Bissonnette Gardens ~

A recreation of Earl Oglebay’s Waddington Gardens

This beautiful, public garden display includes more than 30 flower beds, dozens of colorful hanging baskets, and multiple fountains. The Bissonnette Gardens (formerly known as Waddington Gardens) are a re-creation of the many gardens which existed at the summer home of Earl Oglebay in the early 1900s. For public enjoyment, these gardens have been recreated through a variety of floral displays. Visitors are encouraged to take a stroll down the meandering red brick path to enjoy the beauty of the flowerbeds, hanging baskets, and majestic trees. These lovely sites are accented by soft landscape lighting and water features.

From mid-April through early May, guests are invited to admire the breathtaking beauty and vibrant colors of tulips, hyacinths, pansies, and daffodils. Through the month of June, guests will find the gardens filled with a wide array of annuals including park favorites such as canna, salvia, celosia, angelonia, verbena, petunia, and geranium. As fall draws near and the leaves begin to change, so do the flower displays at The Hilltop. From mid-September to late October, guests may enjoy the warm, jewel-toned beauty of fall mums throughout the park.

On The Hilltop, hard work and dedication are the foundation of our beautiful garden displays. From water features to the whimsical floral clock, our staff of 10 works countless hours from early spring through late fall to keep these gardens lush and beautiful. Our skilled staff spends the early summer planting more than 30 flowerbeds featuring a wide variety of colorful vegetation. Maintaining the beauty of The Hilltop is a labor of love, as staff members carefully prune, water, dead-head, re-plant, weed, and fertilize the grounds daily.

This beautiful 16-acre garden was re-dedicated in September 1999 to Joseph F. Bissonnette who served as director of development for the Wheeling Park Commission from 1975 until 1992.

In 2017, Bissonnette Gardens was enhanced with a new attraction – a captivating sculpture titled Miss West Virginia composed by local Wheeling artist Jeff Forster. Don’t miss this powerful work of art, located just outside the herb garden near Oglebay’s greenhouse on The Hilltop.

Bissonnette Gardens Brochure

An Arboretum in the Making

“Oglebay Park is an arboretum in the making!” Although that statement rang true for dozens of years, it comes from a report completed in 1930 by Lebert Weir. The report goes on to say: On its 750 acres are now at least eighty varieties of ornamental shade trees, one hundred varieties of shrubs, twenty-five varieties of evergreens and fifty varieties of perennials. There are mature specimens, some of them planted years ago. In the conservatory are more than twenty-five varieties of tropical and sub-tropical flora. During the summer, one hundred varieties of annuals are set out and labeled.

There were two distinct programs relating to the planting projects at Oglebay. One was the nursery, an outgrowth of the elaborate system of greenhouses maintained when the park was a private estate; the other, development of an arboretum proposed in Weir’s study for the Park Commission.

In the early 1930s, thousands of trees were cultivated in the park nurseries, spilling over the hillside behind the greenhouses, south to the present Good Zoo area, and to outlying patches of land. The nursery specialized in ground covers, Japanese flowering cherries, flowering thorns, varieties of coniferous evergreen, and new types of elm. Many of the trees and shrubs were set out in roadside plantings through the Wheeling Landscape Commission, and for general beautification and family planting projects throughout the area; a great number were also placed throughout both parks.

The nursery project was a natural extension of the interests of Crispin Oglebay, and the expertise of Milton Hine.  Crispin was responsible for encouraging the nursery development in 1926 when he became executor of Earl Oglebay’s estate; often he contributed personally to furnish plant materials for use throughout the Wheeling area.

An arboretum committee was formed by Oglebay Institute in 1937; it included Sarah Paull, chairperson; Homer Fish, Oglebay Park superintendent, A.B. Brooks, park naturalist; and several garden center representatives. By 1940 the committee also included Brooks Wigginton, newly arrived landscape architect, who established headquarters at the park in preparation for the planning of an arboretum, and F. Elwood Allen, arboretum specialist for the National Recreation Association. Allen prepared the prospectus, Study For An Arboretum, in 1940.

Allen’s study was innovative, for it proposed the arboretum at Oglebay Park to be more than a “collection of trees for scientific purposes,” the traditional definition. The study envisioned the development as an investment for the people of Wheeling, its beauty and activities meant to attract visitors from all over, in turn, “…pouring dollars into the commercial life of Wheeling in the form of wages and purchases.” It would include not only trees, but shrubs, woody plants, and vines; and be the catalyst for flower shows and spectacular displays. Allen envisioned that the arboretum should be a people place – much as the park that surrounds it – and his study gave direction to the committee, who welcomed the chance to coordinate three projects over the next five years:

  • The Jones Pinetum: financed by the Park Commission to honor the contributions of the J. Sumner Jones family, this stand of stately pine trees is located on the north side of the arboretum below the road to Wilson Lodge. Crabapples were moved from that site to the Crispin Center golf course front nine.
  • A.B. Brooks Gateway: the original entrance to the arboretum, between the guest house and garden center, was financed by Mr. and Mrs. David A. Burt to honor the naturalist.
  • The Cracraft Memorial Steps: in the center of the hillside behind the greenhouses, these terrace steps were donated by Dr. and Mrs. W. A. Cracraft in memory of their son, Russel, killed in World War II. Bordering the steps is a stand of magnificent gingko trees, historically important as one of the last living remnants of the glacier age.

