On our way down from Mackinac Island we stopped in Midland, MI – the home to the spectacular Dow Gardens and the dazzling Dahlia Hill. Midland is approximately mid state … not far from Bay City and Saginaw. Both gardens are definitely worth a stop for flower and nature aficionados! Allow enough time (several hours) so you don’t need to rush.
Dow Chemical Company was founded in Midland in 1897, and its world headquarters are still located there. Established in 1899 as a home for Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow and family, Dow Gardens now welcomes over 300,000 guests per year.
Did You Know? Midland, Michigan is located mid-section of the Michigan mitt, near the crook of the thumb. Together, Saginaw, Midland, and Bay City make up the area commonly referred to as the Great Lakes Bay Region. As far as population numbers, Midland is the second largest of the three cities. Saginaw is the largest; Bay City, the smallest.
Experience an amazing 110-acre display of annuals and perennials punctuated by distinctive bridges, an award-winning children’s garden, towering pines, and delightful water features. Wear comfortable shoes as there’s a lot to cover and you don’t want to miss anything!
How It All Started
The Gardens began as the home for entrepreneur Herbert H. Dow, his wife (teacher and philanthropist) Grace A. Dow, and their seven children. Experiments with changing the landscape, discovering which flowers, shrubs, and trees would grow well in the sandy soil, and developing new methods for fruit culture all provided another outlet for Herbert’s far-reaching talents.
Upon his passing, Grace Dow established The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, which has charter goals to improve the educational, religious, economic, and cultural lives of Michigan’s people. Dow Gardens is a signature gift of The Foundation as the family shares the estate with the community and its visitors.
Getting Around The Gardens
Dow Gardens has over 4 miles of barrier-free hard-surfaced pathways. Wheelchairs / strollers are welcome. Grab a map at the Visitor Center and start your exploration. For the more adventurous, you are encouraged to stray off the main paths and onto the grassy areas … you might discover some hidden pathways and botanical gems on your hike. Flower Chick recommends this so you get the full glorious experience!
Tours are available with an expert for all group sizes … just inquire at the Main Desk. Interested in going solo? Check out their self-guided Interactive GIS Map with data pertaining to the gardens’ collection of perennials and shrubs as well as curated walking tours.
The conservatory is currently undergoing renovations and is not open to the public. The project is slated for completion in 2022.
Fun Facts About Dow Gardens:
- Spring ushers in a riot of color as 22,000 flowering bulbs appear. Landscapes are refreshed annually at Dow.
- During the spring/summer months the Garden is home to over 35,000 annuals.
- Guests of all ages and abilities are immersed in the forest on the nation’s longest canopy walk at 1,400 feet long soaring up to 40 feet above the ground!
- You’ll find 1.5 miles of ADA accessible hard-surface pathways within the forest.
In addition to the canopy walk, there’s a network of trails that wind through the forest below and around a gorgeous pond. We didn’t have time to try these yet, but it’s definitely on my list of things to do on our next visit! I bet it’s gorgeous in the fall months with all the changing colors and vantage points.
Flower Carpets Of Color
The trial beds really caught my eye with the vibrant hues and textures showcased. Various colored cockcombs, salvia, marigolds, nicotiana, lantana, hardy hibiscus, purple hearts, impatiens and more playing well together leading up to the breathtaking rose garden.
The beds are chock full of well-tended plants thriving in this Zone 5 locale …
Robust Rose Garden
Flower Chick has always loved roses from the finicky (but worth it) hybrid teas to the low maintenance landscape types. Dow has a lovely mix including one of my all-time favorites “Tropicana” a striking orange-coral rose that always stops me dead in my tracks. I’m partial to orange flowers and this beauty is a stand out … plus it captivates with an intense fruity fragrance. Heavenly!
The Rose Garden is a big hit and many people were taking photos of the stunning blooms. We visited in mid-August and the roses were putting on quite the show and blooming profusely.
Did You Know? Spring and fall are the best times to plant roses. If you’re planting in the spring, make sure you plant after the last frost.
For fall planting, make sure to get your rose bush planted at least six weeks before your first frost. Doing so allows the roots to grow enough before the dormant season starts.
