When winter finally gives way to spring, there’s no better place to celebrate the season than in botanical gardens across Michigan. Throughout the state, master gardeners brighten the landscape with flowers and foliage ranging from Michigan’s heartiest native varieties to exotic gems. Enjoy the beautiful blooms with this list of Michigan botanical gardens worth a visit.
Spectacular botanical gardens and world-class art combine to make this West Michigan attraction one of the Midwest’s most celebrated. Three indoor conservatories, including carnivorous, tropical and arid gardens, and several outdoor themed gardens, including an elegant Japanese garden, nature trails and a spacious children’s garden, make up the 158-acre Meijer Gardens. And set within the plantings are works of art by Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas, Louise Bourgeois and Ai Weiwei, among many others. In summer, plan your visit around the gardens’ very popular outdoor concert series.
At 350 acres, the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens rank as one of Michigan’s largest and most diverse. Spend a day exploring mature hardwood forest and tidy perennial gardens, natural wetlands and conservatory displays, a native Michigan wildflower garden and the Herb Knot garden, planted with medicinal and culinary plants. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens Trail connects the gardens with a network of multiuse trails for hiking and biking across Washtenaw County.
Michigan State University’s campus is home to the nation’s oldest continuously-operating botanical garden, the W.J. Beal Botanical Gardens. Set within an easy walk of Spartan Stadium and residence halls, the gardens trace their beginnings to 1873 and include more than 5,000 plant species. Look for fruits and vegetables, flowering plants, medicinal, and rare and endangered plants.
Set on Traverse City’s western edge, this 25-acre botanical garden emphasizes the native plant life of northwest Michigan. Wander through the gardens’ hardwood trees and admire the wildflowers on your own, or take a guided tour that includes the background behind the park’s historic barns. These Traverse City gardens were first unveiled in 2000 and continue to evolve and expand.
Spread across 100 acres in southwest Michigan, Fernwood grew from a private garden in the 1940s to a modern-day showcase and refuge for native plants, hardwood trees and wetlands as well as the creatures who live there. Foot trails lead visitors past colorful wildflowers, quiet ponds and forest. Don’t miss the garden’s unique fern conservatory and a recreated tallgrass prairie, once commonplace across the Midwest, now a rarity.
Set in the heart of downtown Holland, Windmill Island Gardens reach their full beauty in spring, when the park’s 36 acres burst into bloom. 100,000 tulips in all the colors of the rainbow brighten Windmill Island’s grounds, as do some 60,000 spring bulbs, including daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses and flowering trees. Summertime annuals and perennials keep the gardens worth visiting all season long, as do the island’s Dutch canal, shops and its authentic namesake windmill.
Long a green sanctuary in the heart of the big city, Detroit’s Belle Isle Park has drawn garden lovers with its conservatory since 1902. Check out the island’s carefully-manicured formal gardens and colorful lily pond before heading inside the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory for five distinct indoor gardens: an 85-foot Palm House; a Show House with changing seasonal displays; a Tropical House; a Cactus House; and a Fernery. The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory ranks as the oldest continually operating conservatory in the United States.
Formerly the personal estate of Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow, the 110-acre Dow Gardens are a highlight of the Great Lakes Bay Region near Lake Huron. Admire the formal beds of the Dows’ estate gardens, wander the gardens’ wooded natural areas via meandering paths and elegant, Asian-influenced footbridges and explore the Dow Gardens’ dense Whiting Forest. A beautiful 1,400-foot Canopy Walk, the nation’s longest, opened in 2018, soaring 40 feet above the forest floor for a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding landscape.
Michigan’s largest botanical gardens, Hidden Lake spreads across 755 acres. Michigan State University owns and operates the gardens, which include raised flowerbeds, a demonstration garden, ornamental shrubs, hosta and rhododendron gardens, a plant conservatory, dwarf and rare conifers, and an arboretum. A meandering network of roads traverses Hidden Lake Gardens, making the attraction accessible to automobiles.
Surrounded by the Les Cheneaux Islands and Lake Huron, DeTour’s Botanical Gardens add a burst of color to the easternmost tip of the Upper Peninsula. The gardens are planted and maintained entirely by volunteers, who keep plantings of flowering annuals and perennials, rock gardens and water features tidy and beautiful all summer long.
11. Taylor Conservatory & Botanical Gardens - Taylor
Metro Detroit’s newest conservatory lies southwest of the city, with outdoor plantings, a conservatory and natural preserve that launched in 2005. The gardens’ seven acres bloom with perennial and container plantings, spring bulbs and espaliered apple and pear trees. The aluminum sculpture of a conservatory rises dramatically at the center of the gardens, designed to mimic the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory glass house on Detroit’s Belle Isle.
Leila Post Montgomery, widow of the breakfast cereal tycoon C.W. Post, contributed 72 acres of land to Battle Creek in 1922 hoping the property would become a natural highpoint in south central Michigan. The resulting botanical gardens and arboretum would surely have pleased her, covered as it is with more than 2,000 flowering shrubs and trees. Stroll through the park’s towering shade trees and enjoy hundreds of colorful magnolias and crabapples, lilacs and weeping cherries, and an urban farm. The arboretum’s Kaleidoscope Garden is especially popular with children.