September Book Discussion – Founding Gardeners

September 4, 2012
By Shelly Kilroy, Meijer Gardens Librarian 

After Frederik Meijer Gardens’ members book group read Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, we all agreed President’s Day will never be the same.

“Founding Gardeners” by Andrea Wulf

Learning about the great love Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison had for the land and plants and gardens in particular, and how it shaped their politics, was fascinating and enlightening.

For example, in their gardens, these men focused on using native American plants and less formal planting styles than were in fashion in Europe. For them, this was a political statement. Their gardens would be truly American in both plants and in style.

For all of us in the book group this was a fascinating new look at a fledgling nation and the founders we thought we knew.

On October 2, we will be reading and discussing John Muir: Nature’s Visionary by Gretel Ehrlich. This should be a fascinating read and a great prelude to the presentation on John Muir by Lee Stetson at the Wege Environmental Lecture on October 23.

Discover Living Art at the Bonsai Show May 12-13

A bonsai demonstration.

Bonsai are considered to be a living works of art. See some of Michigan’s greatest living works of art during the Michigan All-State Bonsai Show on May 12-13 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

From families to bonsai enthusiasts, there’s something for everyone during this free two-day event. Starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday, vote for your favorite skillfully trained bonsai and attend free demonstrations on how a bonsai is created.

Interested in making your own bonsai? There will be a wide variety of workshops for beginners to experienced aficionados on both days. Find out more about the workshops by clicking here and typing “bonsai” in the search box.

Past President of the American Bonsai Society, bonsai instructor and author, Pauline Muth is this year’s featured bonsai artist. She has studied with some of the greatest bonsai masters, received numerous regional and international awards, and owns and operates pfm bonsai studio in New York. Along with judging the bonsai show, she will be presenting “Land & Water Penjing” on Saturday and “Designing the 5 Styles of Bonsai” on Sunday.

If you’re still not sure what to expect, here are examples of bonsai from years past:


Secchia Garden Lecture: The Passage of Time in the Garden

Maintaining her Connecticut garden for more than 50 years, it’s evident that Sydney Eddison has been “gardening for a lifetime.” Eddison will speak as part of our Master Lecture Series on Tuesday, April 17 at 7 p.m. in the Grand Room. Her lecture, “Change: The Passage of Time in the Garden,” will take the audience through her garden’s extensive journey and holds tips and techniques for gardeners at every stage.

The passage below is the history behind Sydney’s love of gardening in her own words, and also gives a glimpse into her lecture:


I grew up during the thirties and forties in rural Connecticut.  My remarkable English grandmother wrote to my mother at least twice a week for more than thirty years. In 1941, she sent me a little letter and commented, “What a busy person you are with all your pets and your garden!”  I was eight at the time.

Growing up in the country surrounded by farms and hay fields, pastures and streams, woods and wild flowers, how could I not become a nature-lover and gardener?  But local gardening in those days had more to do with growing crops and vegetables than ornamental horticulture.

And when at last my husband and I bought an old farm house with a few neglected acres not far from where I grew up, the idea of making a garden began to form in my mind.  However, I had no training in horticulture; I didn’t even read much about gardens.  I had only energy and enthusiasm, a feel for the land, and the passionate desire to make this piece of ground ours.

Beginning gardeners don’t need advice, just an eagerness to interact with the landscape, the desire to make something, and a spade—I like a long handled pointed shovel best.  Dig a hole and plant something in it.  Start.  Don’t worry.  You can learn everything you need to know on the job, from books, from classes—if you are so inclined—and from other gardeners.  You’ll soon find yourself among friends.

Hear more from Eddison about her garden at this year’s Secchia Garden Lecture on Tuesday, April 17 at 7 p.m. The lecture is included with general admission and is free for members. Enjoy a bite to eat in our Taste of the Gardens Café before the event.  Please RSVP to or call 616-975-3144.

Thanks to Peter and Joan Secchia for making this annual lecture possible. 

Learn from Meijer Gardens Experts at Home & Garden Show March 1-4

With decades of experience in the industry, our professional horticulturalists have an array of knowledge about plant life, gardening and always find a new twist on horticulture.

