A Horticulturist’s Holiday Home Decor

Written by Nancy Crawley

ed

Here is some Christmas decorating help from a Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park landscape pro.

It’s a big, busy job.

Ed McKee, Meijer Gardens horticulture manager in charge of the acres of outdoor gardens, could be forgiven for skipping outdoor decorating chores at home. But no, he’s already dressed up his Jenison home for the holidays.

What does Ed do and what are this landscape pro’s secrets?

A wide porch at the house he and his wife Tricia bought this year inspired him to a whole new design – one organized around a Christmas classic, the nutcracker toy soldier.

DSCN1301.JPG

He tucks colorful nutcracker figures he’s collected – from less than a foot tall to three feet – into window boxes and big porch pots filled with evergreen boughs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

He also adds white birch branches to lighten things up and bits of Michigan holly and purple-green kale for contrast. He adds dried Juncus grass from his summer plantings for a bit of whimsy.

Of course, the doormat and chair pillows are decorated with nutcrackers. A small, lighted tree stands next to the door and wreaths, including a big, 30-inch-wide one over the window, complement his theme.
DSCN1306.JPG

DSCN1323.JPG

Ed offered more tips during a quick chat last week:

  • Use a variety of evergreens for more interest. Pine branches are firmer than other boughs and help with structure. Arborvitae give a graceful, feathery touch. Fraser firs lend a blue tone and balsam and spruce, deep green.
  • During your fall cleanup, leave root balls of mums and grasses in the pots so you can insert evergreen branches in between the root network to stabilize them.
  • Keep your design simple and natural.
  • Power your lights with a dark green electric cord that you can more easily hide and use battery operated timers to turn lights on and off automatically. He sets his for 6 hours.
  • When hanging bulbs on your tree, start with the biggest bulbs tucked inside, closest to the trunk and then move out along the branch with progressively smaller bulbs.

All this doesn’t take too long, he assures us amateurs. A few hours and, voila, your house is beautiful and welcoming for the season of good cheer.

DSCN1320.JPG

20 gifts under $20 in the Meijer Gardens Gift Shop

As you head to do your holiday shopping, keep the Meijer Gardens Gift Shop on your radar! We have unique items that will please anyone on your list. These are just some of many great finds that cost less than $20!

December at a glance

_13_chtaw_cook-entry_vandis_1

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is full of the magic of the holidays – and 400,000 twinkling lights! We have a lot of fun events to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

  • Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World:
    • Ring in the holiday season with our most beloved winter exhibition. We’re taking a new look at stories of old, with an intriguing exploration of the folklore and traditions that shape holiday celebrations around the world. Honoring holiday cultures around the world, Meijer Gardens focuses on the authenticity of holiday traditions: Germany tree, adorned with handmade glass ornaments and homemade springerle cookies, the England tree with antique Christmas cards and mistletoe, and the beautiful Eid ul-Fitr display, which celebrates the end of Ramadan. The companion Railway Garden exhibition is a unique horticultural display that incorporates garden design, miniature buildings made from natural materials, and model trolleys and trains.
  • Santa Visits:
    • All visitors are welcome to share their holiday wishes with Santa. Remember to bring your camera for a Santa selfie or a photo with him on his sleigh. Santa will be in the Cook Entryway Tuesday evenings (December 6th, 13th, 20th) from 5:00pm – 8:00pm.
  • Winter-Time Walks
    • Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays Winter in the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden can be chilly, but fun! Bundle up and join us on an outdoor interactive discovery walk (Tuesdays & Thursdays at 10:15am and 11:15am and Saturdays at 11:15am) to investigate the Children’s Garden in new ways. We’ll explore different winter themes, each with kid-friendly conversation, stories and finger plays.
  • Rooftop Reindeer
    • Reindeer will be on-hand near the entrance to the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden on Saturdays through December 17th from 1:00pm – 4:00pm. Guests can visit the reindeer, get an up-close look and maybe even pet them.
  • The Original Dickens Carolers
    • They’re a holiday tradition at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Hear from this wonderful troupe of strolling singers as they perform holiday favorites. They perform Tuesday evenings (December 6th, 13th, 20th ) from 6:00pm – 8:00pm.

 

Hope to see you before 2017!

Why I Volunteer: Bob VanBragt

Written by Nancy Crawley

Dirt. Digging in dirt. Planting in dirt. That’s what Bob VanBragt wanted to do when he retired.

bob

Bob VanBragt

It was natural, really. He grew up on a tulip farm in Holland, the West Michigan town famous for its annual Tulip Festival. He had learned how to grow all kinds of bulbs, but once he went to work in an office, he missed spending time with a spade and shovel.

So Meijer Gardens was on Bob’s to-do list when he retired 10 years ago. Attending one of the volunteer orientation meetings, he met horticulturist Ian Warnock. who gave him a tour of the Children’s Garden. It was clear they would find a common bond in their affinity for dirt.

“He has a Scottish accent and a great sense of humor,” Bob said of Ian, whose impressive resume includes the H.M. British Embassy garden in Washington, D.C.

Soon, Bob was a Monday morning regular at the Children’s Garden, tending the ever changing landscape winding through places like the sensory garden, butterfly maze, and the Great Lakes ponds.

