Join Flower Chick as we take our ongoing “Visiting Midwest Gardens” series to Michigan. We’ll spotlight several beautiful gardens in and around Lansing, Michigan’s capital city, and pop in to visit some of the area’s most enduring local businesses. It’s great to be in Lansing … come on along!
In this feature, we’ll showcase six Lansing area gardens … three within Lansing’s city limits and three on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing. Farther afield, we’ll acquaint you with two lovely horticultural attractions in Battle Creek, southwest of metro Lansing …
Lansing is easy to reach from anywhere in Michigan. For reference, the metro area is about 1 1/2 hours from Detroit and three hours from Mackinaw City at the north end of the state. Flower Chick arrived from southwest Michigan, so our first Lansing area garden is on the west side of town at scenic Frances Park …
Frances Park: With a backdrop of the meandering Grand River and a beautiful garden setting, Frances Park is one of Lansing’s most picturesque locations. This well maintained park is also one of Lansing’s most historic …
This 58 acre site was deeded to the city by the Moores family in 1918 and was named in honor of the family’s matriarch, Frances Moores.
Stroll through the formal rose garden where you’ll find over 155 varieties of roses all beautifully kept. The rose garden is regularly recognized by the All-American Rose Selections (AARS) organization for outstanding rose garden maintenance. Well deserved!
This park would be a great place for a wedding, wedding photos, family reunion, birthday parties, picnics, … etc. There are no fees for parking or entrance and clean restroom facilities.
The other gardens sprinkled around the park are also not to be missed. These colorful and creative plots filled with annuals & perennials are striking. Flower Chick spotted cannas, coleus, caladium, impatiens, hardy hibiscus, hydrangeas, and more.
Did You Know? Hydrangeas are extremely poisonous. The compounds in the leaves release cyanide when eaten, so keep the plant away from small children or pets. Although they’re poisonous, it’s reported that ancient Buddhists used the roots as an antioxidant in tea to cure kidney issues (but don’t try this at home!).
Don’t worry you can enjoy these beauties in your yard! Believe it or not, you can tell a lot about hydrangea plant care by its name. The word Hydrangea is from Greek descent: “Hydor” means water and “angos” means jar or vessel. This explains hydrangeas’ need for lots of water to thrive.
Cooley Gardens and Scott Sunken Gardens: About five minutes from Frances Park are two somewhat hidden garden delights, Cooley Gardens and the adjacent Scott Sunken Gardens. You’ll find them just south of downtown Lansing in the shadow of the General Motors Grand River Assembly Plant. In fact, the two gardens are so close to the plant we’d imagine many automotive workers spend their lunch hour here to savor the quiet solitude and picturesque setting …
Planted nearly 100 years ago, and rescued decades later from neglect, Cooley Gardens is a garden lover’s delight. It has a pavilion, park benches, picnic tables and a beautiful wedding site to enjoy.
Cooley Gardens belongs to the City of Lansing and is located just south of Lansing’s central business district at Capitol Avenue and Main Street.
The pretty Cooley Gardens can best be described as an eclectic garden, typical of formal estate gardens in the early part of the 20th century. It is composed of garden rooms enclosed by shrubbery, each with a different theme of planting. Within a formal structure the plantings have the informal exuberance of an English cottage garden: roses tumbling together with perennials spilling out of their beds and stately hedges providing a sense of order.
They pack a lot into a rather small footprint … conifers, peonies, perennials, shade plants, interesting trees, flowering bulbs, roses, annuals, and more into this garden oasis.
Shigematsu Japanese Garden: Not far from the Michigan State Capitol building, you’ll find the lovely Shigematsu Japanese Garden on the campus of Lansing Community College.
The garden provides a peaceful space on campus to stroll, sit, and learn more about Japanese culture. The plantings, including pines, Japanese maples, and cherry trees, have been carefully selected to provide beauty through all four seasons.
Shigematsu contains several traditional elements: a dry gravel garden, lanterns, bridges, and a water garden with the classic walking paths.
The Shigematsu Memorial Garden contains two stone lanterns. The larger one is referred to as yukimi (a snow-viewing lantern) while the smaller on is called misaki (a cape lantern). These lanterns are sometimes lit with candles or incense. The snow-viewing lantern needs to be bigger so it does not get buried by winter snow.
Moon-viewing platforms are a common element of the Japanese garden and often extend over a pond. The platform provides the visitor with a unique opportunity to “connect” with nature while also serving as a convenient way to view the koi.
