Have a green Christmas at Sunday's greenhouse open house

SANDUSKY It's 75 degrees. On either side of the 12-foot Christmas tree, bright green palm leaves sway in a soft breeze
May 24, 2010



It's 75 degrees.

On either side of the 12-foot Christmas tree, bright green palm leaves sway in a soft breeze.

Ten feet away, a parrot named Elmo squawks at a passer-by. His green and teal plumage sparkles in the late-afternoon sunlight. Tropical Christmas music fills the air.

This may sound like a Caribbean Christmas fantasy, but it's just a description of the Sandusky Greenhouse, which is preparing for Sunday's Christmas Open House.

"It's sure warmer than staying at home," says Bill Biehl, one of a dozen volunteers setting up Thursday afternoon in the greenhouse.

Many of the volunteers dress in short sleeves, taking advantage of balmy weather.

"It's a really wonderful asset for the city and for visitors," Biehl says of the facility and its workers, who decorate Washington Park and manage 600-plus acres of parkland throughout the city with just three employees.

The open house -- hosted by the Friends of the Greenhouse, a small army of volunteers who help the shorthanded employees -- offers a respite to residents looking for a warm alternative this weekend.

The group will offer refreshments to visitors, a crafts session for kids and a chance to admire the natural beauties and seasonal decorations the facility offers.

Nanette Guss, one of the greenhouse's most loyal volunteers, helped install those decorations with fellow volunteers Jim Arthur, Dick Gallagher and Jim Corso.

In addition to the large Christmas tree near the palms, smaller Christmas trees sit atop the tables throughout the building. The trees are adorned with peppermint candy canes, and red, gold and silver ornaments.

Christmas lights and shiny red ribbons bedeck the entrance ways and structural posts, and an elaborate train set, in which a train glides through a quaint, snow-covered town, enlivens one of the largest tables in the northwest section of the building.

Guss delivered fliers about the open house to local business this month and hopes residents will take advantage of the offer.

"I think it's a nice rest stop for shoppers or anybody who's out on the weekend," she says, before switching topics to the volunteers. "We've got a great crew. They're so dedicated. It's really nice how the community has rallied around this place."

The greenhouse also hopes to use the event to improve its "greenness."

It will sell poinsettias for $10 each to raise money for a used, $14,000 Clean Burn oil-furnace, which will enhance the facility's efficiency.

In these less-than-lush times, the greenhouse needs more efficiency as much as ever.

Friends of the Greenhouse will also collect new and gently used gloves, scarves, mittens and hats in two bins located under the fake birdhouse in the northwest corner.

"It's a nice, tropical Christmas event," says Tom Speir, the greenhouse's foreman. "I think everyone will enjoy themselves."

Want to Go?

What: Christmas open house

When: 1-4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Sandusky Greenhouse, 620 Elm St. Everyone is welcome.