Sunday, August 12, 2007

Photo Catch-Up: Cleveland Botanical Garden

Note to self: Do not go eight months without updating your blog and then immerse yourself one day, all day, in a flurry of postings! Ideas will be fresher if posting nearer the time of the actual trips and it's straining sitting inside at the computer all day.

Back on May 24 and 25, I took a little trip to Cleveland to attend a Great Lakes regional meeting of the Garden Writers Association. The 24th was my cat James' 14 birthday, so he got a tuna treat before I left. It took just three hours to reach the fair city, and I was surprised how easy it was to be a lost tourist on the highway--switching lanes (even somewhat erratically) wasn't at all difficult. People let you in and didn't honk. At no point did I feel my life was in danger, which is a nice contrast to metro Detroit. In fact, I continued being surprised by the genuine friendliness and helpfulness of the people of Cleveland.

When I arrived at the University Circle area, I did in fact circle a bit for parking. First stop was the Cleveland Botanical Garden, which was hosting its annual flower show, so it was the destination of many others as well. The lot shown on my map was charging $10 to park and I was, as usual, feeling frugal. OK, cheap. When I saw the woman in the car in front of me turn around, I asked if she was local and whether she had any tips on parking. She told me to follow her, but that she wasn't sure the lot she had in mind would be any cheaper. It turned out to cost $8 and we both decided what the heck. After I parked, she was waiting for me and said she'd walk me to the gardens. Except that I had tickets to see a Monet exhibit at the museum, which she said was right across the street from the gardens. Handy! When we exited the structure, I could see the roof of my destinations, but she walked with me anyway, until departing to enter the gardens! I can just never in a billion years see this happening in metro Detroit or Ann Arbor. We'd give someone directions, sure, and maybe ask them to follow us, but I can't see anyone waiting for and walking a tourist to their destination!!

The exhibit was nice and the earphones explained a lot of the photos, which were mainly landscapes. When I had finished the tour, I ambled across the street to the gardens. It was pretty hot that day, near 90, and I'm glad I thought to take a sun hat, water, snacks, and lightweight clothing. We had a little luncheon and presentation at the gardens and then were free to tour the gardens and flower show on our own. There were maybe 25 attendees at the conference so it was easy talking to people during lunch.

I spent maybe an hour in the gardens because they were a bit smaller than I imagined; partly because they had advertised the flower show as based on the one in Chelsea, and that baby's HUGE, and partially because, as a garden in a city, there was not as much acreage as in other botanical gardens, which are generally located a bit away from downtowns. I met some nice women who tended the herb garden, and I particularly enjoyed the shades and textures of green in a little hosta area.

The next stop later in the afternoon would be Holden Arboretum, but I had a little extra time, so I boarded a free shuttle that drove around the area. The bus driver was genuinely nice and chatted with me when the other passengers had gotten off. Along the way, I saw a really cool modern metal sculpture roof on one of the buildings on the Case Western Reserve University campus.

I had no trouble finding the arb, where we were taken on a tour of the grounds and given a presentation on a model railroad which is set up in the gardens in the summer. There was also a nice dinner and cocktails and I had a virgin bloody Mary. The gardens were beautiful with a great variety of trees and shrubs--many azaleas were in bloom--and several ponds. The paths were nicely maintained and well laid out--they curved and you had great scenic vistas as you rounded a curve into a new section. There were also quite a few benches scattered throughout the garden, which were both practical if needing a breather and decorative, giving a very relaxed and inviting feel to the place.

After dinner I made my way back to my hotel, a Red Roof Inn, and then drove around the area a little. The road from the Arb to the hotel was winding, hilly, and scenic and it looked like a nice area to explore.

The next morning, we met at a private garden owned by a nice older woman whose name I forgot. Her place was absolutely incredible, vying the look of any botanical garden! She had some beautiful plants and a gorgeous pond wherein I heard both a green frog and a bullfrog! Even given my three years of frog and toad surveying, I had never heard the latter on any of my routes!

Next, we got tours of two nurseries in Perry, Klyn Nurseries and Lake County Nursery. We were taken on a tractor tour of the first facility and it was really interesting to see such a large operation of plant growing. Plus, they gave us cookies, bottled water, and quite a few free plants! I got the black grass I had been coveting and two new varieties of coral bells. (I just love Heuchera--they're all so cute and their foliage is so pretty, even when the tiny blooms are gone.) Of particular note was a grove of various varieties of bamboo, which are native to southern Ohio. I wish I had thought to take a photo of that, but I only have one of the expanse of plants. (I tend to get involved in seeing things in person and forget to take photos that I later wish I had!)

The second nursery also provided a tour and several free plants, including quite a few gallon shrubs (some pretty cool variegated dwarf weigelias and dogwoods and a pretty orange-red barberry (yes, I know they're sort of on Ann Arbor's invasive plant list, but I plan to clip any branches with berries and use indoors as decorations) and a bunch of seedlings including a really cool variety of orange and yellow Helenium, which are currently blooming. I don't have their plant tags at hand,or I'd be more specific!

Feeling happily high on tours, plants, and sugar, I headed home!

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