Lansing Local Favorites: Sweet Treats & Historic Taverns
Fabiano’s Candies: Craving a little chocolate??
Here’s just the place in Lansing … Fabiano’s Candies. This local mainstay has roots dating back to 1924 – they’re located in the downtown area on Michigan Avenue just east of the hospital. Walk in to Fabiano’s and choose from original recipe chocolates, assortments, nut clusters, candies, and more.
We picked up a small assortment box containing six Fabiano specialties, including an out-of-this-world caramel cream and other delights. Fabiano’s also offers nostalgic candy like foil wrapped chocolate cigars, gummi rings, and delicious anise squares …
In case you can’t get to Lansing, Fabiano’s ships to your door and it’s a great place to pick up a gift for anyone on your list. From here, it’s just a few minutes down the road to our next stop, Dagwood’s …
Dagwood’s Tavern & Grill: Centrally located right between Lansing and the Michigan State University campus, Dagwood’s has been a go-to locale in the metro area for decades. A fun, come-as-you-are place with comfortable outdoor seating, Dagwood’s gets Flower Chick’s recommendation as a favored Lansing lunch stop …
In case you’re wondering about the Dagwood’s name, here’s the story …
In its current incarnation, the bar dates back to 1947. It was owned by local resident Derwood Root, who wanted to name the bar after himself but figured no one would remember his somewhat unusual name. In a stroke of brilliance, he named the bar Dagwood’s, after the popular “Blondie” comic strip character. This popular gathering spot maintains the Dagwood’s name and has expanded in recent years to include an outdoor patio and expanded menu …
Did You Know … Blondie and Dagwood debuted on September 8, 1930 in the New York American and several other newspapers across North America. Cartoonist Chic Young wrote and drew Blondie until his death in 1973, when creative control passed to his son Dean Young.
Dagwood’s is located right off Highway 127 between Lansing and East Lansing’s Michigan State University campus. It’s the perfect place for lunch on your Lansing garden tour …
Michigan State University’s Gardens
W. J. Beal Botanical Garden This garden, established in 1873 by Botany Professor William James Beal, is the oldest continuously operated university botanical garden of its kind in the United States. With consideration for Professor Beal’s own words, “Students should themselves become discerning observers and investigators rather than mere reservoirs of previously accumulated knowledge”. Well said Professor Beal!
The W. J. Beal Botanical Garden is an outdoor laboratory engaged in teaching, collection development, research, conservation and public service. These activities focus on a theme of natural plant diversity, economic botany, ecology and plant conservation with emphasis on the Great Lakes region.
Flower Chick was very impressed with this garden and the meticulous signage. Every specimen is arranged by category and impeccably marked. Such a wonderful outdoor classroom for the students. If my alma mater had something like this … I definitely would have become a Botany major. Sigh!
Although Beal Botanical Garden is an outdoor laboratory for students, the general public is warmly invited to make use of the garden to learn about and enjoy plants in a beautiful setting. The garden is open at all times throughout the year without an admission charge.
More than 5,000 plant species are displayed in the garden. Look for fruits and vegetables, flowering plants, medicinal, and rare, endangered & threatened plants.
There’s a section in the botanical garden labeled “Weeds of the Central US”. That just made me chuckle. My first thought was they don’t need to “weed” this plot. But on closer inspection they do need keep it up as much as the other areas. You don’t want the weeds to intermingle and spread like they tend to do in our yards and lawns.
MSU Horticulture Gardens The MSU Horticulture Gardens are a must visit if you are in the area! They are conveniently open daily from sunrise to sundown. Located at 1066 Bogue Street, East Lansing on the Michigan State University campus. See map below for the layout …
The Department of Horticulture at MSU is one of the largest horticulture programs in the U.S. As the nation’s first Horticulture Department, they are proud to maintain a tradition of excellence spanning more than 150 years.
The Michigan State University Department of Horticulture facilities are a great attraction for visitors of all ages. Whether you are coming to take a walk through the Gardens or coming to an event, you will be astonished by the beauty of the displays …
The Gardens are an educational facility that support and integrate teaching, research, and service relative to the needs of the Department of Horticulture, along with providing easy access for the general public. Features such as the Michigan 4-H Childrens’ Garden, butterfly exhibits, educational tours, field trips, the Arboretum, and the Annual Trial Gardens attract visitors from all around the world.
