On a recent visit to Grand Rapids Michigan this summer I got to spend most of the day at the beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. Our son loved the childrens' gardens and water feature of the great lakes for hours and we loved touring all of the features including all of the amazing sculptures, the Japanese Gardens which was my favourite and got lots of ideas to inspire me to use various colours and sculptures as art t in my own garden.

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park use their over 150 acre canvas to create a masterpiece that melds stunning sculpture works and lush gardens both natural like the Kettle Pond to the perfectly manicured Zen Garden. I recommend taking the tram tour, it is about 45 mins, they have extremely knowledgeable, volunteer guides that take you on a riding tour of the beautiful Sculpture Park. On display are dozens of works by international artists, many are vast in scale and only a beautiful outdoor space could do them justice. Our favorites were the Neuron, the lithic Grand Rapids Arch and of course the regal American Horse.
 
Our young son loved the Children"s Garden with many interactive areas Like the Great Lakes water play, climbing the Treehouse Village, excavating in the Rock Quarry and you can check out the Farm House & Barn with live animals. 
 
There is numerous indoor greenhouse, pavilions as well that house a huge variety of different fauna in a natural setting like the Tropical Conservatory, the Arid Garden with a vast array of cacti and other succulents, and the very popular Carnivorous Plant House!
 
The highlight for us was inspiring Japanese Garden, that seemingly whisks you away to another part of the world. It is painstakingly landscaped and took 3 years to create, every stone and plant meticulously placed. The grounds are so peaceful with a winding path that leads you through ponds, cultural artwork, waterfalls, and gazebos, a picturesque view at every turn.
  
 

The most beautiful gardens usually have little to do with size and much to do with how it makes you feel when you’re in them. I love my garden because it is perfect for me and fills my purpose, which is the key to any space. If I enjoy being in it, I am going to love it therefore spend more time in it, too much, as far as my patient husband is concerned. Backyards have to be seen as an extra living space outside your home, it doesn’t matter the square footage, take advantage of it to fill your specific needs. In my garden I have tried to create a retreat to get away from things, a place to have my tea to start my day, where I can go to meditate, read and spend time with loved ones with the beautiful backdrop of foliage that appeals to me both visually and functionally.

Functionally, I love low maintenance; there are lots of plants that require minimal work as long as they are placed in areas of the garden to let them flourish. My husband loves to cook, so we make sure we make space for herbs, which usually do best in pots and containers. Keep most blooming perennials and annuals in the sun and save the shadier area for trees, ivies, mosses, bushes etc. but always refer to you trusty plant almanac for the region you live in. I like strategically using trees for both the privacy they create and the shade they provide, so when planting keep location in mind. Physically step out into you space and stand in those few areas you will spend the majority of your time. Look to see where neighbours windows are and the height a tree or privacy screen would have to be. Also make sure you are out at the time(s) of day you would be enjoying that particular area of the garden that needs shade, see where the position of the sun is and again where a tree, shade or umbrella would have to be situated. By doing this, you are efficiently making best use of your space by laying it properly and will ultimately use it more. I know I was rarely using my backyard before I strategically placed a few mature trees, screens, an awning, an umbrella and a small pergola. Now I can’t wait to be out there whenever I can, because now it fits my needs practically.

 

Superbells Blue Moon Punch container 

Visually, I love the pops of colour (I am partial to purple), variations in leafs and shrubs with delicate flowers. Layer your plants and flowers with the tallest at the back, gradually making your way to the ground cover that is closest to you. This step system to gardening ensures you can see everything when it is in bloom. I love to garden, so for me it is all about varieties; I can’t wait to head out to my local nursery to see the latest plants, trends and colours. Actually, even before that, in late winter-early spring, I checked out my Gardener’s Idea Book from Proven Winners, one of the best in plant growers. I can see the colour trends, beautiful “new plants of the year” coming out that I will have to make room for like their perennial the stunning dark leaved Primo Black Pearl Heuchera, the beautiful, early blooming Spilled Wine Weigela and my favourite, the annual of the year the Supertunia Bordeaux Petunia and it’s purple!

Perennial of the Year Black Pearl Facebook

Yes, I love my plants, primarily for their natural beauty, but on another level what gardening means to me; it is a connection to nature that I had as a child where I spent every moment outdoors exploring. It reminds me of my mother and the love and attention she put into her gardens in South America. Gardening brings me such because I can’t think of anything else while doing it, I could start in the morning and hours can easily pass unnoticed before being called in for dinner. It is amazing how you can get lost in what you love and are passionate about, that is when you know have found something that is purposeful to you and cannot be measure by square feet. Get out and make your gardens beautiful.    

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