That’s why they’ll be joining Master Gardeners, greenhouse experts and horticulture educators to present during the West Michigan Home & Garden Show at DeVos Place. From March 1-4, eight of our talented horticulturalists will present on a variety of topics, from low maintenance landscapes to unusual gardening tricks to elegant floral arrangements and more. Starting on Thursday, stop by the Meijer Gardens table and meet our talented green-thumbed staff.

Straight from the mouths of our horticulturalists, here is a glance at what each presentation will be about:


Vegetable Gardening in Containers
Thursday, March 1 at 6:30PM
Ana Bosma, FMG&SP Horticulturalist

ImageI’ll cover some of the basic container gardening considerations, including what to consider when choosing your containers, location and vegetable types. The presentation will also include some container options including a few unique ideas, along with a selection of vegetable varieties well suited for specific containers. Stick around for pointers on what size container should be used for the different vegetable types and how to make your vegetable garden the best it can be this summer.


Obedient Plants for your Landscape
Friday, March 2 at 2:30PM
Edward McKee, FMG&SP Manager of Outdoor Horticulture


Low maintenance, easy care and no fuss plants are in demand.  My talk will focus on plants that require little fuss, remain a manageable size, and retain their shape without constant pruning or shaping. Use any of these obedient plants in your garden to create an easy care and beautiful landscape.

Ideas for the 2013 Garden with Flowering Bulbs
Friday, March 2 at 4:30PM
Lucinda Grover & Rick Margo, FMG&SP Horticulturalists

ImageImageWe’ll be discussing flowering bulb ideas, as well as some containers for spring and summer. A review of blooming times and ideas for combining different bulbs to bloom in time or sequentially throughout the seasons will also be included in our program. Interested in forced bulbs? We’ll touch on forced bulbs and their use in the landscape or containers.


A Bar of Soap, Black Stockings and a Cheese Grater: Using the Unusual in the Garden
Saturday, March 3 at Noon

Ian Warnock, FMG&SP Lead Horticulturalist

I got the idea for this lecture from when I was a wee boy and started my horticultural career by growing a handful of peas in a five gallon plastic bucket. I try to recycle and re-use other objects in the garden for practical and whimsical reasons. I’ve never been keen on using harsh chemicals, and try to use simple and benign methods of pest and disease control. Some of the ideas are old, some are new, some I’ve borrowed and some… well, you be the judge! Dare to be different and don’t just push the envelope… tear it apart!

A New Twist on Terrariums
Saturday, March 3 at 3:30PM
Mandi Stade, FMG&SP Horticulturalist 


My presentation will feature new, fun ideas for anyone interested in creating terrariums at home. I will cover the basics of constructing terrariums—discussing tools, materials, plants, design themes, step-by-step instruction, and general care tips. My goal is to inspire people to get creative in utilizing common glass items around the house as terrarium containers and by using trinkets or natural items to personalize their terrariums.


Adding Beauty to Your Garden While Deterring Deer
Sunday, March 4 at 12:30PM

Tony England, FMG&SP Horticulturalist


Are deer eating all of your plant life? Find out which plants with flowers can both attract hummingbirds and butterflies while deterring deer. I’ll discuss what kinds of plants can be added to the landscape that will help keep deer out of the garden. Additional information about these plants will help any gardener choose which plant is best for different areas of their garden.

Simply Elegant Floral Arrangements
Sunday, March 4 at 2PM

Rose Allerding, FMG&SP Horticulturalist

With spring around the corner, adding a beautiful floral arrangement can brighten any room. Find out how to create a simple, but tasteful arrangement using minimal flowers or plant material. I will discuss which simple vases and tools will be needed to make your arrangement a reality.

Have a question already? Comment and we’ll try to answer your question during the Home & Garden Show (or below). 

“The Earth Knows My Name” by Patricia Klindienst

By Shelly Kilroy, Librarian

Even in books for adults, pictures can be important.  After reading The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans by Patricia Klindienst, our Art & Gardens Book Discussion Group agreed that we would have loved to see pictures of the gardeners and their gardens and even to have some recipes using the unique foods they grew.

