September is trade show month for those of us in the garden center world. The focus this time of year is more “hard goods” or durables e.g., (fertilizers, pottery, grass seed, animal repellents, etc.) than it is plant material. Starting in Atlantic City, New Jersey and moving west towards Ohio, there are several shows I look forward to engaging with vendors, shopping new product lines, and further educating myself on all thing’s horticulture. However, the show I most look forward to is in Cleveland, Ohio. A little secret here, Cleveland is awesome, particularly the Lake Erie waterfront at North Coast Harbor downtown.  Once called the ‘mistake on the lake’, today Cleveland boasts several major cultural institutions, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame being my favorite! Always on a tight timeline, this year my wife and I took time out to walk along the shore of Lake Erie and take in more than just a trade show.

“CLE” is from the IATA (The International Air Transport Association) code for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. A city famous for its landmarks, culture, and food, somehow, I always seem to focus on plants. My daughter says to me all the time, “dad, can you give it a rest, all you ever do is look at plants.” For which I reply, “Olivia, my hope for you one day is to love your work half as much as I do.” While my wife and I casually meandered around the city I was taken back by all the Honeylocust trees I saw. Ever-present, it was almost a monoculture of this deciduous tree doing extraordinarily well embedded in concrete walkways and asphalt parking lots. Honeylocust, Gleditsia triacanthos, is a native from Pennsylvania to Nebraska, and  an obvious choice for a rugged, urban tolerant tree with unique features. A picturesque tree with pinnately or bipinnately compound foliage that is bright green in the summer and clear yellow in the fall. Reddish brown strap-shaped pods, often irregularly twisted, are an instant ID feature for this tree. And Honeylocust’s common name refers to the gummy substance that the pods contain. Many cultivars are available in today’s market, including those with little to no fruit and without thorns. ‘Shademaster’ is considered by many horticulturists as the pinnacle, but don’t dismiss ‘Skyline’, ‘Perfection’ and ‘Halka’ä.

Amazing to me were a few of the choices planted beneath the Honeylocusts. Walking from the I.M. Pei-designed Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to First Energy Stadium, a 5-minute walk at most, we came across a unique plant in mass. On the backend of where the Cleveland Browns play, are large masses of Blue Dune Lyme Grass, Elymus arenarius ‘Blue Dune’. Striking silver-blue foliage is a standout and highly effective paired against the Gleditsia. Their wheat-colored plumes were certainly visible, and this plants ability to gobble up real estate quickly was showcased. Embedded in concrete, suppressing the spread of their vigorous rhizomes was a good call. Another plant known to spread quickly, almost uncontrollably, is a bamboo type, Pleioblastus fortunei. Only a few blocks away from the stadium is a mass planting of this, again encased in concrete. No more than a foot high, bold white-on-green variegated leaves, showcased the Honeylocusts grayish-brown scaly, ridged bark. A desired groundcover bamboo by those who know how to control the plant, I was surprised to see it in Cleveland. Tolerant of subzero temperatures, this plant has a reputation of spreading by rhizomes, almost indefinitely, with regular moisture. A full sun/part shade bamboo, this one is both heat and humidity tolerant.

Walking away from Lake Erie in search of culinary treats, we came across a Panicled Goldenraintree, Koelreuteria paniculata clothed in dehiscent, papery capsules and a Corneliancherry Dogwood, Cornus mas. The exfoliating, flaky bark and cupped, glossy green leaves were well represented here. Finally, walking the trade show floor there was a “green goods” vendor showcasing their wares. Never really a fan of Weigela types, Weigela florida ‘Vinho Verde’ä stopped me in my tracks. After years of positive feedback, apparently this plant will be available next year? A variegated sport, ‘Vinho Verde’ä has lime green leaves with bold, black margins. A “light crop of red-pink flowers” appear in late spring and the tidiness of this plant should make it popular in anyone’s garden. “Wondering about the name and the unusual spelling? Vinho Verde is a special wine from Portugal that’s crisp and refreshing, much like the effect Vinho Verde Weigela has in the landscape” (Provenwinners.com).

Cleveland has plenty to offer from the Cleveland Metroparks, Heinen’s Downtown, the Old Arcade and The Guardians of Traffic on the Hope Memorial Bridge just to name a few. And if you’re a “foodie” might I suggest Mabel’s BBQ and the Marble Room… trust me!

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