Gardener's Grapevine 2015.12.09


I think this column is as much a travel column as a gardening one. When I stop and think about it, nature and gardening is a part of every aspect of my life, even my nursing. In nursing I use it when my patients want natural medications verses chemicals. I use it when we do chemical interactions between medications as many come from sources in nature. I have a book and computer program that cross-references chemical drugs and herbal medications.

Since Art and I take a lot of day (and occasional overnight) trips, we see a lot of interesting things that involve nature. Many people don’t realize how much of their lives crisscross with nature or how frequently. It is part of my passion for recycling, upcycling and making good environmental choices in our purchases. 

The next two or three weeks my column will be about a trip we took this past weekend to Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, Mich. We have close friends in Kalamazoo for whom we purchased a package to dine at Henderson Castle in Kalamazoo. They have a website if you’d like to check them out. It’s a fascinating place. When we purchased the package we could choose any date we wanted within a six month time period so we set it up for this weekend. When planning this, my friend heard about some exhibits at the Frederik Meijer Gardens. We decided to make that part of our visit.

If you’ve never been to Meijer Gardens here is a little insight. Frederik Meijer and his wife started the Meijer store chain and after it became profitable they developed Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids where they were from. It is a wonderful gift to the public and every time I visit it makes me want to continue shopping there in support of a family who could be so giving. There are three shows in the gallery, halls and arboretum all running through the holidays. We went for the Christmas tree display which I will write about next week, but we found out there was so much more going on.

For a place that I figured would have tons of sleeping or dead plants this time of year, I was proven very wrong. They have one of the largest arboretums I have ever toured. The first room is desert plants, which is mostly cacti. To me, cactus are pretty boring and easy to walk by without really stopping much, but not today. Every one of them was either blooming or just about ready to. It was beautiful, and to enhance the display the curators had placed red poinsettias and blooming white orchids throughout the entire arboretum.

The second room is carnivorous plants, meat eaters, mostly boring to me, nothing blooming. There was one that really grabbed my attention though, called a pitcher plant. It looks like any viney leafy plant, except every so often it has a thing that grows off it that looks like a small pitcher, about creamer size. Apparently the lip of this small pitcher emits a sweet smelling sticky substance that attracts insects to it. The insects get trapped in the sticky goo and are sucked in as the plants dinner. Now that’s what I call a fly catcher! 

The next four rooms have a train display like none I’ve ever seen and I’m married to a huge train nut. This wasn’t your ordinary train on the table with a few buildings display. It was trains overhead, on the floor, and at waist level. They traveled amongst buildings, across streams, bridges, mountains and much more, all set up among the tropical plants and trees of the arboretum. When we entered the museum we were told not to bypass it, thank goodness we didn’t. The different areas of the rooms were set up with sites and buildings that are famous around that part of Michigan, against a back drop of split bark on trees made to look like a huge seven foot or more fence. The real kicker? Everything except the train and tracks was made from things found in nature, right down to the stained glass in the church windows. It was beyond amazing.