It's hunch your shoulders, grit your teeth and add another layer cold out there. It's grey and dreary. It's winter in Cleveland. And that means it is the absolute best time to brown bag it at the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse. The glass covered acre is a heavenly spot, a place I consider my own little seasonal retreat. Inside warm, moist air wraps itself around you like a blanket. Skylights make it seem bright no matter how overcast the day. And there's color wherever you look; countless shades of green displayed in leaves, vines and mounds of spreading ground cover; jungles of lush tropical growth; flowers in giddy bloom. When my son worked at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, I'd pick up food in Little Italy and we'd go there on his lunch break, spreading out our feast on a bench and feeling like we were a million miles away from Northeast Ohio.
It's like a vacation for the eyes. I love seeing bananas, orange, and lemons on the trees; sprays of orchids; birds of paradise and other exotics. The cactus room is a trip in every sense of the word, the sight of the odd shaped plants in their quirky variety surrounded by sand evoking welcome images of deserts where the sun shines, scarves are unnecessary and ice is only for drinks.
There's never a crowd, amazing when you consider that all this is free. No admission fee, no charge for parking. Open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 4.p.m. The land was a gift from John D. Rockefeller and his wife, Laura. The chance to experience the greenhouse's spirit-reviving beauty comes courtesy of the city. Although the outside grounds are lovely in spring and summer, I think now is the very best time of year to take advantage of this garden oasis.