Natural Beauty at Meijer Gardens’ Christmas and Holiday Traditions

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Smell the luscious evergreens in the covered entryway, take in the sights and sounds of the Railway Garden by weaving through the amaryllis, poinsettias, and cedar displays in the Seasonal Display Greenhouse, and enjoy the guest-favorite succulent wreath hanging in the Arid Garden.

You’ll soon discover this year’s Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World focuses on the beauty of natural materials.

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During your visit, anticipate a lush palette of horticultural favorites placed along the corridors and especially in the Railway Garden. The Railway Garden is home to more than 30 Grand Rapids landmarks made from earthly elements. From the Civic Theatre made of oak, chestnut and magnolia to the Meyer May House of red ruscus leaves, there’s beauty in every corner of this miniature city-space.

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Reflect not only the literal beauty of nature, but also on the authentic and natural elements adorning our collection of Scandinavian trees. These trees showcase generations-old tradition of crafting ornaments from organic materials found on the farm. Sweden’s tree is decorated with woven Julbock, a Christmas icon of the straw goat who carries the bringer of gifts. Explore Finland’s display of the Himmeli, a geometric mobile made of straw believe to ensure good crops and Denmark’s paper ornaments, shaped like a heart to express love and good will.

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Learn more about the cultural traditions and natural beauty found this holiday season at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park now until January 5, 2014 during Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World. 

What’s New, Bamboo?

The Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory has more than 150 tropical plants in its permanent plant collection. Until recently, many of the plants were original to the conservatory since its opening in 1995.

Removed last month, the yellow groove bamboo or Bambusa vulgaris “vittata” made way for another bamboo species. Why? There were a few reasons…

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Bambusa ‘vittata’ is a timber bamboo in its native region. Timber bamboos grow very tall, very straight, and the stems (or culms) are thick-walled, making them extremely useful for building purposes. The height of timber bamboos can easily reach over 70 feet. As a spreading bamboo, new culms sometimes grown several feet from the previous ones; creating unwanted growth in an already limited area.

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Over time, pruning the larger culms became a necessity. The canopy needed to be opened up to allow for sunlight and airflow, and the larger culms were growing into the overhead structure of the Conservatory. It became apparent that the best thing to do was to remove the yellow groove bamboo.

Removing the bamboo required the professional services of Bartlett Tree Services as they cut each culm, one by one, over the course of a day. Frederik Meijer Gardens’ Horticulture staff dug up the roots and tended the soil before new bamboo was planted.

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The new bamboo, Bambusa multiplex or “Thai Beauty,” was chosen by Horticulturist Lucinda Grover for its clumping growth habit. This means the new culms will not spread outward, but emerge from the base of the plant. Native to Thailand, this bamboo’s leaves are small, giving a more graceful and airy appearance. “Thai Beauty” only reaches around 35 feet and features culms in a deep olive green color.

See if you can spot the“Thai Beauty” bamboo as you enter the Tropical Conservatory during your next visit!

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Achieve Beautiful Gardens – March 26 Gardening Mini-Series

By Julie Francke, Curator of Horticulture Education
PART II OF A THREE PART SERIES

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“Garden Design: Composition in the Garden”

On March 26, Meijer Gardens’ Spring Gardening Mini-Series will reveal ways to make your garden more beautiful!

We’ll begin with “Garden Design: Composition in the Garden” from 4–5:15 p.m., taught by Chris Major, landscape designer with Blue Ridge Landscaping. Chris will help reexamine your garden through a garden designer’s eyes and inspire you with great plant combinations. More importantly, he’ll reveal why these combinations look great and how to apply these principles to your garden. Chris will also reveal how hardscapes (anything that is not a plant) can help tie the overall garden design together.

When asked, “What is the most common mistake people make when designing their gardens?” Chris revealed it is not paying enough attention to the scale.

“When selecting hardscapes, such as boulders, sculptures and walkways, we need to select materials with respect to the scale of their outdoor environment—this is generally larger than the homeowner realizes.”

In regards to plants, scale is equally as important. Understanding a plant’s growth habit and rate need to be taken into consideration. “We’ve all seen the cute spruce trees at the garden center and proceeded to plant them a few feet from the corner of the house. At first, this makes sense because that little guy would look ridiculous if you planted it 15 or 18 feet away. Unfortunately, the end of this story usually involves a landscaper having to remove said tree 15 years later as it is now attacking the side of the home!”

