Driving up the narrow, curving gravel drive of Dale Eads’s property, the path bends to reveal a fully renovated 1870s house embraced by a lush landscape. The home, on a hill just east of historic downtown Loveland, is a striking Victorian with a wide front porch and climbing ivy. Unique architectural features like original sandstone gate pillars (found buried on the property) usher visitors into the garden proper. For the last 30-odd years, Dale has dedicated himself to this homestead, cultivating and designing a garden fit for the English countryside.
Dale is most notably the founder and owner of Eads Fence Company, a full-service fence company in Loveland with a custom iron fabrication shop and materials for any type of fence installation. He began working at age 8, started his own company at 21, and has been an outdoor enthusiast ever since.
“My whole life was spent climbing trees, playing in creeks and ponds, and just being inspired and connected to nature.” –Dale Eads
Dale’s most striking impression, from his first warm two-handed handshake, is that he’s a man who doesn’t slow down for much. A self-proclaimed “worker bee,” he is invigorated by the soil, his gardens and other people. That energy manifests itself in his passion: working with his hands outdoors, digging into the earth, taking chances on his creative ideas, and intuiting what each plant or parcel of land needs.
In 1993, the dilapidated Robb-Montgomery House and its 4 acres hit the real estate market, and he went for a showing.
“My mother always said to me, ‘Son, you'll know it when it's right.’”
The large blooming magnolia in front of the house caught his eye, and the connection was immediate.
“It was just amazing. It drew me to this property,” he says.
He spent the next several years working through renovations and repairs, living for a time out of just one useable room and building a barn from salvaged hand-hewn stone. With 48 windows in the house, he wanted to be able to look out any one of them and have a beautiful view—so he went to work on the gardens.
Standing before a towering row of rhododendron blooms, Dale vibrates with the energy the success of cultivating those flowers brings. Rhododendrons don’t typically grow well in the climate and soil of southwestern Ohio. But Dale, who often purchases plants from auctions many states over, didn’t let that deter him. He built a special bed for the plantings, amended the soil, and has amassed what is possibly the largest collection of rhododendrons in the area. He derives most of his inspiration from classic English gardens. His travels to England and stacks of gardening books have kept him studying, learning and experimenting with plans to replicate the feel of a British garden right here in Loveland. Ingenuity in rescuing plantings and salvaging materials for hardscapes matched with his endlessly creative eye keep his garden growing.
The property features his artistic designs in the hedgerows of boxwoods, a wrought iron gazebo above a stone koi pond and multiple fountains. He has a particular knack for locating and then relocating his array of trees and shrubs, including multiple cultivars and species of magnolias, dogwoods, maples and more, and azaleas with showy yellow blossoms.
Dale uses his connection to nature to create, and he's determined to ensure a legacy for the Loveland of the future. A recent purchase of an additional 6 acres will be integrated with the current garden, complete with a creek and waterfall, so he can someday leave the historic home and its grounds as a public garden—to be aptly named the Garden of Eads.
“I didn't put this together for someone to come in and put houses on it, tear it up,” he says. “The greatest thing I ever did was plant trees and shrubs and bushes and perennials and put all these beautiful landscape features in ... because when I get up each morning, I get more and more return of happiness and joy from it all.”
He wants to pay that joy forward.
“This inspires a lot of other people, no matter who they are, and that makes me feel good,” he says.
With years of gardening and planning still ahead of him, eventually entrusting his greatest treasure to the residents of Loveland is his goal.
“Where there are more parks, more green space ... that has all kinds of positive effects. I'm hoping maybe one day I can contribute.”