The fun and educational Children’s Garden showcases a wide variety of interesting plants with emphasis on their texture, vivid hues, shapes and sizes. The mission is to promote an understanding of plants and the role they play in our daily lives, plus nurture the wonder in a child’s imagination and curiosity.
Did You Know … Michigan ranks third in floriculture / greenhouse production in the United States, with wholesale crops valued at over $400 million.
Get charmed by the Hosta Garden … these hardy, tough, reliable perennials come in a number of textures, colors and sizes. There are 160 varieties on display at the Horticulture Gardens.
The Annual Trial Gardens were a real highlight – the combinations of annual plants, the radiant colors, the carpet beds of robust species, the clever patterns throughout with all flora labeled … made it a remarkable standout. A great place to get ideas for your own gardens. Take photos or jot down what you like to recreate in your yard!
Canna lilies, marigolds and salvia create a colorful display above. Everywhere you look … there’s glowing shades of various annuals – all healthy and thriving. If you want to lift your spirits, take a walk around the Annual Trial Garden. The vivid hues and pollinators flitting from flower to flower will definitely make you smile.
Impressive beds (and containers) of begonias, calibrachoa, impatiens, petunia, vincas, echinacea, phlox, salvia, celosia, coleus, lobelia, pentas, zinnias, nepeta, sedum, haworthia, torenia, and sempervivum all caught my eye.
The garden beds are all beautifully tended by students, staff and volunteers. A splendid array of flowers artfully laid out. It truly takes your breath away as you enter this section …
The Rose Garden at The Horticulture Gardens of MSU offers a unique, beautiful location for both wedding ceremonies and receptions. In fact, they are recognized as one of the most charming and romantic locations in Lansing! The gardens are so popular for events that they are almost completely booked for 2022 and now booking out to 2023. What a lovely setting to host a next baby shower, bridal shower, graduation party, banquet, or other event.
The Pollinator Garden was really buzzing when Flower Chick visited in August. Coneflowers, milkweed, bee balm, salvia, penstemon, daisies, zinnias, scabosia and more provided nectar for our pollinator friends.
The Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum located just south of the Horticulture Gardens – was dedicated on July 10,1984 as a “Learning Experience in the Making”. It is designed as an instructional arboretum for MSU students interested in landscape development. The site has its beginnings as the old campus nursery and as a result many remaining specimen trees lend a mature appearance to much of the arboretum.
Love this quote from Clarence (Clancy) Lewis for whom the arboretum is named. He was an accomplished landscape horticulturist and professor emeritus in the MSU Department of Horticulture:
“Let our imagination run a bit, don’t just concentrate on the ground, look up to enjoy what is overhead, look through the foliage, the canopies, look to the area beyond, see the patterns, the pictures, the twisting and turning of the branches…. Remember that trees can do so many things in a garden…. Remember trees are for you!”
The arboretum continues to grow, providing learning opportunities for students, industry professionals, gardeners, and community members.
Several photogenic gardens make up the arboretum … including an English Garden, Japanese Garden, vegetable trials, conifers, a fruit collection, native plants and a bees, butterflies & hummingbird garden.
Flower Chick happily enjoying the various gardens within the arboretum when she came across this cute little fellow in one of the water features …
Harry’s Place: You’ll find this popular local gathering spot on Lansing’s west side, about a mile west of the Capitol. Harry’s is Lansing’s oldest family run bar, dating back to 1921 …
A favorite of area residents, Harry’s features a comfortable environment and comfort food specialties. Friday is fish fry day here, and that’s when we visited. Three piece or five piece cod dinners beckon, served with fries and cole slaw. Ask for a can of Stroh’s Classic Lager, a longtime Michigan favorite, to complete the experience …
Harry’s Place has quite an interesting history. It was originally named the Star Bar, in honor of the Durant Star automotive plant located just across the street on what’s now a rambling vacant green space. The bar catered to automotive workers coming off shift and as a neighborhood mainstay …
When the Durant automotive plant closed, the site across the street was purchased by General Motors, who ran a production facility for years. When it shuttered a few decades ago, Harry’s Place teetered on the brink of closure. Happily, ownership reinvented the establishment as a family friendly dining and drinking spot, and now Harry’s Place enters its second century of operation …
Horrocks Market Wow … this place is awesome! It’s much more than a grocery store – it’s a destination. You’ll find a large array of produce, a dazzling deli, big meat department, hot foods to go (including fresh made pizzas), big selection of popcorn made daily, a garden center, floral section, entertainment on weekends and much more.