In this series of essays on the gardens of ethnic Americans, from Native Americans to Japanese and Italian immigrants among others, the author shows the strong connection to the land that these groups of Americans hold.  Though many of us thought the book missed the mark in terms of garden descriptions and discussion of the unique plants each gardener cultivated, we all really came to like each of the gardeners and so wanted to see them and their gardens, see the land and plants they so lovingly cared for…and pick up some new recipes!  During our discussion we even chose favorite gardens or gardeners. Our choices ranged from the gardens of a community of descendants of slaves living on St. Helena Island in South Carolina to a group of Khmer gardeners who had escaped Cambodia’s civil war and genocide by coming to America in 1982 to the vineyard of a Polish immigrant living on Bainbridge Island in Washington.  But even without the recipes and photographs, we found this book to be a great introduction to some very interesting people and their gardens.

Next month we will shift our focus to the art world, reading and discussing Edmund deWaal’s The Hare with the Amber Eyes:  A Family’s Century of Art and Loss.

Art and Gardens Book Discussion Group is open to members of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Great discussions of great books take place the first Tuesday of each month from 1-3 PM.

RSVP to Shelly Kilroy at 616-957-3144 or

“Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education” by Michael Pollan

By Shelly Kilroy, Librarian

If you’ve ever read anything that stimulated more questions than answers you’ll know how we all felt as our Art & Gardens Book Discussion Group read and discussed Michael Pollan’s Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education.

Despite its subtitle, Pollan’s book is not really about gardening but about where people fit into nature and how we should interact with it.  Should we have more of the wild in us or bring more “culture,” what I read as intentional thoughtfulness, to our conduct with nature?  Do our environmental problems have more to do with our “habits, technologies and economic arrangements” than with the earth’s resource limits or our population numbers?  Not to mention whether separating human from nature is a true and beneficial separation.  Would we do better to acknowledge ourselves and our culture and cities as part of nature and practice more thoughtful interactions with the rest of the living world?  I have to say we didn’t come up with any answers, good discussion, lots of differing viewpoints, but no clear-cut answers.

Our discussion group agreed that whether we agreed with Pollan or not, whether his ideas were really supported by any science or not, his book did make you think. I believe we would all recommend this book, and others by him, for generating great discussion.


Art and Gardens Book Discussion Group is open to members of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Great discussions of great books take place the first Tuesday of each month from 1-3 PM. April’s selection is The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham.

RSVP to Shelly Kilroy at 616-957-3144 or

Enriching the Wildflower Meadow through Fire

To people driving by, it may have looked like a fire but it actually wasn’t. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park conducted a controlled burn of the Doehne Wildflower Meadow on March 29.

Controlled burns are very safe, easily controlled, slow and well planned. During a controlled burn, fire is used to control fire-intolerant non-native species while giving fire-adaptive native species a lengthened growing season. Other benefits include:

* Returning nutrients from the dead vegetation back to the soil
* Stimulating seed germination, sprouting and growth
* Allowing more rainfall to reach the ground
* Destroying plant pathogens, reducing the incidence of disease

“Burning is a natural process and occurs in many ecosystems,” says Steve LaWarre, Director of Horticulture for Meijer Gardens. “By executing this burn, we re-introduced a natural process to the Doehne Wildflower Meadow’s ecosystem.”

The meadow was donated by Harry and Elin Doehne and the Wildflower Association and installed in the fall of 2002. It is approximately three-quarters of an acre and representative of a wildflower prairie. It contains 30 to 40 species of forbs and grasses native to Michigan.

“The Wildflower Association is very pleased with how efficiently the burn was done,” says Cheryl Tolley of the Wildflower Association. “Since this hasn’t been done with the meadow before, it has been an educational process for everyone involved, which fits with the Wildflower Association’s mission as well. I think people will be amazed at the difference and how quickly the new forbes and grasses come up through the rich black dirt.”

Steve and Cheryl agree, “We hope to do this again in a few years.”

Control burn at Meijer Gardens –