The “Opening Night” hybrid tea pictured above is another favorite of mine. Classy, lightly fragrant, with a superb rose shape! Bred from two of the best red roses of all time, Olympiad and Ingrid Bergman, this superstar has inherited its elegant bloom form and superior garden performance from its parents.
The Dow Rose Garden is a riot of color with its mix of styles … floribundas, grandifloras, shrub roses, groundcover types and hybrid teas. All vigorous and showy with many delectable scents grabbing your attention as you meander around the beds.
The Award-Winning Children’s Garden
The Children’s area is fun for all ages and very vibrant. A wonderful collection of flowers and vegetables that really garner your attention. So cheery and colorful! Loved this creative scarecrow display interspersed throughout the raised bed plots …
Sunflowers, graceful grasses, marigolds, zinnias, impatiens, and vincas are on display and draw you into this inviting area. There are benches to rest, umbrella tables to enjoy a picnic lunch, convenient restrooms, and water fountains to quench your thirst on a hot summer day.
Creative Container Groupings
Get great ideas of plants that do well together in containers by making a note of the attractive displays peppered throughout Dow Gardens. Artfully arranged and lushly planted in spots that benefitted from the groupings pizzazz.
Love this dappled shade container grouping using coleus, fuchsia, ferns, impatiens and creeping Jenny to light up a bare spot amongst the trees. Another good example below – pictures plants that thrive in lower light locations.
Did You Know? There are vines that do well in the shade. Examples include Sweet Autumn Clematis, Euonymus, English Ivy, Japanese Honeysuckle, Climbing Hydrangea and Vinca Minor.
When we visited Dow Gardens, the “Garden of Glass” exhibition was staggered throughout the grounds. Displayed by talented Lansing, Michigan artist, Craig Mitchell Smith. Thirty-one larger than life nature-inspired outdoor installations transformed the landscape and added to the garden experience with the colorful glass creations.
Dahlia Hill is unlike any other garden. 3,000 dahlias are planted yearly on the eight-level terraced hillside. Showcasing over 250 labeled varieties along the gravel paths, there are examples of all 19 dahlia petal types.
Located only minutes away from the Dow Gardens, don’t miss Dahlia Hill if you love these unique and showy flowers! The address is 2809 Orchard Drive in Midland … just a few blocks from Dow.
The gorgeous dahlias are in bloom from August through October. The garden is free to view from dawn to dusk and is maintained entirely by volunteers.
Extra tubers from Dahlia Hill are sold each spring on the last two Saturdays in May. A great opportunity to obtain some real beauties for your own garden. In addition, an annual celebration of the autumn equinox is held each September.
Dahlia Hill also has sculptures on view year-round. Four “Seasons of Life” sculptures, designed by Dahlia Hill founder Charles Breed, are arranged beside the pathways. There are symbolic dahlias with human like characteristics …
At the top of Dahlia Hill is the Equiline Museum, with artwork by Charles Breed, known nationally for his innovative work using plastic as an art medium.
This lovely, well-tended attraction is worth a stop to walk around and appreciate the unique variations of dahlias. The colors and varieties are awe inspiring! Most of the flowers I viewed had identification labels.
Did You Know? Dahlias were originally classified as a vegetable! Dahlias are named after 18th-century Swedish botanist Anders Dahl. He actually categorized dahlias as a vegetable because of their edible tubers. The tubers are said to taste like a mix between potatoes and radishes ( we haven’t tried it to confirm ; – ).
After visiting Dahlia Hill, I definitely want to plant more of these delicious flowers both in my garden and in containers plantings.
Dow Gardens Midland MI & Dahlia Hill – Summing It All Up
Dow Gardens is already a spot I feel like I could visit over and over again and still not have seen everything it has to offer. You could easily spend a full day here.
Dahlia Hill is a destination any flower lover should add to their list. The pretty-as-a-picture flowers bloom from mid-August through the first hard-frost.
Definitely stop at both picturesque gardens … if you are anywhere close to Midland, Michigan. You won’t be disappointed!
Check out more magnificent Michigan gardens toured by Flower Chick by clicking here …