What is growing & blooming in the Earl and Donnalee Holton Arid Garden?

A welcome retreat from the cold Michigan winter, the Earl and Donnalee Holton Arid Garden brings together cacti, agaves, succulents and other desert plants from around the world. Stop by on your next visit to discover flora that can survive in the most barren climates on the planet!

Here are some of the things that have been growing and blooming recently in the Arid Garden:

Our potted jade tree, Crassula ovata:

Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia milii:


Aloe sinkatana:

Mustache aloe, Aloe suprafolitata:


Happy birthday, Marshall Fredericks!

Happy birthday to Danish-American sculptor Marshall Fredericks, born on January 31, 1908!

Marshall Fredericks’ works are a vital part of the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park story. A friend and favorite sculptor of Fred Meijer and the first artist that he collected in earnest, an initial gift of 36 works by Fredericks from Fred and Lena helped launch Meijer Gardens in 1995. Fredericks’ work is well represented in our permanent collection, with his stylized figurative work patinated a trademark aqua green.

As you walk around Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, you’ll notice Fredericks work at nearly every turn. Some of our favorites are shown below:

Boy and Bear

The Boy and the Bear

Leaping Gazelle Fountain

Leaping Gazelle Fountain (Rabbit, Hawk, Grouse, Otter)

Bear and Cub

Two Bears

Friendly Dragons

Friendly Dragons

Victory Eagle

Victory Eagle

To Michiganders, perhaps his most famous work is a piece that he never named himself, but has become known as The Spirit of Detroit.  He said that he “…tried to express the spirit of man through the deity and the family.”


Spirit of Detroit

Spirit in studio

Marshall Fredericks in his studio

Fredericks and Spirit

Fredericks with the completed The Spirit of Detroit

Only after it was installed in 1958 did it became known as The Spirit of Detroit. Not only did Fredericks waive his creative fee for this sculpture, but it cost him money to produce. He believed this was merely part of his civic responsibility.


What is blooming in the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory?

Even though butterflies won’t start appearing for a few more weeks, our Horticulture staff has been busy preparing the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory for the upcoming Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies are Blooming exhibition. This year’s display will feature a bounty of lush, tropical blooms offering a dazzling display of beauty while providing nectar and habitat for our visiting butterflies.

We recently checked in to see what was blooming and fruiting in this area of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park:

Wild Tropical Petunia

Ruellia brevifolia – Wild Tropical Petunia


Clerodendrum quadriloculare – Shooting Star




Aechmea gamosepala – Bromeliad


Clerodendrum thomsoniae – Bleeding Heart Vine


Coffea arabica – Coffee tree

We have also recently completed upgrades and renovations to our irrigation and curtain system in the Tropical Conservatory. While these changes will more than likely go unnoticed by our guests, they were much needed. Did you know that prior to these renovations, all of the watering in this area was done by hand by our staff and volunteers? We are looking forward to utilizing this new system!

What is blooming at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park?

Despite our grounds being covered in a beautiful blanket of January snow, there are many things blooming here at Meijer Gardens! We asked our Horticulturists for an update on what is happening around the gardens. Over the next few weeks we’ll be giving you updates of some of the horticultural happenings around various gardens and areas of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park as we work through the winter and prepare for spring:

Grace Jarecki Seasonal Display Greenhouse

What is currently blooming?

Prunus cv. Snofozam Weeping Cherry

Narcissus minor cv. Little Gem Daffodil

Epimedium x youngianum cv. Niveum Epimedium

Epimedium grandiflorum cv. Queen Esta
Epimedium grandiflorum Queen Esta

Vinca minor cv. Bowlesii Bowles’ Myrtle

2015 In Review

2015 was a year of Welcoming the World at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. In addition to celebrating our 20th anniversary with a calendar full of spectacular events and exhibitions, we also opened the long-anticipated Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. As we look ahead to all of the exciting things that we have planned in 2016, we reflect on just a few of the highlights from 2015:

We kicked off a year of Welcoming the World with a unique partnership with Shiga, our sister state in Japan. Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan displayed more than 60 Japanese works of art from the 8th century to the present day. Four seasons were represented in this exhibition.


