Monday, August 11, 2014

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

I have only been to Meijer Gardens a few times in my life, despite growing up within an hour's drive. Grand Rapids always seemed so far from Kalamazoo. It feels a lot closer when other people do the driving, or when one is on vacation. The last time I was there, I was still in high school, placing the visit still in the 20th century! I was very happy to return with my boyfriend Greg a couple of weeks ago. We often go to conservatories on our vacations and Greg takes tons of pictures. I am very happy to be with someone who enjoys flowers as much as I do. (I get it from my father, who was a master gardener.) 

Much of the sculpture had changed and grown. I have to say, the Meijers have interesting taste in art. There are a lot of really creepy sculptures lying around. Really. Really. Creepy. An oversized disembodied head lying on a slab, bound to a book with its eyes covered, for instance. Or the horrific spider creature with a skull for a body straight out of nightmares I didn't know I had. The two walking creatures with no heads. The ginormous silver "neuron" that looks like an alien creature just landed, ready to invade the planet. The list could go on, but I am trying to forget them.

There are some perfectly non-threatening sculptures as well, like the giant spade stuck in the earth, the cartoonish "angry mom," gigantic horse, and farm animals. Yes, preserved at Meijer Gardens, as if frozen in time is an old farm house, garden, yard, and barn. The garden isn't actually frozen. That's alive, thriving, and beautiful. Everything else, though... Ok, maybe that's a little creepy, too. But it did remind me of my great aunt and uncle's farm they had when I was little. I have fond memories of picking strawberries with my Aunt Louise in her garden between the house and barn. They didn't have animals by the time I came along, but the feel of the old farm life was still there, and the farm garden at Meijer Gardens does an excellent job of capturing it, too.

Meijer Gardens is actually known for the giant horse, also called Leonardo's horse (as in Leonardo da Vinci). The last time I was there was specifically to see the horse. I also saw the butterflies in the Tropical Conservatory, "the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibition in the nation," another major attraction that make the Gardens famous. Unfortunately, that only goes on during March and April, so Greg and I did not get to see the butterflies on our trip.

We did get to see plenty of birds, ducks, swans, turtles, squirrels, chipmunks, and probably other animals that I am forgetting as we walked the grounds and the wooden walkway that runs along the marshland. The turtles were probably my favorite. Some of my first pets were turtles, so they will always have a special place in my heart. (We kept them on our deck in a big metal washtub for the summer and released them back into the creek in the Fall.)

Between the conservatories, sculpture parks, and nature trails, one can easily spend an entire day at Meijer Gardens! There is a special children's garden with a number of interactive exhibits that I wish I could have played on. There was a singalong of some kind going on, too, while we were there. It turns out that the Gardens also hosts musical acts in their outside amphitheater. No one I knew was playing that day, but the Barenaked Ladies, Nickel Creek, the Moody Blues, and Sheryl Crow were among those listed on the sign for that season. 

I don't think I will ever make it back for a show, but I do hope to see the butterflies again! Maybe next year.

*All photographs taken by Greg or myself, but mostly Greg.

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