Monday, July 28, 2014

West Michigan’s Green Thumb

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Parks

It may not fit with the traditional image of Michigan being shaped like a mitten, but we would argue that West Michigan is the Green Thumb of this great state! Boasting beautiful gardens, a wide array of delicious crops year-round, a rich history of horticulture, and opportunities to develop your own green thumb, West Michigan is your destination for everything green and growing.

History of Horticulture

The Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum, a National Historic Site in South Haven, MI, is the birthplace and childhood home of the Father of Modern Horticulture, Liberty Hyde Bailey. It's no wonder, therefore, that the "exhibits" here extend outside the walls of the 1858 homestead and into the gardens. The Bailey Museum's living collections include a variety of gardens, each dedicated to one of the many different families of cultivated plants that characterized Liberty Hyde Bailey's research interests, as well as his personal favorites. And Bailey was more than a horticulturist -- he was an inspirational philosopher too, and quotations from his works grace the gardens via a series of interpretive signage. The museum also offers, on select Wednesday nights at 7:00, a variety of "Garden Talks" with expert gardeners and others under the Baileys' old black walnut tree. Visit the museum to celebrate the soil, delve into the region's horticultural heritage, and add some education to your vacation!

Castle Farms


From vast gardens sprawling over 100 acres to intimate, carefully cultivated patches of pride, West Michigan is home to some of the loveliest gardens you’ll ever get the chance to stroll through. The gardens at Castle Farms in Charlevoix will make you think that you’ve been transported to the famous gardens of England or France. With their King’s Grand Courtyard Garden, Queen’s Rose Garden, Trellis Walkway, Hedge Maze, and more, you’ll savor each step as you experience their self-guided tour, allowing you to take as much time as you like to take in your surroundings. Stop by Windmill Island Gardens in Holland not only for their 115,000 tulips in the spring, but also linger amid a sea of flowers all summer long as annual plans and flowers decorate the grounds. Get a taste of the good life from the 1920s at the W.K. Kellogg Manor House on Gull Lake in Hickory Corners as you tour the estate and grounds of cereal magnate W.K. Kellogg, all restored to their original grandeur. For a stunning mix of gardens and art, visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, situated on 200 acres. Be sure to catch the largest tropical conservatory in Michigan, an expansive children's garden, a carnivorous plant house, and many more surprises and delights on your visit to the Meijer Gardens. Find details on more West Michigan gardens below:

Stokes Homestead Farm Market


With our unique climate here in West Michigan (four distinct seasons, plus whatever Lake Michigan throws at us), we are able to grow a wide variety of produce, with something new popping up almost every month! With our many farms featuring asparagus, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, sweet corn, apples, and more, no taste bud will go unsatisfied. With blueberry season in full swing, Stokes Homestead Farm Market boasts 600 acres of blueberry plants, with the opportunity for visitors to hop on a wagon ride to the fields and pick to their hearts’ content! Check back at your local farms monthly, as there’s sure to be something new in season and ready for you to enjoy. See below for more West Michigan produce locations.

U-Pick Locations

Farmers Markets

Downtown Market Grand Rapids


There are those of us who seem to leave a path of healthy, fertile plants everywhere we go, and then others of us who struggle to keep a houseplant alive for more than a day. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, think about taking advantage of some upcoming classes designed to help you get in touch with your inner green thumb. “Mommy and Me in the Greenhouse” is designed for moms with children ages 0-5 to come spend the morning enjoying the greenhouse and learning about plants and experiencing the sights, sounds, touches, tastes, and smells (August 1, 8, 15, & 22). Drop in for a Microgreen Tasting Bar on August 10 to learn about a variety of microgreens while you taste the different flavors for yourself, as well as get tips from a greenhouse expert on how to start growing your own. Get out and explore what’s growing locally with the “Urban Farm & Garden Bike Tour” on August 21, starting with an introduction to urban farms and community gardens in the greenhouse, followed by a map of the spaces that have been manifesting in GR. Bring your bike and safety gear to end the evening with a guided bike tour of Downtown's best growing spaces. All classes take place at Downtown Market Grand Rapids, and registration information may be found on their website.

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