My Walk at the Meijer Gardens

Bill's Blog

I spent a cloudy, late fall morning at the Meijer Gardens – it’s one of my favorite local places and we’ve been members (I think) since the beginning. I thought I’d share a few pictures.

“Angry Mom”

This is the first statue as you exit out of the main building. It’s called “Angry Mom”, I believe – though I’ve always thought of her as more disappointed than angry. If she was disappointed today, it might be because of this rather gloomy weather pattern. Over the last 9 days, we’ve had just 14% of possible sunshine and we’ve had at least some rain or snow on 9 of the last 10 days.

Volunteers/Workers to Clean an Area of Frosted Plants

A big “Bill’s Blog Salute” to all those who volunteer at the Meijer Gardens and through many charities in West Michigan. I don’t know if these are employees or volunteers (I suspect the latter), but they were out in this cool, damp and breezy day to clear areas that have already had frost and get them ready for winter.

Swans on the Pond at the east end of the Gardens

Look at this. I caught two swans making a heart! (almost). These three swans were together in the pond on the east side of the Garden. Mute swans have an orange beak, trumpeter swans have a black beak. Mute swans are not native to this area. They came to Michigan in 1919. As their name implies, they are the quieter species of swan.

“Lena’s Farm” at the Meijer Gardens

This is the farm at the Meijer Gardens. The windmill was spinning away in the breeze. This farm is modeled after the farm where Lena Meijer grew up (BTW, if anyone out there knows Lena – please tell her that Bill Steffen says “hi”). While I’m at the farm, I always go over and say “hi” to Fred. You can see they’ve hung a wreath up on the house and some garland for the holiday season.

A little side agricultural note: “Michigan’s 2021 potato crop is forecast to be 20.0 million hundredweight (cwt), up 14 percent from a year ago, Planted acres, at 50,000, increased 4,000 acres from last year.
It’s forecasted at 410 cwt per acre, was up 20 cwt from the previous year.”

I love potatoes. We just bought a 15 lb bag of potatoes for Thanksgiving. My mother always made both mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. When I first came to G.R., I started doing speeches at schools. I remember driving to Edmore down M-46 and stopping to buy a 50-pound bag of potatoes that a farm was selling on the side of the road – honor system, just put your $$ in the slot. This would have been mid 1970s, but I think they only wanted 4 bucks for the entire bag. I was single – and buying a 50-lb bag. I had potatoes in some form twice a day after that.

All the Fall Colors in One Bush

Here’s all the fall colors in one bush. This was in the Japanese Garden. Red, orange, yellow green and a few colors in-between!

Great Blue Heron

I had to zoom in with my phone to get a look at this great blue heron. It’s really hard to see, but there are a few geese swimming by the far shore in this picture. There were also a couple of ducks in pond. The Japanese Garden opened to the public in 2015.

Fish Ladders?

It’s not the first thing I think of when I think of “fish ladders”. These ladders were sitting in the water and the north end of the pond.

Canada Geese on the Lawn

Here’s several Canada geese (they are not “Canadian geese” though if they are from Canada, they are “Canadian Canada geese”) looking for lunch on the lawn. In Michigan, the number of giant Canada geese counted each spring has increased from about 9,000 in 1970 to over 300,000 today.

Waterfalls Still Working at the Meijer Gardens

The waterfalls are still working at the Meijer Gardens. I’ve noted that they keep them running well into the fall.

Beautiful Fall Color on Cherry Trees at the Gardens

There was still some excellent color to see. These are Japanese cherry trees showing a beautiful orange to contrast with the gray sky.

The Trowel Sculpture

I think this is my favorite sculpture. I’m a left-brained scientist/realist for one, the kind that prefers Paul Collins to Picasso – but to each his/her own. The trowel reminds me of the promise of the change of seasons (Genesis 8:22) – that no matter how long the cold and gray of winter persists, that it will be followed by the brighter, longer days of spring, when we’ll get the trowel out and start to work in the garden.

Weeping Willow – showing green in the Third Week of November

The transition of fall color is shown in this picture. On the right, there is a tree that is totally bare and in the center we have a weeping willow that is still almost entirely green. Trees change color at different times. This year I noted that locusts and cottonwoods changed color first, while most trees had a late change of color due to the warmer than average weather we had in October. Among the last trees to change color are some willows and Siberian/Chinese elms.

Larch tree at the Meijer Gardens

This tree near the parking area at the Meijer Gardens is a larch or tamarack tree. There are 10 species of larch that grow in the Northern Hemisphere. This tree is unique. It’s a conifer tree with needles, but it’s also a deciduous tree that turns a bright yellow or yellow-orange in the fall. The needles fall off and then regrow again in the spring. If the guy from the Addams Family had a big one of these, it would be “Lurch’s large larch”.

The Horses at the Meijer Gardens

I can’t go to the Meijer Gardens without seeing “the horse”. In this picture, there are 3 horses – small, lifesize and large. The American Horse was created by animal sculptor, Nina Akamu and stands 24 feet tall.

More Fall Color at the Meijer Gardens

More fall color at the Meijer Gardens – excellent color here for the 3rd week in November. The Meijer Gardens opened in 1995. It currently has nearly 200 full and part-time employees and approximately 850 volunteers, many of whom are retired. The Gardens has approximately 28,000 member households and attracts visitors from all over the world.

Children’s Area at the Meijer Gardens

The Children’s area was vacant – the Great Lakes are covered in plastic for the winter. When I come here during the summer, there are always kids here, sailing the boats on the waters of the Great Lakes. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world (by area). Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake that is totally within the United States. Lake Huron has the longest shoreline of the Great Lakes, extending 3,827 miles, and is home to 30,000 islands. Lake Erie is allegedly home to “Bessie”, a ‘sea monster’-like creature that has been spotted on multiple occasions for decades. Lake Ontario is the only Great Lake that does not touch the state of Michigan.

Tropical Conservatory at the Meijer Gardens

Time to warm up – I’m inside the tropical conservatory now – home to 500 species of plants from five continents. Here in March and April, the conservatory is home to the largest tropical butterfly exhibition in the entire U.S. There are tropical birds, the orchid wall and a banana tree, which often has bananas growing on it. The conservatory is 5 stories high, has a constant temperature in the low-mid 80s and a humidity of 70%.

Holiday Trees at the Meijer Gardens

The Christmas trees are up at the Meijer Gardens. There are 46 of them representing countries and cultures of the world. I took a picture of the Austrian tree. My grandmother grew up on a farm in the town of Ybbs on the Danube River in Austria. She came to the U.S. on a ship by herself right after her 24th birthday in 1911. The other side of my mother was Dutch (from a farm near Almelo) and my father is 100% Luxembourger. Both of his parents were born in Luxembourg. Luxembourg is smaller than Van Buren County, Michigan and has fewer people than Kent County, Michigan. Only 50% of the population is native Luxembourger, over 18% have Portuguese ancestry.

Tribute at the Meijer Gardens

The Meijer Gardens has several ways to remember a loved one – you can contribute by buying a stone (we have one for Gayle’s parents – her mother was a volunteer at the Gardens) – you can contribute by buying a bench – (and there are dozens around the Gardens) – or just a simple sign – (yes, I love the butterflies, too).

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