When my mom, my brother and I discussed going to a Bob Dylan Show concert in Michigan this past weekend, I looked up things to do in Grand Rapids and found that they boast a world-class garden and conservatory. Since turning domestic and becoming something of a gardener the last few years, there’s little I enjoy more than a great public garden. Last fall I got to visit the fantastic Longwood Gardens and Conservatory outside Philadelphia. I’ve also been to the Garfield Conservatory on the west side of Chicago, which is less a public garden than an indoor conservatory, sort of an expanded, modernized version of Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes. I’m also looking forward to visiting the Chicago Botanical Gardens in Chicago’s north suburbs sometime in the near future.
(And how sad that I just learned how to do pictures in wordpress – it’s so easy – I never knew!!!)
The focus of the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is different than the others in that art provides a centerpiece for at least half the area. The do have an indoor glass house that provides room for a small arid climate room as well as areas for tropical and the most interesting, carnivorous plants like these crazy pitcher plants which eat bugs.
Their one-mile sculpture loop is quite spectacular. The three-story bronze horse is certainly worth noting, but more striking are the large modern formations of brass and steel placed in natural fields, and other more traditional pieces placed among gardens, waterfalls and at the end of paths that weave through landscaped paths that imitate nature. The day was perfectly gorgeous, the park un-crowded and the views from different angles wandering around the area fantastic.
On the opposite side of the park, a boardwalk winds through woods that open up into a living wetland, complete with algae, driftwood, calm waters and fishing ducks. Compared to the manicured beauty of the sculpture walk, the marsh was tranquil, and one could hardly stop imagining how such serene beauty must have existed before places like Waukesha, Delafield and Pewaukee sprawled out, building Best Buys and 4-bedroom, 2.5-bath homes in subdivisions named Fox Run and Marsh Creek.
Last on our visit to the park was the Michigan Farm Garden, a replica of philanthropist Lena Meijer’s childhood stomping grounds. They had a 100-year-old barn disassembled from somewhere else, brought in and rebuilt as well as a lovely farmhouse complete with rocking chairs out on the veranda. Most interesting to be was a square garden, perhaps 20 feet square, which I coveted. I love by tiny garden, but I couldn’t help thinking what kind of stuff I could grow in such a nice area. Someday.
I should mention that the Dylan concert was surprisingly entertaining. I’m not a huge fan, I definitely like him more on old recordings than in his current frog-man voice, but it was very entertaining, as were the three dynamic opening acts: violinist and singer Elana James, guitar wizard Junior Brown, and blues-rock guitarist Jimmie Vaughan.