"Perennials: The Power of One"

“Perennials: The Power of One”

If you are searching for the “best of the best” perennials for your West Michigan garden, you won’t want to miss “Perennials: The Power of One” from 5:30–6:45 p.m. presented by Susan Martin, perennial specialist and director of marketing communications for Walters Gardens. Susan is passionate about perennials and writes about them in the Walters Gardens catalog, on websites, in industry publications and Michigan Gardening Magazine. With more than 1,000 perennials growing in display and trial gardens right outside her office door, she sees first-hand how they perform.

Susan’s profession is also her hobby—she describes her own garden as a “collector’s garden” that includes a broad mix of perennials, annuals, shrubs and vines. In this class, Susan will reveal some incredibly improved perennials including:

  • A series of Tickseed (Coreopsis) that blooms for 5 months non-stop
  • A hardy perennial with dinner plate-sized blossoms that will be center of attention for a full three months in the garden
  • A shasta daisy (Leucanthemum) that puts out four rounds of flowers from early summer into mid-fall
  • A tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) that never gets powdery mildew
  • A tall stonecrop (Sedum) with stems so strong you’ll have to cut them down in spring–it never flops!

According to Susan, “To find out which varieties they are, you’ll have to attend my talk!”

“Drought Tolerant Landscapes”

“Drought Tolerant Landscapes”

In “Drought Tolerant Landscapes” from 7–8:15 p.m., Richard Sierra, senior sales representative for Hortech, will reveal ways you can help your garden thrive despite our hotter and drier summers and suggest plants that thrive on less water.

According to Richard, Hortech has seen an increasing demand for plants that require less water and maintenance. Gardeners are changing the way they think about water and are becoming more aware of water as an important resource—both from an environmental standpoint as well as financial. Last summer, some Midwestern cities even experienced water restrictions and bans.

Richard came into the green industry by accident—24 years ago he began working as a team leader in the shipping department and later became certified as a Green Industry Professional—and now advises landscapers and garden centers across the Midwest on the best plants for their needs. He also landscaped his first home in Grand Haven entirely with groundcovers and rocks; a low-growing sedum was his lawn, surrounded by drought-tolerant ornamental grasses, and punctuated by boulders.  Richard’s garden only needed to be irrigated during periods of extreme drought, saving time, money, and the important water resource.

All classes in the Spring Gardening Mini-Series are offered at the affordable price of $10 for members and $15 for non-members thanks to the support of the Association of Grand Rapids Landscape Professionals.

Click here to register for any of these classes, as well as classes held on April 9 and April 11. Full descriptions and other information are also included. Walk-ins welcome.

Spring Ushers in Spring Gardening Mini-Series, first one March 21

By Julie Francke, Curator of Horticulture Education

Part I of a three part series

Butterfly Bush in front of Meijer Gardens.

Butterfly Bush in front of Meijer Gardens.

March 20 is the vernal equinox—what most of us refer to as the first day of spring. While this may conjure up images of flowers blooming and bees buzzing, we could welcome a fresh blanket of snow or summer weather in mid-Michigan (do you recall last year’s record-setting temperature of 86 degrees?). The days will continue to lengthen, the weather will warm, the flowers will bloom, and the Meijer Gardens Spring Gardening Mini-Series will begin!

The Spring Gardening Mini-Series showcases four days of inspiring gardening classes at Meijer Gardens. These classes are on Thursday, March 21, Tuesday, March 26, Tuesday, April 9 and Thursday, April 11 throughout the day.

On March 21, the Mini-Series classes address the nation’s new gardening passion—growing your own vegetables. In “Growing Vegetables from Seed” from 1–2:15 p.m., you will learn about the different types of seeds (hybrid, heirloom and ark) and the best ways to start them.

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Heirloom Garden in the Meijer Gardens Michigan Farm Garden.

“Patio Vegetables: Thinking Outside the Plot” from 2:30–3:45 p.m. reveals a new and attractive way to grow your own food—in containers right on your patio. Delving deeper, discover the rewards of “Underground Vegetables” from 4–5:15 p.m.—everything you need to know about growing “root vegetables,” from colorful potatoes to unusual sunchokes.

