The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Idea for a garden vacation

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

How many times have you heard, "You need to go……". Other than "jump in the lake" most of the time that statement ends with a fantastic out-of-the-way destination.

Over the years several people have mentioned an unfamiliar but intriguing destination: The Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids Michigan.

Yes, it is the same family of grocery store fame. As the name implies The Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park combines two art forms. The Gardens include indoor gardens such as the tropical conservatory, Victorian, carnivorous, and arid gardens, as well as the outdoor areas of the Children's Garden, Michigan's Farm Garden, English Perennial Garden, and meandering nature trails and boardwalk. The Sculpture part of their name is well represented with a world-class Sculpture Park and three art galleries of permanent and traveling exhibitions.

Michigan's Farm Garden focuses on gardening and horticulture as it would have appeared in the 1930's during the Depression era. With heirloom vegetables, flowers and orchards reminiscent of that time period, guests gain an understanding of self-sufficient farms of the past.

The English Perennial Garden was originally designed by internationally known garden designer and author Penelope Hobhouse. This garden combines the best of the English border tradition with many native North American plants.

Two special summer exhibits honor two artists: Monet and Degas. Although most of us would know Claude Monet as the Impressionist painter, he was also an artist in the garden. He was an extremely knowledgeable and devoted gardener. Many of his paintings reflected his own garden in Giverny with its extensive gardens, water lilies, and ponds. Monet considered his garden to be his greatest work of art.

Can't make it to Giverny France? Then visit the horticultural exhibition at the Meijer Gardens which honors the spirit of what Monet painted. The display features many of the same plant species, colors, textures and combinations that are characteristic of his efforts as a painter and gardener. It might even give any Illinois gardener ideas on how to transplant Giverny to their own backyard. In addition to plantings and displays, Monet's life as an avid gardener is detailed photographically in the sculpture galleries in conjunction with the sculptures of fellow Impressionist and colleague, Edgar Degas. The Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is the only Midwest venue for this exhibition of Degas 73 bronze sculptures.

Gardens include a café, gift shop, and a tram to take guests around the garden. All the paths are paved for easy access. For more information about the garden http://www.meijergardens.org/ or phone 888-957-1580.

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