March 2012 Issue
Indoor and outdoor gardens offer a glimpse of spring.
To see a slideshow of orchids from the "Orchids! Vibrant Victoria" exhibit at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, click here. >>
Enough hot chocolate, skiing and mittens.
Ohioans are ready for spring, and the state’s conservatories, botanical gardens and parks are just the places to welcome the season of rebirth.
March, of course, is an unpredictable month. It delivers warmth and sunshine one day, cold and freezing rain the next. That’s why Ohio’s glorious botanical glasshouses, filled with tropical temps, free-flying butterflies and amazing plants, are a sure bet for visitors in early spring. More adventuresome, who-cares-about-the-weather Ohioans also can grab a walking stick and hiking boots, head for the trails and discover signs that spring really is here.
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
The way Blue Morpho butterflies gently “bounce” through the air is perfectly charming. The insects’ iridescent blue wings are edged in black and have a span of 5 to 8 inches. They are among the largest butterflies in the world.
“We couldn’t do a show without those butterflies,” says Lori Kingston, marketing director for the 88-acre Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus. “This is the 19th season for ‘Blooms & Butterflies,’ held in the conservatory’s Pacific Island Water Garden, March 10 to September 3. It is one of our signature events.”
It is also a rite of spring for many Ohioans, who come to the glasshouse to see hundreds of butterflies representing about 12 exotic species. “Some people ask why a botanical garden shows butterflies. But butterflies are pollinators, just like bees. Besides being beautiful, butterflies insure the survival of plants. It’s a symbiotic relationship,” says Kingston.
Through April 8, visitors will also marvel at the beauty of “Orchids! Vibrant Victoriana,” a display of elegant blooms along with glass art by Debora Moore, whose work interprets these exotic plants.
Of course, no visit to Franklin Park in spring would be complete without a nostalgic stroll through the John F. Wolfe Palm House, a Victorian glasshouse built in 1895. Other indoor gardens with more than 400 plant species intoxicate visitors with earthy or perfume-like scents and balmy temperatures. The conservatory also owns the largest collection of colorful Dale Chihuly art glass in any conservatory or botanical garden. fpconservatory.org
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
It’s not Holland. But with 100,000 sassy tulips wiggling their way up through warming soil, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden goes Dutch this spring. “Zoo Blooms,” which also showcases more than 1 million hyacinths, daffodils, flowering trees and other spring beauties, marks the season’s return. The event runs April 1–30.
“I don’t know anywhere else in the tri-state area that has as many tulips as we do,” says Steve Foltz, director of horticulture, adding that mid-April is peak time for the garden’s tulips. “We plant early, mid and late bloomers, but primarily mid bloomers because they last the longest.”
In addition to an array of colorful tulips, thousands of yellow and white daffodils have been planted over the past 20 years.
“I get excited and know spring is really here when our Meadowlark forsythia and Okame cherry trees bloom about the same time. Then there is no stopping spring,” says Foltz.
Free “Tunes and Blooms” concerts are also offered every Thursday, 6–8:30 p.m., during “Zoo Blooms.” cincinnatizoo.org
Toledo Botanical Garden
A delightful blooming river of daffodils runs under a small wooden bridge in the Shade Garden each spring, according to Jonathan Milbrodt, collections curator for the Toledo Botanical Garden. During spring garden tours, Milbrodt also points out Ohio wildflowers, including Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Solomon’s seal and large white trillium, the state’s official wildflower.
“In spring, our hosta collection begins to peak. The hosta collection is accredited as one of the few National Display Gardens of the American Hosta Society and is the only collection of hosta accredited by the North American Plant Collections Consortium,” says Milbrodt, caretaker of 2,000 hosta plants that represent more than 400 varieties.
March through June is the peak blooming period for the Shade Garden, which includes two gazebos and winding paths. A small bench near a pond also allows visitors to enjoy the azalea and rhododendron collection. The Toledo Botanical Garden holds its Spring Plant Sale May 11–13. The event is known as “a celebration of spring and a festival of gardening,” according to Melissa Shaner, events and marketing manager. toledogarden.org
Cleveland Botanical Garden
This year’s “Spring at the Garden” celebration, April 14–May 13 at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, takes a cue from its neighbor, the Cleveland Museum of Art. The garden reflects the art museum’s “Rembrandt in America” exhibit that runs through May 28. Ann McCulloh, curator of plant collections, says the botanical garden also will exhibit pushcarts overflowing with colorful spring flowers, much like the European markets of Rembrandt’s time, as well as outdoor displays of rowboats filled with tulips, a nod to Holland’s canals. Tulips are burgundy, orange, burnt umber and creamy shades — warm and glowing like the artist’s colors, says McCulloh.
Other seasonal highlights include the spring ephemerals in the woodland garden, velvet-like primroses in deep purple, yellow and greens, a wide variety of daffodils and the fringe tree with wispy white tassels.
