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!

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).