“We’ll pull mums, plant bulbs and pansies, do a lot of weeding and pruning. You never know with Ian,” he chuckled.

Bob, 81, has gained many friends during his 1,500 volunteer hours. “I love being outside, with all the kids.” And, besides, at the Gardens, there’s always plenty of dirt yet to be dug.

To explore volunteering, visit meijergardens.org/involved/volunteer/, or contact Tom Hoving at thoving@meijergardens.org or 616-974-5221. Volunteer orientation sessions are set for Dec. 7, 2016, and Feb. 7 and April 11, 2017, starting at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Why I Volunteer: Chantra Laninga

Written by Nancy Crawley

Smiling faces, happy people. That’s why Chantra Laninga is quick to volunteer for all kinds of special events at Meijer Gardens.

For nine years, the Grand Rapids resident has been wrapping presents at the holiday gift show and hanging shiny bobbles on Christmas trees, checking visitors for stow-away butterflies at the Butterflies are Blooming show, tending blossoms in the orchid room, and lending a hand at the Farm Garden and Japanese Garden.

The variety delights her. “I never knew there were 20 kinds of tomatoes,” she marveled after working one of the Farm Garden shows.

chantra

Chantra Laninga

Chantra’s journey to Grand Rapids and eventually the Gardens’ volunteer ranks started on the other side of the world.

She was born and raised in Thailand. There, she taught lab sciences to medical students before coming to the United States at age 29 to accept an internship at Mercy Health St. Mary’s hospital.

She made Grand Rapids her home, working for 38 years as a St. Mary’s medical technologist. “I was a life scientist, doing all kinds of lab tests, whatever the doctors requested,” she said.

It was challenging and fulfilling work, but, like any busy hospital, the atmosphere was intense. Often, “people had sad faces,” she recalls. So nine years ago, while still working full time, she began volunteering, relishing the cheerful people in the beautiful Gardens.

Now 76 and retired, she still savors the same joy.

“When you walk in, you feel different,” she said. “You see people smiling, having fun,everything fresh. It’s hard to find that in this world.”

 

To explore volunteering, visit meijergardens.org/involved/volunteer/, or contact Tom Hoving at thoving@meijergardens.org or 616-974-5221. Volunteer orientation sessions are set for Dec. 7, 2016, and Feb. 7 and April 11, 2017, starting at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Why I Volunteer: Daryl Mick

Written by Nancy Crawley

The Chinese vase artfully displayed next to a silk scarf and handmade beads. Holiday cards and bonsai plants set to catch your eye.

Daryl Mick, 66, helps craft those oh-so-tempting displays at the Gardens gift shop. Twice a week, he’s there, unpacking boxes and ringing up customers, all to make sure the shop is revenue-producing hit with visitors piling off tour buses and local families looking for unique gifts.

 

daryl

Daryl Mick

It’s all old hat for Daryl who’s spent his career in merchandising. After 44 years with retailer giant Meijer Inc., the Grand Rapids native retired in 2013. Shortly after, he found his niche in a way that so many others have – through another volunteer encouraging him.

He was helping at the Gilda’s LaughFest fundraiser when a friend working with him suggested he’d be a natural for the Gardens gift shop.

She was right. “It’s good fit for me,” he said. “I like working with the people, setting up displays and helping with the pricing.”

He also pitches in on special events like “Butterflies are Blooming” and the holiday gift show – “I worked 25 hours in two and a half days,” he marveled after the gift show.

Now, he’s the one encouraging friends and family to join the Gardens’ volunteer ranks. “I plan to be here as long as I can.”

To explore volunteering, visit meijergardens.org/involved/volunteer/, or contact Tom Hoving at thoving@meijergardens.org or 616-974-5221. Volunteer orientation sessions are set for Dec. 7, 2016, and Feb. 7 and April 11, 2017, starting at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Why I Volunteer: Edie Marion

Written by Nancy Crawley

You’ll find Edie Marion at the steering wheel of the Gardens’ tram twice a week, making sure guests get just the right views of the American Horse and the rest of the Sculpture Garden – “Neuron” and “Listening to History” are among her favorites. Then she pilots the 42-seat, diesel-powered tram on winding paths next to the Japanese Garden, Michigan Farm Garden and Woodland Shade Garden.

edie

Edie Marion

No, she’s not a professional driver, though she is known to hop on her motor scooter for a spin at home.

Edie, 66, was a registered nurse for 32 years, caring for patients at Mercy Health St. Mary’s hospital in the intermediate cardiac and later the psychiatric medical unit.

She has been volunteering since shortly after retiring in 2012, though her ties to the Gardens go way back to its construction when she was an early donor.

“It’s an organization I believe in,” she said. “It fills a big niche in Grand Rapids, and it’s nice to be part of it.”

She’s also been a volunteer for Wyoming city elections and the Wyoming Police Department’s RSVP program handling jobs like parking lot patrols and inspection complaints.

She’s a firm believer in the payback that comes from volunteering. “I tell people it would be so good for you to get out, help people and do something with your hands and your mind.”

To explore volunteering, visit meijergardens.org/involved/volunteer/, or contact Tom Hoving at thoving@meijergardens.org or 616-974-5221. Volunteer orientation sessions are set for Dec. 7, 2016, and Feb. 7 and April 11, 2017, starting at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.