September 11-13, Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland was an inspired choice for the 2019 Summer HGSA meeting, with unique garden spaces throughout the city, pleasant weather, and an unparalleled Rock & Roll experience. Arriving on late afternoon Wednesday, we were immediately struck by the grandeur of the downtown Hyatt Regency, our home base for the next couple of days. Originally built in the late 19th century as the nation’s very first indoor shopping center, and nicknamed “Cleveland’s Crystal Palace,” it was convenient to restaurants and shops, and absolutely stunning in design. The Arcade was Cleveland’s first building to have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The itinerary for the coming days would include a tour of the Holden Arboretum, a reception and dinner at Geneva on the Lake, a tour of Rockefeller Greenhouse & Cultural Gardens, a visit to Cleveland Botanical Garden and surrounding museums, a lively stop at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, an exceptionally well grown HGSA seed trial, stimulating round table discussions, and great opportunities for catching up with old and new friends in the garden seed industry.

We connected with friends and colleagues at our traditional welcome reception, hosted by Hammer Packaging and held in the soaring arcade encircled by our individual rooms. Hearing about everyone’s latest doings and meeting new members is a key value of this annual summer meeting, and a source of great enjoyment. Seed industry representatives from throughout the United States as well as Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand came to Cleveland for the experience.

At our annual membership meeting over breakfast the next morning we got a brief preview of next year’s meeting site, Vancouver. We then departed for our first garden experience. The 3500 acre Holden Arboretum has 25 miles of paths, a canopy walk 65 feet off the ground, and a diversity of plants recommended as sustainable choices for the region. This garden practically demands a repeat visit, as our one-hour tour did not begin to cover its riches.

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Then it was on to Grimes Horticulture, where HGSA seed trials were located. The container plantings were stunning, and Grimes had invited Hatfields Goode Grub Food Truck to the property, just for us!

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Next stop was the Lodge at Geneva on the Lake, where we were treated to a reception sponsored by Wild West Seed, and a dinner hosted by Seeds by Design. But first: a lively round table dialog. Discussion topics included how HGSA might be of assistance in making adjustments in herb labeling standards thereby helping members avoid labeling violations; changes in USDA pathology testing methods; how US tariffs on products from China is affecting the industry; and details on a new cucurbit virus. This was a valuable opportunity for members to share information and knowledge. A fabulous meal followed, and more opportunities for networking among industry colleagues.

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Friday morning’s breakfast discussion focused on the possibility of partnering with other organizations as we plan for future meetings. Longtime member Chris Faull was awarded for her years of service to HGSA. We then moved on to tour our next garden destination, the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse and the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. This is a true gem, previously unknown to many in of our group. The Cultural Garden effort began in 1916 and, over the years, 32 international gardens have been established on city property along Martin Luther King Boulevard and East Boulevard, with 8 more in stages of development. Our tour guide Lori described it as a “unique memorial to world peace” and an attestation to enrichment by diversity. Every year the gardens are the staging ground for a spectacular event, “One World Day,” which has been celebrated for 73 years, and counting!

Cleveland Botanical Garden, our next stop, was a feast for the eyes. Founded early in the 20th century, it moved to its current 10-acre location, land that had previously housed the Cleveland Zoo, in the 1960s. The old monkey house stood where today’s herb garden is, and the dramatic terrain of the Japanese garden was once the bear pit. Following this visit we had time to roam. The Cleveland Museum of Art is practically next door.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, our next stop, may not have been garden themed but it sure was fun, we all agreed!

Finally, it was time to say goodbye for another year. We walked from our hotel to the House of Blues, where we enjoyed drinks and a pasta bar in a setting of over-the-top opulence, thanks to American Meadows. Cleveland, we found, had much to offer.

To see more photos of the 2019 HGSA Cleveland conference, access Brian Markham’s complete album here.