Get Growing Blog

Changes Coming to Beech Knoll

September 25, 2023


Since arriving at Holden Forests and Gardens, my team has worked tirelessly to transform West Layer Rhododendron Garden and Beech Knoll. My time here has taught me several things – one of which is to offer opportunities for meditation. See my previous blog here:

Early on, I noticed guests staying on the main loop(s) throughout West Layer. This garden is particularly large, at approximately 25 acres of woodland and ponds, with a large portion never being seen in one visit. Since it tends to be a quiet garden, my goal is to inspire guests to find solace here. One way is to provide pathways apart from the main loop(s) where visitors will find quiet places to walk, away from crowds.

After gaining support from the Horticultural Leadership Team – in collaboration with Ralph Protano, Director of Land and Collections – we will be adding pathways throughout the center of Beech Knoll. The goal? Encourage visitors to leave the main loop. Foot paths will meander in and around garden beds – the long-term goal is to remove the grass and add ferns, sedges, and other woodland plantings – all of which are meant to invoke all five senses.

My long-term design aesthetic objective is to create a Japanese Stroll Garden, where visitors become immersed in their surroundings, with the ability to practice Shinrin-yoku (known as “Forest Bathing” in western cultures).

We have worked tirelessly this season to add trees and renovate several garden beds – you will see newly planted Larch, Maples and Parrotia. Although the trees are small now, they will grow to provide much needed shade to the surrounding Rhododendron collection, while invoking a sense of peace.  We hope you continue to enjoy these spaces as they evolve!

MaryAnn Thesing

MaryAnn Thesing


MaryAnn joined Holden Arboretum in May, 2022 as Horticulturist for “Old” Layer Rhododendron Garden, which includes the Murch Canopy Walk. MaryAnn has over 7 years’ experience as a Garden Designer/Installer & Garden Coach and is a Japanese Maple & Bonsai enthusiast, owner & caretaker of The Japanese Maple Garden in Euclid, OH for 16 years.

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