By Thea Steinmetz


Along with daytime minutes getting longer, more activities are happening. It is as if, collectively, we are saying, “Let’s do something for fun. We have hibernated and grumbled for too long. Spring is coming, so let us get on with a few stimulating activities.”

At the top of this list of things to do has to be the orchid show at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. This brings it to eight years that this event has been staged. At the sold-out preview party evening, the praise for this show was unanimous.

“This is the best one yet,” was heard many times. The “wow” factor which has at times has been missing for events of this type, is right on the mark. It is an elegant show, with color galore for this drab season. “Orchid Mania: Purple Reign” will surely find great favor with visitors. The show will run through March 27.

The entry hall feature wall packs such a punch that no one can ignore it. Don’t forget to visit the waterfall in the Costa Rica biome (greenhouse). The astonishing array of color behind the falling water brings an unexpected revelation of what it means to look at joyful flowers.

There are at least three workshops going on during the time of the show, and one of them, or perhaps all three, might be of interest to you. One can learn from the Midwest Cactus and Succulent Society March 19 and 20.

In case hand painting on silk captures your fancy, learn about it on March 26. Perhaps you are fond of gourds and have collected a few over the years. Now you ask yourself the question of what to do with them? There is a workshop to answer your query, and you will come away with a fabulous gourd birdhouse.

From the Botanical Garden and orchids to maple sugaring is quite a distance, but it makes for an out-of-the-ordinary time. It is time for the sugar maple trees to be tapped and give up their sweet sap. The Metro Park offers the learning experience of what it takes the maple syrup to appear on our breakfast table. At the Rocky River Reservation, the Maple Grove Picnic Area welcomes visitors from11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 12 and 13. A public guide escorts visitors from the Sugarhouse every 20 minutes.

Walking along the Sugar Bush Trail offers insight for the collection method. There are about 100 trees in this area that can be tapped and 80 volunteers aid in the whole process of making maple syrup.

The syrup-making procedure has been handed down by the Native Americans, who figured out how to go about extracting the sweet sap. The sugar maple tree will yield the greatest amount of liquid. Other maple trees may be tapped but the yield is significantly lower.

Tapping the maple trees is only the first step toward the wonderful sugary liquid we enjoy on our pancakes and waffles. The 50 calories found in one tablespoon are well worth it when added to breakfast. To take youngsters on this discovery challenge will teach them that maple syrup has a long way to go before it ends up on the grocery store shelf.

After the sap is collected, it has to be boiled to syrup consistency for the market. Ten gallons of sap are needed to yield one quart of good-quality syrup.

For more information on this process, call the Rocky River Reservation at (440) 734-6660. Groups may call for special arrangements during the Maple Sugaring time.

There is one more stop I can suggest that will serve to elevate your mood. The Garden Academy at Dean’s Greenhouse in Westlake starts on March 12. The first project for the year is the planting of the highly popular moss basket. By planting it now, it will be luxuriant and lush comes the time for hanging it outdoors. At the Moss Basket Clinic you will learn to plant properly for summer’s abundance. Then, and this is a terrific help, Dean’s will keep your planted basket for you until it is time to hang it in the garden.

The Garden Academy offers various programs throughout the spring season. There will be several free programs dedicated to novices as well as seasoned gardeners to hone their green- thumb skills.

Dean’s is also repeating its signature program, the Community Supported Agriculture Garden. All the shares in this project were quickly snapped up last year. CSA ensures program participants the freshest locally grown vegetables.

Every week from late spring right into early fall, shareholders will pick up a full box of locally grown produce. Last year I was so impressed with the whole procedure that I found myself wanting to see the vegetables grow from one week to the next. A green bean or tomato will taste so much fresher when it was harvested a few hours ago and goes straight to your table. I like the idea of not having to wait till some Californians load up a railroad car and then send the veggies our way. Besides that, Dean’s scores of heirloom tomato varieties are off the chart.

When my mood gets low, I know where to go: garden centers. It is so easy to pick up a potted flowering plant and enliven a home. Only today I set out for orchids but instead came home with several bundles of smiling daffodils. Now I know for sure that eventually spring will come our way. Confirmation is scattered around the house.


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