Spring weather is coming… is your garden ready?

By Julie Francke, Curator of Horticulture Education

The last week of the Spring Gardening Mini-Series concludes on April 11!


Courtesy photo from Ginny Pearce.

If you have a shady garden, but find yourself envying your neighbor’s sunny flower beds, be sure to join us on Thursday, April 11 for “Gardening in the Shade” from 1–2:15 p.m. during the last leg of the Spring Gardening Mini-Series.

Ginny Pearce will inspire you with ways to create a beautiful shady sanctuary that is cool and inviting during a mid-summer day. She will introduce you to a wide variety of plants that thrive underneath the canopy of trees—from plants that provide colorful foliage such as European ginger, Japanese forest grass, variegated Solomon’s seal, and hostas to those that offer splashes of color—such as astilbe, anemone and hardy geraniums.

Gardening in the shade can present a unique set of challenges—competition from tree roots and varying levels of shade determine what will thrive. According to Ginny, the key is to match a plant’s growing preferences to your garden’s natural conditions. Garden smarter—not harder.


Taken from Google

During “Rhododendrons and More” from 2:30–3:45 p.m., Jeri Kiel will dispel the myth that rhododendrons are difficult to grow in West Michigan. According to Jeri, if you purchase hardy varieties and pay attention to their physical requirements, “you’re golden.” She also suggests keeping the motto “buy local” in mind when selecting rhododendrons. Plants produced by local nurseries have been carefully chosen to thrive in our climate and are already fully acclimated to our conditions. Why waste your time and money on plants that won’t succeed?

Jeri will also introduce you to the rhododendrons’ gorgeous relatives—azaleas, mountain-laurels and even decorative varieties of blueberries. They’re beautiful and easier to grow than you might think.

Taken from Google

Taken from Google

Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension Educator said, “Pruning can be one of the most perplexing rituals for the spring gardener because pruning requirements vary with each species.”

In “Pruning Trees and Shrubs” from 4–5:15 p.m., Rebecca will take the confusion out of pruning and discuss the best timing, tools, and techniques.

Simply noting when a shrub blooms can reveal when it should be pruned. Shrubs that flower in the spring, such as forsythia and lilac, should be pruned after they bloom. Those that bloom in the summer, such as rose-of-Sharon and Annabelle hydrangeas, should be pruned in late winter or early spring. Rather than getting out the hedge shears and carving your shrubs into “meatballs and tuna cans” she will provide alternative techniques that will bring out their natural form and help maintain a desirable size. Whether you’re a “reluctant pruner” or an “overachiever,” this class will help you prune with greater confidence and skill.

Spring Gardening classes are also available on April 9. To find out about these classes and how to register for any class, follow this link.

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.


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:

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!