Thousands of lilies in full bloom fill garden beds with a multitude of colors at Lilyfest in the Hocking Hills region. Visitors can tour the gardens by walking on grass and gravel paths that are shaded by the surrounding woods. Photo by Elizabeth Nihiser.

See more than 3,000 lilies on display at this hidden gem of a festival

You’ve got to see it to believe it.

Lilyfest, a festival in the Hocking Hills region that combines art, music and gardening with outdoor education, is set for July 14-16 in Southeastern Ohio. The three-day festival takes places at Bishop Educational Gardens, where three acres of artistically landscaped gardens are nestled in the woods and filled with thousands of colorful lilies, flowers and plants.

>> Matthew McConaughey -- yes, the actor -- spotted in Hocking Hills

Art sculptures created from local clay are a unique artistic feature that are scattered throughout the flower gardens. The sculptures are lighthearted in design to help visitors laugh and have fun while touring the gardens. Photo by Elizabeth Nihiser.

Visitors can leisurely tour the gardens or take a guided hike, watch artists work, purchase plants and artwork, attend workshops, have questions answered by master gardeners or naturalists, enjoy live music, and eat delicious food.

>> Hocking Hills has a new trail for the first time in 50 years (and it’s beautiful)

“Lilyfest isn't your typical festival with crowds and noise,” explained Dave Brimner, a pencil sketch artist whose work has been featured at the festival for years. “The music is very soft and acoustic and there are nice crowds of people that come through the gardens.”

Musicians will perform Appalachian-style music on two stages. A schedule of performers is available at

>> Add Hocking Hills to your bucket list

An artist demonstrates how to handcraft a broom using traditional Appalachian methods. Photo by Elizabeth Nihiser.

Whimsical and lighthearted clay sculptures are interspersed throughout the gardens, as are ponds and water features. Each place creates a unique experience for visitors as they walk along the grass and gravel paths, discovering what's inside each flower bed.

>> Hocking Hills is a hiker’s paradise 

“They’re not formal gardens. They’re designed to give you a chuckle,” said Bobbi Bishop, who with her husband, Bruce, donated the land to the Hocking Soil and Water Conservation District in 2008.

Lilyfest started as a backyard pottery sale 26 years ago and has grown to attract 5,000 visitors a year.

More than 70 Appalachian artists will have their work on display at Lilyfest. Pieces range from pencil sketches featuring the Hocking Hills landscape to lovable pieces like this crooked bear and more. Photo by Elizabeth Nihiser.

Bishop first started planting lilies when a friend – a flower hybridizer – gave them away for free. “Another man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” she said, explaining that there are now thousands of day lilies, water lilies and Asiatic lilies on the property.

The theme of reinventing reusable materials is a common thread at Lilyfest. There are educational workshops that teach the topic, and materials have been repurposed into art sculptures within the gardens themselves. Artists who create recycled art also have items available for purchase.

>> Check out this hidden nature preserve in Dayton you probably haven’t seen

More than 70 artists will display and sell original pieces, including garden sculptures, blown glass, jewelry, wood carvings and other works. School-age wagon pullers are available to assist visitors take items to their vehicles.

The Bishop Educational Gardens are located at 13200 Little Cola Rd., Rockbridge, Ohio, 43149. Visit for directions and more information.