Jan Kious, gardener extraordinaire, has been up to something that really speaks to our mission. For the past five years, she and her cohorts have been cultivating Cleveland in a big way through GardenWalk Cleveland. We couldn’t wait to interview her.
So, what is GardenWalk? It is a gigantic annual self-guided tour of gardens in neighborhoods throughout the city of Cleveland. Its effect is even more huge. One westside gardener we visited last weekend expressed it well, “The wonderful thing about the GardenWalk is that you get to visit neighborhoods that you never before thought to visit. It builds a feeling of shared community around gardening.”
The Walk also builds community within neighborhoods. We were struck by how many clusters of gardens were open on a given street. Early participants seem to have influenced their neighbors to develop their own gardens. Imagine the joy of the shared passion, friendly rivalry, and increased social interaction generated by getting ready each year for the tour…!
In 2010, Jan got the idea for a GardenWalk here in Cleveland when she learned about the one in Buffalo: she heard that 353 gardens were showcased in 2010 and it immediately changed her impression of Buffalo—it must be a wonderful place, with all those gardens. She visited…and having visited, thought that the same could be true of Cleveland. Wouldn’t people’s impression of Cleveland change if they knew what grew here? They would want to visit, and once they had explored these beautiful neighborhoods, surely they want to move back into the city.
She and her committee of eager volunteers started out in 2011 on a grand scale—100 private gardens, 155 community gardens and 45 Reimagining Cleveland projects which included orchards, vineyards and fish ponds—and they have expanded their scope ever since. This year the Walk showcased 360 private gardens in five neighborhoods and 3 special gardens from all around the city: Ronald McDonald House, Dunham Tavern and Mansfield Fraser’s vineyard and biocellar.
So, what’s next? Barely rested from this year’s GardenWalk Cleveland, Jan Kious and the committee are planning next year’s tour. They hope to influence neighbors to create more clusters of gardens, thus building more gardening fever within neighborhoods and making it easier for visitors to see many gardens per trip. The organization needs to find new funding. Should they sell tickets to the Walk? Sell t-shirts? Find angel investors? Host a fundraiser? Jan is open to inspiration and the group is open to new blood. She says, “You wouldn’t have to be a gardener; other skills: fund raising, writing, organizing, marketing, logistics and garden finding…all are needed.” If you have some of that inspiration, you may contact Jan at email@example.com.
Jan’s work exemplifies the mission of GARDENOPOLIScleveland becau
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