Seated Senju Kannon, courtesy of The Museum of Shiga Prefecture, Biwako-Bunkakan

Guests began to experience the Tranquility Zone: A Japanese Garden Environment for Families in the Snell Education Center. This area teaches Japanese garden concepts to our young guests and includes a stepping stone path, an arched bridge, a tea house, rocks, lily pads and a Zen-style garden.

TranqZoneAug15 (35).JPG

The Tranquility Zone is generously sponsored by PNC Bank

In March we introduced Fred & Dorothy Fichter as the new permanent title sponsors of our popular Butterflies Are Blooming exhibition. Dorothy loved coming here to see the butterflies, and Fred wanted to honor her in a meaningful way after she passed. We are so very thankful for their support!
Award-winning producer, director and cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg spoke at our Wege Environmental Lecture and we
also welcomed our nine-millionth guest!

9mil (14)

President & CEO David Hooker greets our 9 millionth guest

In April we celebrated our 20th anniversary on a rainy evening with the dedication of Iron Tree by Ai Weiwei. Iron Tree is Ai Weiwei’s largest and most complex outdoor sculpture to date.


Dedication of Ai Weiwei’s Iron Tree on April 20, 2015

May brought with it the Great Gardens Party, our signature spring fundraising event. Hundreds of guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, beverages, a delicious sit-down dinner, and a silent and live auction of rare and unique items. We also hosted two of our more popular plant shows – The Iris Show and The Michigan All-State Bonsai Show.


2015 Michigan All-State Bonsai Show

June was one of our busiest months of all time, punctuated by the opening of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. Over 80,000 guests visited Meijer Gardens in June, 25 percent higher than any other June on record, including 2010 figures during the blockbuster Dale Chihuly exhibition and the 2004 opening of the popular Lena Meijer Children’s Garden. Our members enjoyed early access to this breathtaking 8-acre addition before it was opened to the public on June 13. We were also honored to host the King & Queen of The Netherlands as they visited Grand Rapids on an economic tour led by Governor Snyder.


The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden Main Gate

The Fifth Third Bank Summer Concerts at Meijer Gardens continued in July with 7 sold-out concerts, and we enjoyed another month of record-breaking attendance as we were joined by over 101,000 guests.


Fifth Third Bank Summer Concerts at Meijer Gardens

In August, we dedicated Relatum: Forest Path, a sculpture by Lee Ufan. This piece is the first permanent work in the Gwen Frostic Woodland Shade Garden. The ever-popular West Michigan Dahlia Society Dahlia Show was also held in August.


Relatum: Forest Path by Lee Ufan

ArtPrize kicked off in September, and we hosted the first ever all-national venue with our Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now exhibition. This highly unique collection of twenty five works from artists working in Japan today was on display through January 3, 2016 before touring venues in Japan.
Chrysanthemums & More!, our annual celebration of autumn, also opened in September and is the largest of its kind in Michigan, featuring expansive chrysanthemum displays, fall foliage and family-friendly activities.


Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now

October brought two wonderful lectures to Meijer Gardens, on October 13 we heard from author Geoff Dyer as a part of our Master Lecture Series and artist Jenny Holzer joined us on October 27 for the C. Schoenknecht & W. Paul Sculpture Lecture.


An Evening with Jenny Holzer – October 27, 2015

Continuing our theme of Welcoming the World, this past November we welcomed five new buildings to the Railway Garden, representing our five Sister Cities. Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World kicked off in November, featuring nearly 400,000 lights, strolling carolers, rooftop reindeer and more than 40 international trees and displays.

Bielsko-Biala Town Hall 2.JPG

Bielsko-Biala Town Hall

This December we introduced a new theme to our holiday fundraiser as the annual Holiday Gala became Christmas Cabaret. Guests were treated to fantastic entertainment from Sister Act and enjoyed drinks, a sit down dinner, as well as time to talk with friends old and new.