The local experts who will teach these classes are not only passionate about gardening, they understand the challenges and opportunities that West Michigan gardeners face. Meet the instructors even before you attend a class:

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Growing Vegetables from Seed, 1–2:15 PM

Karen Lubbers owns Lubbers Family Farm, a picturesque farm nestled along the Grand River, where her family grows their own food and raises their own livestock using sustainable practices.  Their farm is also home to Cowslip Creamery and Little Rooster Bread Company. They began growing their own food in 1993 after their youngest daughter, then six, was diagnosed with brain cancer.  As Karen describes, “We began extensive research into the origins of cancer, which led us, inevitably, to our food supply, along with other things over which we had no control. We became increasingly alarmed by what was in our food in the form of pesticides, herbicides, dyes, preservatives— it is a very long list. Then we became equally alarmed by what we found was not in our food nutritionally.”

S_Hirvela_gardener Patio Vegetables: Thinking Outside the Plot, 2:30–3:45 PM

Stacey Hirvela, social media specialist for Spring Meadow Nursery, is looking forward to the release of her first book by Rodale Press (due out January 2014) which will detail all the information you need to grow edibles in raised beds and containers of all types. After earning her bachelor’s degree in linguistics at the University of Michigan, she changed direction and followed her passion by attending school at New York Botanic Garden. Stacey has been a rooftop gardener in Manhattan, the horticulturist at the former Tavern on the Green restaurant and has worked for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You will love Stacey’s passion and enthusiasm for all things green.

Ana Bosma1 Underground Vegetables, 4–5:15 PM

Ana Bosma is horticulturist at Meijer Garden and is responsible for Michigan’s Farm Garden as well as the Gwen Frostic Woodland Garden. Ana was born and raised in Grand Rapids and attended Michigan State University earning a degree in Horticulture with a focus on organic vegetable production. Before joining the Meijer Gardens staff, she worked for several years growing vegetables for farmers markets and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs.

All classes in the Spring Gardening Mini-Series are offered at the affordable price of $10 for members and $15 for non-members thanks to the support of the Association of Grand Rapids Landscape Professionals.

Click here to register for any of these classes, as well as classes held on March 26, April 9 and April 11. Full descriptions and other information are also included. Walk-ins welcome.

Watch for future blogs that will provide an inside look at the topics and instructors of the next Spring Gardening Mini-Series classes!

Holiday Whimsy: The Railway Garden

Experience the magic of the train in the Railway Garden.

Experience the magic of the train in the Railway Garden.

Let childhood nostalgia wash over you this holiday season at Frederik Meijer Gardens. As you stroll through Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World’s 42 cultural displays and trees, take a detour into the Victorian Parlor to see the magic of the Railway Garden. Marking the beginning of the holiday season, this unique feature has been a winter tradition for nine years and counting.

“When you walk into the space, you become part of it. The garden is taking place above, below, all around you–and it’s constantly changing,” said Steve LaWarre, Director of Horticulture. “Plants start and finish blooming, trees drop leaves and needles, plantings grow. It takes on a different feeling week to week.”

A miniature Rosa Parks Circle in our Railway Garden.

A miniature Rosa Parks Circle in our Railway Garden.

The horticultural elements bring life to the display of trains and trolley, but take note of the all-natural, manmade buildings which create a landscape for the track to curve and loop around. As part of this year’s celebration, we’ve unwrapped five new gifts – the last of these miniature buildings in the Railway Garden.

Years ago, guests voted on which Grand Rapids landmarks they would like to see made into the Railway Garden scenery. Over the past three years, 15 new buildings have been added to the intricate cityscape. The final five iconic attractions are finally installed and include: Fifth Third Ball Park, Jersey Junction, Paddock Place (now Mangiamo!), Meyer May House and Voigt House. These last additions bring the total building count to 30 whimsical structures.

The Fifth Third Ball Park is the latest edition - just look at those tiny baseball fans!

The Fifth Third Ball Park is the latest edition – just look at those tiny baseball fans!

Whether it’s the whir of trains and trolleys or nostalgic Grand Rapids landmarks that draw you in, let the thoughtful horticultural design and smells of cedar and evergreen bring a bit of childhood fantasy to the here and now.

What’s your favorite part of the Railway Garden?