They offer 49 taps of great beer and an ever changing variety of options including many Michigan made favorites. Purchase a glass and enjoy in their tavern, on the patio, or take it with you while you shop! They also offer a variety of wines that can be purchased by the glass for enjoyment in the store. Flower Chick sipped on a glass of riesling while shopping. Divine!
If this was closer to us, we’d be there a lot. A very cool place to shop.
On To Battle Creek MI …
Heading southwest from Lansing, you’ll reach the outskirts of Battle Creek. This small city is best known as the longtime home of the Post Cereal brand, whose legacy can still be felt all over town …
Head into the heart of Battle Creek on the Interstate 194 spur and travel westbound on Michigan Avenue. On your right, you’ll reach the sprawling Leila Arboretum, established on land donated by the Post family …
Leila Arboretum – The Leila Arboretum dates back to 1922 when Leila Post Montgomery, widow of cereal magnate C.W. Post, donated 72 acres of land to the city of Battle Creek that had formerly been the site of the Battle Creek Country Club. She envisioned a center for culture amid the beauty of nature.
The arboretum is owned and partially maintained by the City of Battle Creek as part of its parks system. Under contract, the Leila Arboretum Society manages its more than 3,000 trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals, many of which are living memorials or tributes to special people.
You can walk, bike, or drive through the arboretum on paved roads. We did a bit of walking and driving so as to not miss anything. It’s a peaceful space to learn about trees, get away and enjoy nature, or just relax in a pretty setting.
The Arboretum property consists of trails, the Kaleidoscope Garden for families, a Peace Labyrinth, the Urbandale Community Vegetable Garden, Fragrant Hill Pavilion on the overlook, a Fantasy Forest, a disc golf course, a native flower garden and more …
The native flower garden drew in many bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. There was a lot of milkweed, goldenrod, butterfly weed, coreopsis, liatris, wild bergamot and others attracting the pollinators.
Why Use Native Plants? Native Plants are a low-maintenance, hardy alternative to many imported ornamentals. They also benefit the environment by supplying food and shelter for wildlife. They may be used in a traditional garden setting or flourish in naturalized settings.
Dogs are allowed in Leila Arboretum. They must be on a ‘Leash at all times’. We saw several happy hounds walking with their owners in this beautiful, natural setting. There’s no entrance fees or parking fees at the arboretum.
Unfortunately, we were unable to tour the Kaleidoscope Garden as it was closed on the Saturday morning of our visit. The Kaleidoscope Garden (formerly Children’s Garden) is a 1.5 acre enclosed garden and pavilion, offering a variety of educational programs for all ages.
The Fragrant Hill plantings are aptly named – with roses, lavender, and a mix of fragrant conifers to wake up your senses. Located adjacent to the pavillion which can be used for family reunions, corporate picnics, wedding receptions and more events with an appealing backdrop of nature.
Irving Park – Irving Park, at the northwest corner of North Avenue and Emmett Street (across from Bronson Battle Creek Hospital) offers a unique mix of amenities including play structures, hard surface walking paths, disc golf, and horseshoes. The park includes a large pond that seems to be a favorite of the local waterfowl.
The Takasaki Japanese Garden is a highlight here and the reason for our visit. There are cherry and crabapple trees planted that must put on a pretty spring show.
The Battle Creek Area International Relations Society, a committee appointed by the mayor of Battle Creek, oversees cultural exchanges with Battle Creek’s Sister City, Takasaki, Japan. The annual student exchange offers the opportunity to stay with a Japanese family, visit area tourist attractions, and represent the City of Battle Creek at the annual Takasaki Summer Festival.
A Japanese garden should be kept simple and natural. The basic elements used are stone, plants, and water creating a meditative space to reflect. The Takasaki Garden follows these guidelines. A pretty place to relax and restore!
Summary Of Lansing Area Gardens
Thanks for joining Flower Chick for a tour of the beautiful gardens in and around Lansing, Michigan. As you can see, there are some horticultural gems in this capital city and some wonderful local businesses to explore.
Stay tuned for our next Michigan feature in the “Visiting Midwest Gardens” series – the fabulous Dow Gardens … a 110 acre botanical garden wonderland in Midland, Michigan.Looking For More Garden Travel? … See More Of My “Visiting Midwest Gardens” Series Here