Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Birthday Trip Part Two

My beautiful birthday day was a bigger blessing than I had originally realized.  It has snowed for the past four days here.  When it did stick, it wasn’t for long but every morning the bird bath has been frozen and the temps have consistently been below freezing every night.  Today it snowed almost all day but because the temperature was in the mid-thirties to low forties, it was more like white rain.  It has not been really nice since my gloriously sunny and warm gift of a birthday day.

Dusting of snow this morning.  If it were December, we would be thrilled.
The birds did not mind the snow… the bird feeders were busy.

We pick up our tour of Fredrick Meijer Gardens heading outside into the beautiful sunshine.  Before we continued our tour outside, we took a break and had a picnic lunch.  T and I have made food choices to engage life in our bodies and have found that eating in most food establishments to be difficult at best.  Last time we ate at the lovely little café at the garden, T got a headache from his salad.  We are assuming it was something in the vinaigrette dressing.  So, we bring picnic lunches with us and sit outside and share.

Lunch: Apples, nuts and raisins, mandarin oranges, water, chocolate and chips.  YUM!

I have been wanting to see the new Japanese garden so that is where we headed first with a couple of stops along the way.

A bird feeder was covered with pigeons.  In the sunlight they were all beautifully iridescent. 
One of T’s favorite statues to make fun of…  Cone head the Barbarian.

Personally I don’t really “get” this one.  Its real name is Mad Mom by Tom Otterness.  I think the artist’s name is a more interesting story than his creation.  As we passed by it snorking over T’s irreverence, we overheard a little girl who had read the information sign ask her mom, “Why is the mom mad?”  Her mom replied, “I have no idea, come on we gotta go.”  I was kind of sad at her reply.  I imagine my mom would have replied to my question with some wild story that would match the ridiculousness of the statue.

In honor of said Mom… the giant frog statue in the Wooded Wetlands garden.
The big bear and baby bear that you are not supposed to climb on but everyone does.
 I love this statue.  I don’t know its name or creator.
I think this is one of T’s favorite statues.  It is of Vera the Mouse who was created by Marjolein Bastin, one of my favorite living artists.  I do not know the creator of this bronze replica.
Of course The American Horse has to be visited. 
The Grand Rapids Arch by Andy Goldsworthy is a colossal pile of rocks
balanced in a pleasing way that is also a favorite.

We arrived at the beginning of the Japanese gardens and I was surprised by the size of the ponds.  The Japanese Garden encompasses eight acres and it seemed about half of that was water.  I was not initially impressed.  The first part of the garden is a narrow walkway around the first of several connecting ponds and the trees and bushes felt very new and awkward to me.  Kind of like someone had a whole bunch of woody trees and just haphazardly put them all in and then scattered bark randomly.  It didn’t seem to flow or have cohesion, it felt like a plant nursery aisle.  This first part is called the Cherry Tree Promenade so that probably is why it felt like it did.  I am assuming when it is in bloom, the view is overwhelmed by the blossoms and you forget about the layout.

The pond and banks are very “new construction” looking yet.
I don’t know if they will be naturalized more or left as is with bare soil.
Many of the large boulders had inscriptions on them.
This one gave a nod to the newness of the garden and the settling that had yet to be completed.

We rounded the first pond and headed toward the main gate where there was an information board about the garden designer, Hoichi Kurisu, who is highly acclaimed and has many awards.  Who am I to argue with his sense of design?  However, entering the main gate quickly captured my fascination.

Millions of dollars were spent on hundreds of trees that were planted here.
This incredible Japanese Maple is beautiful next to a multi-ton boulder.
A stone filled water rill to catch the rain run-off from the roof.  Granite pavers enclose black river stones in a wonderful juxtaposition of common structured by extravagant.
This Piece is Untitled by Anish Kapoor.  The top and bottom circles are concave while the center one is convex, thus presenting reversed images in the polished stone.
T off exploring where we aren’t supposed to go…

The path meandered down to the Natural-Style Moss Garden where a barrier had been placed.  Most of the paths were handicap accessible, wide and skid proof.  Some of the paths were made from natural rocks and required a bit of balance and attention to navigate.  These paths were still blocked off from use due to winter’s ice and snow which would make them hazardous.  T boldly hopped the barrier and took off down the path.  I, the one who usually is the one to take off down the path less followed, stayed obediently behind.  T came back and announced that this part was his favorite and of all the strange and somewhat confusing quotes etched into stone around the gardens, he found his favorite on a rock at the end of this path.  “The only thing that is certain is uncertainty. “  I do wish that I had followed him now, but I was worried about getting in trouble then.  This moss garden was very pretty and it appeared to be more “done” looking from my side of the pole.