Christmas Cabaret

As we look back at a busy and successful 2015, we are extremely thankful for each of our nearly 800,000 visitors and for the generosity of the Meijer family.

What were some highlights from your time at Meijer Gardens this past year?

Honoring the past. Enjoying today. Preparing for the future.

To paraphrase a few of our guiding principles, we believe in preserving our history, we believe in safe facilities and grounds, and we believe in sustainability to assure that Meijer Gardens can be enjoyed by future generations. Following three simple rules helps us to honor the past, enjoy today and prepare for the future at Meijer Gardens. You, our members and guests, can help us by following these simple rules each time you visit:


Three simple rules for enjoying Meijer Gardens

Why remind you of these rules at this particular moment? It has everything to do with our core mission and the legacy of Fred and Lena Meijer, which we have been celebrating and are honor bound to carry into the future. Whether it is a horticultural or sculpture installation or display, the highest caliber visual experience is our goal. The Meijers were, and continue to be, extraordinarily generous, but remember they never collected for themselves, only for the enjoyment and enlightenment of others.
Abiding by our rules is one critical way to show our gratitude and respect.
Our 20th anniversary year has been nothing short of extraordinary. The gardens and grounds, collections and exhibitions that give meaningful substance and form to the organization, also require that we think about honoring the gifts we have been entrusted with as we prepare for the future to the best of our abilities. Caring for our collections and being mindful of the rules of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park are the critical bridges that unite our history and our future. By no means are our rules extensive or oppressive, but they are practical for safety and
longevity for our internationally renowned art collections, impressive display gardens and each of our temporary exhibitions.
Ultimately, our rules ensure that the legacy of Fred and Lena Meijer continues to be enjoyed for generations to come. In the future, you will notice several new measures, including signage, as a reminder to all visitors that we do not touch works of art, do not climb, and stay on paths or mowed lawn areas only. All of us here at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park thank you today, and the visitors of tomorrow do as well!

Developing ‘Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now’

Our fall exhibition Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now,  which also served as our 2015 ArtPrize exhibition, brings together twenty-five of the top ceramic artists from across Japan for the first time. Many of these artists are widely known and critically acclaimed in Japan, but few have displayed their work outside of their native country.

Why Japanese ceramics?

“This is an important exhibition for Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in several ways, as it continues our thoughtful examination of Japanese culture that was initiated with Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan and it furthers our celebration of the opening of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden—each remarkable and meaningful events in the history of this organization” says Vice President and Chief Curator Joseph Becherer.

How did this exhibition come together?

Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now could not have happened without the ongoing partnership between the staff of the famed Shigaraki Museum and Culture Park (SCCP) and Meijer Gardens. Located in Michigan’s sister-state of Shiga, Japan, the SCCP was instrumental in the development of and loans for our Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan exhibition as well as guiding the selection of all of the ceramics that are used in the teahouse of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden.

The Shigaraki Museum and Culture Park

The Shigaraki Museum and Culture Park

Beginning in early January this year, a national call for submissions was sent out across Japan looking for artists to participate in this important exhibition. Nearly three hundred submissions representing every part of Japan were received! Both masters working along more traditional lines as well as those involved in more avant-garde practices submitted works, representing the tradition and innovation that is present in Japanese ceramics now.

A committee of eight distinguished art experts in Japan and two representatives from Meijer Gardens formed a ten member committee that narrowed the nearly three hundred submissions down to a final field of the top twenty five works that ultimately became the exhibition. These works were meticulously packaged and sent to Grand Rapids where they made their debut for our members before the start of ArtPrize.

Experts from the SCCP and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park review submissions

Experts from the SCCP and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park review submissions

“This exhibition would have been unimaginable without the wisdom and expertise of our colleagues at the Shigaraki Museum and Culture Park. The staff, collections and exhibitions are recognized throughout Asia as a leading voice for both the history and future of ceramics in Japan.” said Becherer.

What is next for this exhibition?

After debuting at Meijer Gardens this fall and being on display through January 3, 2016, the works will travel to museums in Japan in 2016.