While it did not include a warm sandy beach or a cozy ski lodge, the Mini-Meneice Horticultural Conference was still a lovely February break. The brain child of Garden Club of Cleveland’s Lynn Quintrell, our Zone X Horticulture Representative, this event was held on February 18 and 19 at the Holden Arboretum. It resembled the GCA’s beloved and popular Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference, but without the competitive sign up process or air travel. Attendees included thirty-two GCA members from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, including six from the Shaker Lakes Garden Club.
The Arboretum was an ideal location and was much admired by first time visitors from clubs outside of Cleveland. The conference began on a bitterly cold but sunny morning. Seeing the Arboretum’s snow covered conifer collection sparkle along the driveway to the Corning Visitors Center, I was reminded of how fortunate we are to have this horticultural treasure in our midst. After opening remarks from President and CEO Clem Hamilton, our first speaker, the renowned Jenny Rose Carey, presented a talk on shade gardening. The director of the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s Meadowbrook Farm, she is a knowledgeable, warm and engaging speaker with a delightful sense of humor and a cool English accent (born in London). She combined her vast experience and plant expertise with a display of gorgeous images. Handouts included lists of her favorite, tried and true plants for shade, all of which would be suitable for northeast Ohio. In her description of creating her own educational garden (Northview, in Ambler, PA) she described her triumphs as well as projects that were less successful, resulting in a garden story to which we could all relate. She also regaled us with remarkable tales of the massive efforts that go into creating the fabulous Philadelphia Flower Show (where she is a big wheel).
Our second speaker was witch hazel expert Tim Brotzman, owner of Brotzman Nursery in Madison, OH. Tim had spoken to our club in 2015 about witch hazels and this talk was similar, but it took on a new dimension as he described the effects on his nursery stock of the brutal winters of 2014 and 2015. Combined with unusual rainfall patterns, these proved to be the worst weather events ever in the history of this family business, founded in the 1950s. We saw slides showing row upon row of devastated trees and shrubs, varieties that had thrived for decades before these recent weather events. As he is in the process of modifying his stock to rely on hardier cultivars, his experience is an example of the real alterations taking place in our environment due to climate change.
We then enjoyed tasty box lunches while participating in roundtable discussions about horticulture activities within our various clubs. Most attendees were ladies who were past, present or future Horticulture Chairs. We swapped ideas of ways to keep our members involved in actual gardening as well as ways to draw newer members into the joys of playing in the dirt. Interestingly, there was much variation between clubs as to the importance of real, hands-on gardening. Some clubs do little where as others require it. I came away from the discussion feeling such renewed enthusiasm that I’ve volunteered to stay on as Horticulture Chair for a third year!
Our afternoon speaker was Larry Giblock, who many of you know from his years on the staff at CBG. His topic, native plants, is one that fits nicely with GCA’s focus on pollinators. His wonderful collection of images captured the beauty of natural landscapes in our midst and was a reminder that not all lovely gardens begin with a trip to the commercial nursery. Larry is in the process of building his own native plant business and we wish him success.
Dinner and cocktails at the Kirtland Country Club provided an elegant and relaxing finish to a busy day. We were treated to more magnificent garden images from Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry, authors of Gardens of the Garden State. Like Ohio, New Jersey boasts magnificent estates beyond the unattractive swathes of industry and these ladies have documented the best of them. Their book would make a lovely gift for any garden lover.
Day two began with a talk on xeriscaping (gardens needing little or no irrigation other than natural rainfall), also from Jenny Rose Carey. She focused on her own gravel garden and showed slides that took us through about five years, from initial construction and planting to the now well established beds. I must admit that I found the initial hardscape to be hideous, particularly when seen in contrast to her lush borders and shade gardens. But as the years passed and the plants grew, the garden became a very attractive and unique addition to her fabulous landscape. I am glad to live in a region where this type of gardening will not become the norm, but it is important that garden designers are creating lovely solutions for drought plagued areas.
For the final program, we selected from two workshops offered and I chose “Conifers Around the World.” The array of conifer images was sumptuous and it was satisfying to know that most of the specimens shown are in fact growing at our very own Holden Arboretum. At the plant propagation session, I planted seeds from a Picea orientalis, Oriental Spruce; they have not yet surfaced, but there is still time…
With excellent speakers, interesting vendors (hand dyed scarves and orchids), an evening at Kirtland Country Club and a perfect location, this conference was winner. So hats off and a big thank you to Lynn Quintrell for taking time out of her busy life to plan, organize and execute this outstanding mid-winter event. I did not get a tan, but I did get away!