If my love for Cleveland Indians Snow Days was any indication, I am very fond of winter. While it’s not my favorite season (Fall holds that title), I like it a lot more than allergy-ridden Spring. However, with all the snow and ice this past week, there have been moments where I’ve caught myself daydreaming about warmer days with flowers in bloom.
That’s when I remind myself I can venture over to University Circle and visit the Cleveland Botanical Garden. With ten acres of outdoor gardens and the 18,000 sq. ft. Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse, the Conservatory has been dedicated for 75 years to its mission of improving quality of life in urban environments through gardening, horticulture and environmental education. The best part? It’s open all year long.
The gardens are so beautifully designed and expertly maintained – more than anything I could ever dream of in my own backyard. Of course, if it’s a day like yesterday, a trip to the Botanical Garden’s Glasshouse transports guests to warmer locales such as the spiny desert of Madagascar and the cloud forest of Costa Rica. These authentic recreations of two of the earth’s most fragile ecosystems house over 350 species of plants and 50 species of animals.
One of my favorite visits to the Botanical Garden was actually not for the flowers. This past September, the Cleveland Botanical Garden hosted their first RIPE! Food & Garden Festival – a weekend-long celebration of Northeast Ohio’s local food and edible gardening revolution. In attendance were local farms such as Patterson’s Fruit Farm, Ohio City Farm and Snowville Creamery, restaurants and stores such as Fire, AMP 150 and Heinen’s, advocacy groups and even local brewery Indigo Imp (who made a special harvest brew for RIPE).
While sampling absolutely delicious fare, Scott, I and the rest of the guests learned a lot about the local food movement and gardening for food from demonstrations such as ‘Homemade Mozzarella Making,’ ‘Grass-Fed Beef Preparation,’ ‘Backyard Pizza Gardens,’ and ‘Fermenting.’ Moving beyond the traditional role of a botanical garden, the RIPE! Festival really highlighted the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s goal to educate visitors about how a healthy relationship between plants and humans benefits our local environment.
The Botanical Garden features special events and exhibitions throughout the year. The next major one is Orchid Mania, their annual ode to one of nature’s most fascinating plants. In its 8th year, the 2011 Orchid Mania festival runs February 26th – March 27th and will feature orchids of all colors, shapes, sizes and patterns throughout the gardens and in the Glasshouse. This year’s theme is Purple Reign, not just a playful pun on the Prince song but also a nod to the prevailing color of the ‘queen of all flowers.’
The notion of royalty will be further highlighted at the festival’s French and Funky Preview Party on February 25th from 6-8pm. Guests will not just be able to see the orchids before the show opens to the public, but sample french food prepared by local chefs. If the coupling of plants and food is anything like it was at RIPE!, it’ll be well worth the ticket price.
Cleveland Botanical Garden 411: