Cleveland OH: A Cheerful New Volunteer Gardener Group
- Subject: [cg] Cleveland OH: A Cheerful New Volunteer Gardener Group
- From: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2006 14:50:12 -0400
Gay garden club digs good works, humor
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Plain Dealer Reporter
South Euclid -- Blisters rose with buried debris as members of the newly formed Cleveland Gay Garden Club recently came out of the closet of cultural stereotypes, wielding shovels and a wry sense of humor.
For two days, they dug up rocks and rusted metal, recycled old drain pipes for use as planters, and planted flowers and shrubs at the South Euclid/Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.
And, yes, in addition to mums and hydrangeas, "we're planting pansies," club founder Phil Iannarelli said as he shoveled, in a deliberate nod to the disparaging floral term for gays.
He quickly added, with a chuckle, "But they're in very butch drain pipes."
Renovation of part of the library's landscaping was the club's first community beautification project.
The effort represents one reason why Iannarelli formed the group this summer at a time when a gay bathhouse, reportedly the largest in the country, opened in Cleveland.
"I figured Cleveland should be known for something else, like a gay garden club, to counteract the bathhouse image," said Iannarelli, 64, a garden consultant/designer living in Lyndhurst.
He envisioned the club as a way for gay gardeners to share common horticultural interests and tips, participate in such activities as field trips and community projects, and provide fertile ground for planting seeds of understanding.
"I want us to be visible at flower shows and fairs, to tell people what we do," Iannarelli said. "Out of the closet and into the dirt!"
One of the 35 club members, Kurt Wieser, 50, said the club could show the positive, civic-minded side of the gay community, in response to the "stereotyping and politics" that has driven a less-than-supportive climate for gays in Ohio in recent years.
Iannarelli also noted that the club will be raising more than social awareness. "The club is going to be different, not because it's gay, but because of what we do," he said. "We'll do things with imagination and creativity. And if it's not fun, we won't do it."
For the library project, the club got donations of plants from nurseries including Gale's, Petitti's, Highland Floral, Grande's and Klyn's.
"It's lovely. I love the color," said Vicki Adams Cook, branch manager, regarding the formerly overgrown area that she now hopes the library can offer as a "reading garden."
Iannarelli said other possible club activities could include plant sales for charity, or consulting on community landscaping and garden projects -- sort of a "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy/Gardener," as Iannarelli quipped.
And members need not even be gay, he added, unable to resist another quip: "If a straight guy wants to join the CGGC, he can. If he's drop-dead gorgeous, he MUST!"
Club membership already includes several women. "Phil [Iannarelli] said I could be straight and join, just not straight-laced," said Ann Abid of Cleveland Heights.
"The club sounded like fun, and interesting, and not involving tea," she added.
Another member, Sara Jane Pearman of South Euclid, had previously thought about joining a garden club. But "the only ones I know are filled with little old ladies who have gardeners," she said. "I think this will be a fun group because these are people who are really into plants."
As for joining a group that some might pejoratively pan as pansy-planters, Pearman bristled, "Pansies happen to be very nice!"
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