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Published: Sunday, 3/21/2010

Toledo Magazine: Wrapped in spring

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mona Macksey, of Holland, moves a tray of pilea from a warm area to make room for new seedlings in Toledo Botanical Garden's greenhouse.
Pansies are in bloom.
Adam Stevenson, an intern from Owens Community College, plants red onion. Exotic plants winter-over in the Toledo Botanical Garden's greenhouse.
Mona Macksey, of Holland, moves a tray of pilea from a warm area to make room for new seedlings in Toledo Botanical Garden's greenhouse. Pansies are in bloom. Adam Stevenson, an intern from Owens Community College, plants red onion. Exotic plants winter-over in the Toledo Botanical Garden's greenhouse.
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The Gregorian calendar, decreed in 1582, notes that Saturday was the beginning of Spring, 2010.

Calendar schmalendar.

Spring's been around for months in the greenhouses at Toledo Botanical Garden off Bancroft Street west of Reynolds Road. And dozens of people up to their elbows in dirt and seeds will vouch for it.

“It takes that seasonal affective disorder and kicks it right out the window,” says Mary Berg of Holland. An occupational therapist, she volunteers in the greenhouse on her day off. “This is my therapy.”

On a recent Tuesday, the greenhouse's seven bays and nearly 10,000 square feet is abuzz with volunteers. There are nimble septuagenarians (not an exotic species). A guy sporting dreads, short dreads (an exotic species). A clingy 3-year-old adorned in polka dots (an exdotic species).

Adam Stevenson, an intern from Owens Community College who hails from Napoleon, lifts delicate plugs of red burgundy Bermuda onions and painstakingly snuggles them, eight to each four-inch pot. Retirees carry trays of pilea from Point A to B, freeing tables in warmer areas for green infants.

Ian Santino is working at the garden for a year through the AmeriCorps program. He's fascinated with the latest ideas in permaculture, edible landscaping, and habitat restoration. The Aspiring Hands team of five, ages 19 to 70, take turns transplanting tiny veggie plugs to two-inch trays.

The group volunteers with several nonprofits.

Adam Stevenson, an intern from Owens Community College, plants red onion. Adam Stevenson, an intern from Owens Community College, plants red onion.
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March wind is leonine on the other side of the big sliding doors, but it's balmy inside. No wonder volunteers keep coming back. A white gardenia beckons the nose, its creamy scent seductive. A potted banana tree bears bunches of green fruit. A plumbago is bushy with periwinkle clusters.

The phantasmagoric flowers of voodoo lilies are newly collapsed.

Many of these are winter refugees, not built to survive in our Zone 5. Come temperate temps, they'll be carried out and set throughout the garden's 60 acres.

In the first two months of the year, volunteers dropped seeds into soil. They raided mother coleus, Persian shield, and pilea plants for snippets, dipping the raw ends in rooting hormone and nestling them in soil. By March, the starts are promoted to bigger containers.

“It's great to see the weekly changes in growth,” says Ed Costell, a FirstEnergy Corp. retiree who lives in Sylvania and has been part of the Tuesday crew for 10 months.

What's missing? Geraniums, petunias, impatiens — altogether too pedestrian for this hothouse.

Exotic plants winter-over in the Toledo Botanical Garden's greenhouse. Exotic plants winter-over in the Toledo Botanical Garden's greenhouse.
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By June 21 when the Gregorian calendar declares a new season has arrived, this place will have cranked out 4,000 perennials for the garden's Spring Plant Sale May 7 through 9.

Seeds that volunteers gathered last fall from Oak Opening natives will have spawned another 4,000 plants for the sale, notes Josh Miller, horticulture manager. The grounds will be glorified by another 15,000 annuals nurtured here.

And 85,000 vegetable seedlings grown and distributed by the garden's Toledo Grows will find new homes in community gardens in the region.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.



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