Sunday, August 12, 2007

Photo Catch-Up: Fernwood Botanical Gardens

The WABAC* machine is now set for November 4-5, 2006. Rumble zappo presto, we've arrived! I was invited to speak about winter seed sowing at Fernwood Botanical Gardens in Niles, Michigan, based on a presentation I'd given earlier in 2006 at the Michigan Master Gardener Conference. I was pretty excited about the talk, especially as my stay included overnight lodging in the Gate House, a modest three-bedroom ranch (not unlike the one I own!) where interns sometimes stay during the summer, located just outside the entrance to the gardens. I usually drive to/back from a speaking engagement all in one day, so having overnight lodging was great as it allowed me to see a bit of the area!

The first day I decided I'd like to see Fort Wayne, Indiana. I would have liked to have driven around the Notre Dame campus, which has beautiful architecture, but I happened to be there during a home football game, and, much like in Ann Arbor, I avoid the campus at all costs in those situations!

I did however visit the Shiojiri Niwa Friendship Gardens in Mishawaka, just outside South Bend. It was a small but very nice Japanese garden, fenced in a city block. Unfortunately, the gates were locked, but I walked around the garden perimeter and snapped a few photos through the fence posts, including this one. (You can see a bit of a red bridge to the right of the statue's head.)

I spoke briefly with a nice couple living in a house that bordered the park, who were outside doing fall cleanup. The woman, who had not realized the park was locked, said how much she liked taking a cup of coffee and sitting in the gardens in the morning. Yeah, I could see that. I explained how I lived near a park back in Ann Arbor, and she seemed quite surprised I would come "all that way" by myself.

Next, I visited the Ella Morris and Muessel-Ellison Botanical Conservatories and Potawatomi Greenhouse. The conservatory was scheduled to be closed at end of 2006, but they were preparing for a plant sale fundraiser to save it. I told them about how the Belle Isle Conservatory had come through a similar situation, but I don't know if anyone ever contacted anyone there or whether the conservatory is still open. I hope so. It was a cool place.

Fall flowers were tucked in the tropical room to provide color and seasonal interest.

I found the bark of a palm pretty cool!

The dessert section had a neat display of both very large, towering succulents, and smaller arrangements of tiny cactuses (hey, it's Greek not Latin).

I also drove through the lovely and quaint downtown of a city whose name I don't recall (photo below), as well as the equally cute and quaint downtowns of Niles and Buchanan.

That evening, I returned to the Gate House, stumbled upon an episode of Keeping Up Appearances ("Riiiiichard!") on the local PBS station, made dinner, and caught up on some gardening mags.

The next morning, I woke up early and took a long walk in the gardens and the grounds near the gardens. There's a really neat wooded trail along the St. Joseph River, with a little mill house along the hill heading down to the river.

There was also a prairie closer to the Gate House, as well as tall grasses throughout the gardens. In fact, the gardens were beautiful, even so late in the season, especially in the morning light.

The talk itself went well that afternoon, with a small but enthusiastic audience. I really enjoyed the trip!

* I always thought that was spelled "way back" or perhaps even "WayBack," but alas no. Thanks, Wikipedia.


  1. Just discovered your blog. Enjoyed what you had to say about Fernwood. I used to live near there until three years ago, when we moved to Louisiana. Gardening is a hobby for me, which I enjoyed until I moved south. Now I have nothing but red clay soil to work with. What a challenge! Anyway, I'm enjoying your postings and your sense of humor. Thanks for the trip down memory lane :)

  2. I really enjoyed the peace and solitude of the Niles area. SE Michigan is so much more urban/suburban. Fernwood was beautiful!