Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Exciting Day West of the Cuyahoga

I'm often kidded about my east-side mentality and tendency to get lost on the west-side, but today we took in two west-side and one east-side neighborhoods for the terrific Garden Walk Cleveland and I came away thrilled by the Detroit-Shoreway area in particular.

Garden Walk Cleveland was modeled on a successful program in Buffalo and threw open over 100 private and community gardens in four neighborhoods: Harvard/Lee/Miles, Hough, Tremont, and Detroit-Shoreway, between 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. today only. This was no expensive fundraiser, showing a dozen properties, but rather a free celebration of gardening all across town, though focusing on these four areas this year. What a treat!

We skipped H/L/M because we didn't think we would last through them all and it was the most spread out. I rarely last more than a couple of hours on foot, so we wanted more compact collections. So we started at Hough and it was really nice to get into that neighborhood, where historically many Clevelanders still associate with the civil unrest of the 1960s. We found it delightful and particularly enjoyed meeting a Mrs. McGregor, who was funny, friendly and full of stories about the plants -- especially cacti -- she's spread around to her neighbors. There was also a newly-constructed clay oven in the Blaine Avenue Community Garden that was being fired up to bake things later in the day. We wanted to come home and build one for ourselves.

Moving on to Tremont, which we visit from time to time anyway, such as during their art walks, we cruised up and down Literary, Professor, Jefferson and other streets, checking out some lovely gardens and interesting shops. Many of the restaurants and pubs weren't open yet, but we were amazed at how many intriguing ones there are and how few we've been in. We need to go back sometime for dinner, instead of always hitting the same places in the Heights.

But Detroit-Shoreway was the big hit. I have to confess to knowing little about it, beyond that it's on Detroit and that Gordon Square is the new cultural center of the area. We are regulars at the Ohio City home tours, but don't get that far out Franklin to experience Detroit-Shoreway. Today's garden tour was heavy up and down Franklin and Clinton streets, in the West Seventies, and it was a really nice experience. Architecturally, it reminds me a little of Lakewood, farther west, and I was most impressed with the sense of community these folks have. Everybody seemed to know everybody in the area and were especially welcoming and informative about their homes, their gardens and their neighborhood. Just a great group of people!

And wonderful gardens, too! We saw a rooftop garden of local prairie grasses and flowers that required almost no maintenance and had a beauty we hadn't seen since visiting the prairie grass garden in Chicago's Millennium Park. We saw a forest of pines and bamboo in an area that was a perfect spot for yard parties. We saw a double driveway behind a house that was completely ceilinged over with a low, thick grape arbor, giving the back yard a distinctive European feel. We even saw one yard that was completely filled with a large outdoor model train layout.

And everywhere we went we saw flowers. If you can imagine it and it can grow here, we saw it. In spades. Beautiful beds and banks of all manner of flowering plants and artful arrangements of herbs, ferns, hedges, bushes and small trees, laid out in rocky beds, brick walks, outdoor sculptures, fish ponds, and some man-made accent pieces. A lot of thought, time and even money went into these yards and we were glad to see them.

We also noticed at least three different houses sporting bee hives -- two of which were up on roofs -- and a couple keeping chickens, the latter something we couldn't do in Cleveland Heights.

But I was most happy to learn about Detroit-Shoreway, to see Gordon Square a little bit more and to discover a quaint little neighborhood called Italian Village closer to the lake. Surprisingly, we did the whole eight hours pretty much and the time flew by.

We're looking forward to next year's Garden Walk Cleveland, wherever it takes us that time, as this was a wonderful introduction to so many, many beautiful gardens. Almost too many, as we'd rather have had each neighborhood or two on a separate weekend, so we could get to see everything.

Thanks to ParkWorks for thinking it up and thank everybody for making it so special!

(This illustration is of a striking spiral garden arrangement, found in the Dunham Community Garden behind the Dunham Tavern Museum.)

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At 10:59 AM, Blogger gardeningladygold said...

i too enjoyed the Detroit Shoreway Gardens and also the way the homes were painted. Very detailed and Victorian. Also loved seeing all the rain barrels in use.


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