Saturday, May 22, 2010

Highlight Cleveland: The Botanical Garden

     I don't know much about gardening. I couldn't tell you one flower or plant from the next, when they should be planted, or if they require sun or shade. I've never had a green thumb, but I have always enjoyed nice gardens, beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, flowers, and other naturally peaceful places. My appreciation probably comes in part from my dad, who creatively landscaped and gardened his yards and frequently took us to parks. 
     Today, for the fourth of fifth time this year, I went with my family to the Cleveland Botanical Garden. The Garden is located in Cleveland's University Circle area, near, among other things, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland Institute of Music, Western Reserve Historical Society, the Children Museum, and in the heart of the Case Western Reserve University campus. The Garden is actually several gardens, indoor and out, that flow together. 
     Indoors there is the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse, which includes two gardens. First, The Spiny Desert of Madagascar. In addition to plants, there are some tortoise, lizards, and cockroaches. The second garden in the glasshouse is the Lush Rain Forest of Costa Rica. Of course there are many plants, some birds, a frog, and more. But most interesting in the Rain Forest are the butterflies. They are everywhere, and it is not unusual for one to land on a person walking through their home.

     Outdoors, there are no fewer than ten gardens, including a gateway garden, themed gardens, restorative garden, Hershey's Children's Garden, Japanese garden, topiary garden, a rose garden, terrace garden, woodland garden, and herb garden. Of course, having a child, the Hershey's Children's Garden is a favorite. There are many interactive features, including a fountain children can run through, strawberries, an electric train, a tree house, a lagoon with fish, frogs, and tadpoles, and more. Even at just under two years old, my son loves it. The Hershey's garden has special events scheduled throughout the season for children of all ages. 
     As I walk from one garden to the next I think I would like something like that in my back yard, but couldn't pick one style if I wanted to! Some seem to require a lot of work, likely daily, to keep them looking so pristine. Others look like they aren't gardens at all, but instead are like walking through a beautiful, natural, forest that happens to have a path and stairs for my convenience. Each section of the outdoor gardens blend and flow nicely. Most of the gardens are easy to walk and are handicap accessible, but some areas have hills, unpaved paths, or steps. 
     In addition to summer programs at the Hershey's children's garden, there are many other programs throughout the year. There is a library, open to anyone visiting the gardens and to members, that has story hour once a week for children. After the story, there is usually a craft. On Wednesday nights during the summer there is a wine bar and food tasting from restaurants in and around Cleveland. In early spring, there is Orchid Mania, which includes an amateur photo contest. This weekend, there are landscapers showing their work, and vendors with plants and flowers for sale.
     Inside, is a gift shop with a variety of garden and other items, including a large selection of books, typical gift shop items like pencils, lights, t-shirts, and hats, and non-typical items like glass art, bird feeders, candles, and more. The Garden Cafe features unique items and uses local produce when possible.
     The Cleveland Botanical Garden is a non-profit organization and offers various levels of membership. All include free admission, and higher levels provide other benefits including advance notice to events, discounts at the store, and free parking. I have been a member for the past year, and look forward to renewing my membership. 

     Since joining the Cleveland Botanical Garden, I have become interested in others, and have visited some. It has provided a new appreciation for gardens and gardening, nature, and the importance of local food gardens, sustainable gardening, and other ecological issues. The garden is also a quiet, peaceful place to visit. I hope this encourages others to visit the CBG, or a botanical garden in your area. 

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