The arboretum at Oglebay has been, and continues to be, an ongoing project. Unlike some recreation facilities, the cost of planting and caring for flowers, shrubs, and trees is much greater than their revenue potential. During the early years, there were never enough funds to develop the area at an accelerated pace.

Arboretum Trees

Tree NumberCommon NameScientific NameFamilyPlant OrigindbhConditionlatlonCityCountyStateZipcode
1Northern red oakQuercus borealisFagaceaeEastern North America24Good40.097601773135601-80.661851763725295WheelingOhioWV26003
2Eastern hemlockTsuga canadensisPinaceaeEastern North America21Good40.097885940109897-80.661712288856506WheelingOhioWV26003
3Black walnutJuglans nigraJuglandaceaeEastern North America23Good40.098121890125398-80.661951005458803WheelingOhioWV26003
4London planePlatanus x acerifoliaPlantanaceaeEurope38Good40.0984040032004-80.662020742893205WheelingOhioWV26003
5PecanCarya illinoinensisJuglandaceaeNorth America43Good40.099629899160099-80.662114620208698WheelingOhioWV26003
6Swamp white oakQuercus bicolorFagaceaeNorth America6Good40.101233276188402-80.662270188331604WheelingOhioWV26003
7Sugar mapleAcer saccharumSapindaceaeEastern North America24Fair40.102270373259003-80.663541555404606WheelingOhioWV26003
8Flowering dogwoodCornus floridaCornaceaeEastern North America11Fair40.102590423762301-80.663270652294102WheelingOhioWV26003
9Fraser firAbies fraseriPinaceaeNorth America4Good40.102625300969699-80.663391351699801WheelingOhioWV26003
10Serbian sprucePicea omorikaPinaceaeSoutheastern Europe5Good40.103361821351697-80.662934035062705WheelingOhioWV26003
11Japanese red pinePinus densifloraPinaceaeEastern Asia15Good40.103614164941099-80.663084238767595WheelingOhioWV26003
12White firAbies concolorPinaceaeWestern North America18Good40.104659944758197-80.663996860384898WheelingOhioWV26003
13Douglas firPseudotsuga menziesiiPinaceaeWestern North America16Good40.1047004626326-80.664038434624601WheelingOhioWV26003
14Red PinePinus resinosaPinaceaeEastern North America19Good40.1046717411038-80.664348900318103WheelingOhioWV26003
15Hinoki cypressChamaecyparis obtusaCupressaceaeEastern Asia10Good40.104826119178298-80.664225518703404WheelingOhioWV26003
16Sawara false cyrpessChamaecyparis pisiferaCupressaceaeEastern Asia18Good40.104858430823903-80.664359629154205WheelingOhioWV26003
17Incence cedarCalocedrus decurrensCupressaceaeWestern North America26Good40.105020501703997-80.664501786231995WheelingOhioWV26003
18Scotch pinePinus sylvestrisPinaceaeEastern Europe18Good40.104952801256701-80.664685517549501WheelingOhioWV26003
19Jack pinePinus banksianaPinaceaeNorth America9Good40.104952801256701-80.664788782596602WheelingOhioWV26003
20YellowwoodCladrastis kentukeaFabaceaeNorth America17Good40.104445045755-80.665321201086002WheelingOhioWV26003
21Cockspur hawthornCrataegus crus-galliRosaceaeNorth America9Good40.1031874370235-80.664407908916402WheelingOhioWV26003
22American hophornbeamOstrya virginiana BetulaceaeEastern North America11Good40.102180102331999-80.664971172809601WheelingOhioWV26003
23Dawn redwoodMetasequoia glyptostroboidesCupressaceaeAsia30Good40.101475369500598-80.665082484483705WheelingOhioWV26003
24American sycamorePlatanus occidentalisPlantanaceaeNorth America26Good40.100928606685798-80.665150880813599WheelingOhioWV26003
25Washington hawthornCrataegus phaenopyrumRosaceaeNorth America11Good40.098213192303099-80.662868320941897WheelingOhioWV26003
26European spindle treeEuonymus europaeaCelastraceaeEastern Europe11Good40.098339373762798-80.662589371204305WheelingOhioWV26003
27Northern hackberryCeltis occidentalisCannabaceaeNorth America17Good40.098365533304502-80.6625987589359WheelingOhioWV26003
28Katsura treeCercidiphyllum japonicumCercidiphyllaceaeAsia40Good40.098471710164297-80.662720799446106WheelingOhioWV26003
29Japanese zelkovaZelkova serrataUlmaceaeAsia22Good40.098515822240998-80.662470012903199WheelingOhioWV26003
30Red mapleAcer rubrumSapindaceaeNorth America23Good40.098035717171101-80.662520974874496WheelingOhioWV26003