The “Spring Floral Design” exhibit is April 20–22, and features several types of flower arranging, including Ikebana, pot et fleur and freestyle. Also, the 18,000-square-foot Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse takes visitors on journeys to The Spiny Desert of Madagascar and the Rainforest of Costa Rica. The conservatory houses more than 350 species of exotic plants and more than 50 species of insects, birds, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians. cbgarden.org
Cincinnati Parks’ Krohn Conservatory presents “Enjoy an Early Spring with Sparkle and Bling,” through April 8. Hand-strung beads and recycled wine bottles add extra glitter to the glasshouse’s blooming flowers and trees. Conservatory Director Andrea Schepmann also invites winter-weary Ohioans to “On Wings of Harmony: Butterflies of the World,” April 21–June 24. The exhibit includes a special emphasis on the incredible monarch migration. The conservatory’s lobby will display a huge mobile made of modular origami.
Krohn Conservatory was built in 1933 in Eden Park and showcases more than 3,500 plant species from around the world. The Palm, Tropical, Desert and Orchid houses are true refuges during fickle March. cincyparks.com
Fellows Riverside Gardens
USA Today lists Fellows Riverside Gardens as one of the country’s top 10 places to see daffodils. Keith Kaiser, horticulture director, claims daffies rule throughout April and into early May at the gardens, located in Youngstown’s Mill Creek MetroParks. The garden has been designated a prestigious American Daffodil Society Display Garden.
“Daffodil Weekend” is April 21–22, and visitors see thousands of perky and pretty daffodils, representing more than 160 varieties, blooming on the grounds. Inside the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center, the Daffodil Show is a tough competition for individual daffodils, displayed in attractive glass containers.
A special class features the Fellows Favorite daffodil, a cultivar named for the gardens. Brent and Becky Heath of Virginia (known for their Brent and Becky’s Bulbs catalog) developed the flower in honor of the garden’s 50th anniversary.
Don’t worry if it’s raining and you can’t see all the outside daffodils. Check out the center’s lovely Weller Gallery and the fascinating Melnick Mill Creek Park Museum. millcreekmetroparks.com
Spring is Everywhere
The following are few additional destinations that trumpet spring in Ohio.
Snow trilliums bloom only a few days each spring, their pristine petals parting the last cold white accumulations on the ground. The Arc of Appalachia Preserve System invites visitors to “In Search of Snow Trilliums” on March 25, a guided hike, catered dinner and evening program at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary and Appalachian Forest Museum in Ross County’s Bainbridge Village.
“Because the presence of tiny snow trilliums is dependent upon daily temperatures, [we’ll] hike into the Rocky Fork Gorge without firm expectations,” says Arc spokesperson Crystal Marvin.
The Arc’s Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage is April 20–22. Reservations are required for most events. arcofappalachia.org
Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron opens for the season on April 1. The country estate of the F.A. Seiberling family celebrates “Inspiration in Bloom” in the Manor House, April 13–15. Local gardeners, floral designers and garden clubs will present fresh flower arrangements and displays. The grounds of the Estate also will be lit with thousands of orange, pink and yellow tulips and other spring bulbs. stanhywet.org
It’s warm, it’s fragrant, it’s lovely. Sit down on a bench by the entrance to the Kingwood Center greenhouse in Mansfield and just s-l-o-w-l-y breath in the smell of spring. It’s an instant stress buster. kingwoodcenter.org
What better place to celebrate spring and Arbor Day than the 3,500-acre Holden Arboretum in Kirtland? David Desimone, director, guest relations and communications, says this year’s three-day Arbor Day celebration starts April 27. Highlights include hikes, tree climbing with safety harnesses for kids, and of course, lots of tree identification opportunities. Roger Gettig, director of horticulture and conservation, says he knows for sure that spring checks into Holden when lilacs and early azaleas bloom — which, depending on the weather, can happen as early as late March or the beginning of April —and when spring peepers start their chorus. holdenarb.org
Lorain County Metro Parks’ 70-acre Schoepfle Garden can’t hide spring when its flowering quince trees, Oregon grape holly, flowering almond shrubs, spicebush, and redbud and serviceberry trees bloom.
Joel Loufman, horticulturalist and park manager, says the moist soil of the River Valley Trail along the Vermilion River is perfect for early spring wildflowers. Expect to see Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, twinleaf, Virginia bluebells, trout lily, and rue and wood anemones. metroparks.cc
The beautiful spring-blooming Yoshino cherry trees growing at the Schedel Arboretum and Gardens in Elmore originated in Washington, D.C., grown from clippings taken from trees along the Tidal Basin. schedel-gardens.org
In Newark, the Dawes Arboretum’s Azalea Glen is aglow with vibrant color in spring. The arboretum’s Japanese Garden, which gracefully offers stepping stones across a pond, a meditation house and delicate early-flowering trees and shrubs, speaks peace during spring. But for a truly unique spring experience, visit the arboretum’s Cypress Swamp. At one of the northernmost bald-cypress swamps in North America, visitors see huge trees and, if they are lucky, elusive Jefferson and spotted salamanders. dawesarb.org