North Ridge Road in Perry represents a small segment of Rt 20 that runs from Boston to Oregon, referred to as Mentor Avenue in the middle of the County and Euclid Avenue in Downtown Cleveland. Rich with natural springs and a line of black muck soil at its bottom, North Ridge Road was home to the oldest nursery in Lake County, Storrs and Harrison, founded 1854 in Eastern Painesville. Bob Lyons, retired nursery icon, grew up on North Ridge Road in Perry, growing Dicentra spectablis in the rich muck soils below the ridge. Except along the current shoreline, these are not ‘beach soils’. Instead they are mainly ‘sandy loams’ with good texture, ample organic matter, gentle topography and excellent drying characteristics once tiled.

Other nurseries along North Ridge Road, include Gilson Gardens, Losely Red Mill, Martins Nursery, Secors, Sunleaf Nursery, Roemers (now Madison Shore Growers) just to the north, former Hortons operations including the current-day Ridge Manor, and Girards to the east in Ashtabula County. Along Mentor Avenue to our west resided Donewell Nursery, Bosleys, Wayside Gardens and others.

Middle Ridge Road runs diagonally east/west from North Ridge in Perry. Not as noticeable as the other ridges, this one sits atop up to twenty feet of gravel and is home to Cottage Gardens, CM Brown, Means Nursery, Yoe Nursery, Bluestone Perennials, the former Turkenburg and Crawford Nurseries. Large fields along this ridge are operated by Loselys and the Petitti Group. This is a beautiful drive with tidy nurseries and farms.

South Ridge Road (Rt 84) defines the southern extent of the ancient lakes. Klyn Nurseries and LCN call this home atop a commanding elevation. Good soils extend a short ways to the south in some areas but eventually give way to heavy clay and the 90-foot-cliffs carved by the 100-mile Grand River, one of the cleanest flowing into Lake Erie.

Werner Nursery, later home of Gilson Gardens, was founded by a Polish Immigrant, Paul Werner, around 1920. He drowned years later, swimming in nearby Lake Erie after a hot day in the nursery. Immediately to the north of Gilson’s are Briar Rose Nursery (formerly Moretti’s) and Beardslee Nursery. Ted Gilson, Nicky Moretti and Charlie Beardslee were great friends for many years and shipped countless ground covers…pachysandra, ivy, euonymus coloratus…from their small contiguous farms. Another ground cover specialist was Logan Monroe at Kingwood Nursery on Burns Road, near Rt 20, in Madison. Local nurseryman for over 160 years have appreciated the ecologies, enterprises and personalities of Eastern Lake County…a special and remarkable place to live, work and grow old

Thanks for taking this little tour along our ridges, roads and legacies!

Mark Gilson
May 2016