Maria Zampini is the owner of UpShoot LLC, which markets and licenses new plant introductions. She is a featured writer in consumer magazines and horticultural trade journals and is the co-author of Garden-pedia: An A-Z Guide to Gardening Terms. Visit

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The Metaphysical Garden
by Maria Zampini       #Garden Profile   #Landscaping

This is the front entrance to the “Meditation Pavilion” that won the 2014 “Project of the Year” Grand Award in the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association Landscape awards program.


This garden designer created her own green space by combining her knowledge of horticulture as well as spiritual principles, sacred geometry, Eastern thinking on healing and other philosophical fundamentals.

Like me, Nancy Drobnick grew up helping her Dad in the nursery business. Unlike me, her husband and partner in Miriam’s River House Designs, Cliff, is a certified public accountant, and a numbers man. The moment I stepped into the garden they have been renovating together since purchasing a 3-acre wooded riverfront property in Bentleyville in 2000, I knew I was entering the most out-of-this-world private garden I’ve ever had the privilege of touring.

You might think that statement is just one woman’s opinion, but you’d be mistaken. The Drobnick’s garden has won numerous design awards from the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, and most recently was named a 2015 “Best of Houzz” for design.

Nancy has been studying metaphysical principles for more than 40 years, and during that time her passion for it and plants have merged together to come forth in her plantscapes. I believe there is a right place for every plant in the landscape. However, in Nancy’s designs there is also a philosophical logic behind where and how each plant, stone and piece of artwork is placed. Their garden is different because it isn’t just pretty to look at; there is a true rhyme and reason for placement often centered on spiritual principles, sacred geometry, Eastern thinking on healing and other philosophical fundamentals.

Designer-Owner Nancy Drobnick stands at the opening to a small “Stone House Ruin Garden.” It is part of a dynamic garden design that traces the sun’s movement of time throughout the year.

Nancy says, “We believe that everything around us has a story to tell about the Universe’s purpose and our purpose within that framework. That’s what metaphysical design is in a nutshell. It is the combined philosophical concepts of many disciplines all woven into a theme to enhance our journey in conscious awareness. Through the design process we use these concepts in our structures and gardens, weaving them into a tapestry of our client’s journey.”

When conceiving gardens and structures, Nancy sees herself physically in the design and can visualize and interact within the space, even before it is designed or built. She feels that the beauty of metaphysical design is that it evokes curiosity and thoughtfulness both which help to facilitate conscious awareness. For instance, she says that the “Sun and Moon Garden,” just one of their award-winning projects, was created out of an interest in the cosmos and how we all fit into the Universe. She feels it speaks to the balance in life and how interdependent we all are, often upon forces we cannot even see.

Cliff and Nancy love seeing the joy and feeling of peacefulness others get when they interact with their gardens and structural designs. It is not only rewarding from them, but equally so for their lucky visitors. For more information about each of the individual gardens that compromise the Drobnick’s property, visit 


Photo Gallery

This Japanese tea house has been featured and highlighted on numerous times in the past two years for its unique artistic qualities. This design was also named a Gold Award winner in the 2012 Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association Landscape Awards program.

A view from inside the Japanese tea house. Metaphysical design incorporates the importance of inside and outside views enhancing one another.

The designed stone “Inukshuk” communicates to the viewer what lies ahead on the path.

The “Green Arbor” roof comes alive with plant material that complements the horticultural aspects of the surrounding garden. This “Green Arbor”won a 2014 Gold Award in the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association Landscape awards program.

The “Stone House Ruin Garden” hosts the sacred geometrical time clock that was chosen in a national competition to be on the Herb Society of America’s 2013 Calendar Cover. This garden was also named a 2012 Gold Award winner in the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association Landscape Awards.

The front of the Japanese tea house prior to the “River Blessing” ceremony in August 2015.

The “Sun and Moon Garden” inner design documents the solar system and the cosmos. Besides its APLD honor, it was also named a 2014 Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association Gold Award recipient.

The “Stone Arch” entrance to the “Sun and Moon Garden” won a 2014 Gold Award for structural design in the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association Landscape Awards competition.

The completed “Sun and Moon Garden” walkway, which along with the “Stone Arch” and the inner “Sun and Moon Garden” area, won an International Gold Award from Association of Professional Landscape Designers in 2014.


(A version of this article appeared in print in Ohio Gardener, Volume 6, Issue 02. Photography by Maria Zampini)



Posted: 03/08/16   RSS | Print


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