Then we walked out to the edge of the big pond and wow….  Now I get it.  Several large waterfalls cascaded into a huge lake with a deck, bridge, peninsula and an island that appeared and disappeared as you walked the circumference.  The landscape looked more traditional Japanese along with being more established and natural.  It was beautiful….

Red twig dogwood and birch trees add color to reflections.
The shoreline undulated with huge boulders to anchor the edge.
A beautiful arched bridge spans the narrow section between two of the ponds.
A small island in the middle of the larger pond.
I love waterfalls and this garden had three major ones that ran thousands of gallons of water per hour.  Incredible design and rock work.  South Waterfall
Peaceful reflections…
North Waterfall.  Another huge waterfall that is mostly hidden from sight.
You hear it before you see it and even then you can’t see the whole thing at once.
The lower part of the North Waterfall which flows under a bridge into the back of the big pond.
The edge of the back of the big pond.
The flat rock on the right would make an excellent journaling spot.
Instead of goldfish or koi, the pond was filled with bluegills.
A veritable fortune was spent on trees.  Many of these have been cultivated and pruned for decades and required large machinery to move into place.
These trees are priceless in a way because of their uniqueness and age.
A compacted crushed gravel path leading up from circling the ponds to the knoll and the entrance.
The backside of the teahouse (which I assume can be rented for a price) looking across the back pond and inlet.
From the top of the knoll you can see most of the garden.  This is the south side.
The yellow house is part of the Michigan Farm Garden.
This is the north side.  The tea house, marshy wet lands, and docks are still to the left. 
The stone path set into the hill is the quick and beautiful way down.
A cement path also wound its way down in a gentler and wheel friendly fashion.
Next to a bonsai exhibit that was not yet open for the season, a Zen style garden complete with large boulders and raked gravel offered a plant free take on landscape design.  I think raking the gravel would not be peaceful or relaxing for me as I would belabor every little errant mark.
The moss garden from the other side.  It is so pretty and I regret not exploring with T.
Next time we visit, I will hunt down the quote.

In the end, I was impressed with the Japanese gardens.  I did enjoy the paths and all the trees.  The focus seems to be on sculpted woody shrubs and trees with a small emphasis on perennials and ground covers.  This landscape style is very different from our perennial heavy mid-west gardens.  I do like the sculpted trees and the miniature feel it has despite the size.  An idea that could be beneficial in my small garden.

We visited the Michigan’s Farm Garden before heading back to the Main Building.  I was wondering if they had any of the vegetable gardens started, but found that the daffodils weren’t even blooming yet along the road in the median.  In some birthday visit years this area has thousands of daffodils in brilliant yellow bloom.  We did see the occasional clump of an early variety in bloom but spring seems to be slow this year.

This could have been me as a kid.
This century old barn was moved from its original home to the gardens with the help of the Amish people.  I love the huge old beams and rugged strength and beauty of these amazing structures which were built by hand with hand tools.
This little guy was sitting next to the empty corn crib…  you’d think he would be a little plumper.

We walked back through the Gwen Frostic Woodland Shade Garden which in warmer springs is covered with bulb flowers.  This year the hellebores were still in full bloom.  I do not have this plant in my garden yet.  Perhaps I can remedy that soon.

Woodland garden hellebores and daffodils
The small pond had what I believe to be painted turtles sunning themselves on the logs.
I got one shot before most of them slid back into the water.
The back of the conservatory… that is one huge greenhouse!

Our last stop was to the gift shop.  I enjoy looking at all the pretties there but rarely buy anything because of the prices.  We do get ideas of things we could make ourselves and I snap pictures of interesting objects of desire.  This time there were a few drool worthy items with heartbreaking price tags that I left in the store, taking only an image home with me.

Big metal butterflies that you can mount on a metal post and plant in the garden.  Gorgeous…  $$$$$!

I had a wonderful day and am so grateful for the lovely weather we had.  I hope that you enjoyed the tour along with me at FMG.  As for our weather now, hopefully it will stop snowing soon; I’ve got grasses to cut down!


  1. That's a nice tour. Thanks. I especially like the photo of the bridge reflecting. The caption was "A beautiful arched bridge".

    1. Thank you Uncle Mac! It was lovely.. now maybe I have to twist someone's arm to go with me when the cherries are blooming. :)