In the Garden at MSU

Weather Report: Here in Michigan, we’ve had more than a month of dry, sunny cool weather with highs in the low to mid 80’s (F) and nights in the 60’s. Except for the lack of rain, it has been very pleasant. The weather pattern shifted this weekend. I usually spend my Saturday outside in the garden but I felt a little lost because we had rain most of the day. While I was happy to be able to give the ground a good soaking I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I went to a movie. Today the humidity and heat came back. At 95 degrees and 93% humidity I ended up in the air conditioned comfort of the movie theatre again. No gardening was done. We’ll have to wait to see what the week will bring.

I took the day off from work on Friday to attend Garden Day at Michigan State University. The weather was perfect. Low humidity and sunny skies. MSU is the main agricultural university for the state and they keep absolutely beautiful demonstration gardens over by the plant and soil building on Farm Lane. Garden Day is a day of workshops and lectures open to gardeners from all over the state. I go pretty much every year to learn something new and as an excuse to enjoy the gardens. This year I brought my camera and spent my lunch in the 4-H Children’s Garden.

The Children’s Garden is only about 1/2 an acre big but has more than 56 themed gardens for children. The gardens are interactive and there are no “no touching” signs. There are a lot of references to literature which I really get into, working in a library as I do.


Early morning road trip to East Lansing


In the test gardens – testing different varieties of coleus



Beautiful displays of annuals in the test gardens, including container plantings.


In the perennial gardens on my way to the Childrens Garden. Look at the great hanging plants. I wish mine looked that full. They have only four students weeding and watering these extensive gardens, including a fantastic rose garden (I will take photos of them next visit).


passing by a quiet pond

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A bright, red cardinal flower at the pond’s edge and lilies and globe thistle are a striking combination.


Finally arriving at the Children’s Garden


where I’m greeted by a topiary bear surrounding by plants with animal names, such as lamb’s ears and teddy bear sunflowers in the animal garden.

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The the Childrens Garden is located right next to the railroad tracks where the trains go by every 30 minutes. So the garden designers made sure there was a train garden with a miniature train on a large circular track. When the Children’s Garden was first built, the designers were concerned that the visitors would run out of the area to see the passing trains. In order to rectify the situation, holes were cut along the fence so the trains could be viewed safely. I think the sumac on the other side needs to be trimmed.


E is for eyeball plant. The alphabet garden with the strangest flower of all. The designers make sure that all plants have clear, large signs and that common names are used, never the Latin.




Around the world garden. Vegetables that we eat originally coming from different parts of the globe. The globe sculpture has globe amaranth and Russian sage as theme-related flowers.


The Peter Rabbit Garden. All the plants listed in the classic story are here. Looks like Mr MacGregor found Peter’s coat and used it to make a scarecrow.


The butterfly garden, shaped like the insect and flowers making up the wings.

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One of the visitors to the butterfly garden


One of the goals is to show the plants as they are. If that means aphids on the milkweed, so be it. It’s all a learning experience.


A reproduction of Monet’s bridge over the pond. For those looking for garden books for kids, check out “Linnea in Monet’s Garden” by Lena Anderson, the book behind this garden.

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Picture perfect water lilies, one of Monet’s inspirations.

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checking out one of the pond’s inhabitants.

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By spinning the gate, the frog in the  pond spits water at those passing by. The kids love this.

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The cloth garden, growing flax and linen, gives kids a chance to do a bit of weaving. The garden’s treehouse overlooks the whole garden.


One of my favorite features. Kids jump on the chimes to make them ring. Each square has a different tone. All the plants surrounding the chimes have names relating to sound and music.


The Alice in Wonderland maze has got some new plantings. It may take a couple of years to fill in properly.


The maze ends at this garden gate leading to …



The Secret Garden, one of my favorite stories. The walls have holes so kids can peek into the garden.

A statue of Mary stands in the garden. Because the brick wall makes the garden very warm, the cottage style garden does not include a lot of traditional English flowers, which would normally be included to fit with the story.

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The dinosaur garden includes a gingko tree, ferns and appropriately named plants. There is also a sandbox to play in and a sculptural “skeleton”.



This is just a small sampling of all the themes that can be found in the Children’s Garden at MSU and some of my personal favorites. Be sure to click on any of the photos for a larger view.

Kids and gardens – a great combination.


About Jill-O

a girl who likes lakes, trees and critters; making an attempt at living the artistic life.
This entry was posted in books, children, gardens, Michigan, photos, summer, travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to In the Garden at MSU

  1. RobinL says:

    I’ll add this garden to my must-see list for one of our future visits to Michigan. I love children’s gardens, even though mine are long since grown. Have you been to the Frederik Meijer gardens?

  2. Sue says:

    Wow, Jill, I thought the gardens at UNL were nice, but they don’t compare to those! They are awesome! I think my favorite part may be where the butterfly garden is in the shape of a butterfly.

    Thanks for taking us with you!

  3. lynnsgarden says:

    I would love to visit this garden! That coleus! Always amaze me the manpower it must take to keep a park this big looking perfect day in and day out. Thanks, Jill, for this wonderful, wonderful tour!

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