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Garden Photo of the Day

Windmill Island Gardens in Michigan

Today's photos are from Sara Simmons, horticulturist at Windmill Island Gardens in Holland, Michigan. She says, "Our garden is in a heritage themed Municipal Park here in west Michigan. We celebrate our park's 50 years this April with a 5K run and other events including the city's 86th Tulip Time festival in May. We are a member of APGA and the AHS with reciprocal admission for members of other gardens except at Tulip Time.  We partner with different local growers to showcase many Proven Winner shrubs and perennials as well as new introductions of annuals and many tropicals during the summer season. Our working windmill was brought from the Netherlands in 1964 and was already 200 years old when it came to west Michigan. This time of year we are a wonderful place to explore for hikers or cross-country skiers. (No groomed trails)." Oh the tulips, the TULIPS!! Do you think we'll ever see them again? 2 degrees in Connecticut makes me doubt these colors of spring even exist in real life… So gorgeous, Sara. I assume that's a big bulb-planting machine in the seventh picture? Fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing this garden with us!

Send me photos of YOUR garden! Email me at GPOD@taunton.com

Come and meet up at the  Northwest Flower and Garden Show this year!

I'm scheduled to give another GPOD talk (A few of you will be getting emails in the next two weeks as I put together the slideshow…), and a number of people have emailed to say that they'll be at the show, and that they'd love to meet up with a bunch of fellow GPODers!

The RSVPs so far:

Glenda Curdy (Nurserynotnordstrom)
May Kald (GrannyMay) – tentative
Catherine Campbell (CrannyCC) – tentative
Tia Scarce
Jeanne Cronce (Greengenes)
Sheila Schultz
Shirley Graves
Chris Niblack (ChrisSeattle)
Kielian DeWitt (Annek)
Linda Skyler (Meelianthus)
Kathy Schuler

So…who else is going to be there?? Let us all know in the comments, and we can start planning an outing! Perhaps after-dinner drinks one night at the bar at the Sheraton?  I'll repeat this announcement for the next week or so, at least, and keep a running list of who's coming….enticement for even more people to come. Oh, and when you comment to say you'll be there, give us your real name so that I can plan name tags that include both that and your screen name…

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And last but not least,
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View Comments


  1. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/09/2015

    Who knew? That's very cool.

  2. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 01/09/2015

    One of the things I love about my daily gpod visits is how a featured garden or plant will send me off on wikipedia reading. Now, my brain doesn't always retain the info I might have gathered but it stays for a while. It was fascinating to read some of the history of this garden and how the windmill is authentic and came from the Netherlands. The pictures are beautiful and show that this is a wonderful 4 season place to enjoy.

  3. greengenes 01/09/2015

    Awsome background, Mary! Iam so glad you and your family made it! We here in America can hardly understand what all of you and your people went through.Thats so interesting that you can actually eat these bulbs! Thanks for sharing!

  4. greengenes 01/09/2015

    Beautiful place! So colorful and fresh! Even the snow scenes are gorgeous! Sarah, is that you in the picture? It must be quite a rewarding job! Fun and hard work always pays off! Thanks for sharing!

    1. user-7007357 01/14/2015

      no, it is not me but friends Gloria and Stephan...I do have my own three Dutch costumes or "heritage" dresses. But not for when i work in the gardens. One of our staff does wear his wooden shoes though while working in the gardens...

  5. GrannyMay 01/09/2015

    What a wonderful job to have! Thanks for sharing these photos Sarah. Massed flowers are gorgeous and tulips are especially showy in season. The view from the platform on the windmill must be stunning at any time of year.

    I assume that the tulip bulbs are dug up and the areas replanted with other seasonal flowers. I'm curious to know what is done with those bulbs, as the design is probably changed each year..

    1. user-7007357 01/14/2015

      You are correct: we constantly "tweak" designs and varieties to work towards the best combinations. The old bulbs are composted because the price on 107,000 new bulbs is reasonable with 30,000 visitors arriving to see the tulips every year! Our annual beds are also spectacular as we use many proven winner annuals, perennials, tropicals and shrubs for the grounds. We are now planting the pansy and begonia seeds for this year's beauty!

      1. GrannyMay 01/14/2015

        Thanks for the reply Sarah. It boggles my mind to think of the numbers of plants involved in public gardens. I'm always curious to see how the practical side of things is managed. Imagine the old days when every bulb or seedling had to be planted individually by hand.

  6. Sheila_Schultz 01/09/2015

    What a beautiful vision on a dreary, cold winter morning, there is hope for spring after all!
    Sara, I am curious about your process for dealing with such a mass of bulbs. Do you treat them as annuals? Dig them up at the end of the blooming season?

    1. user-7007357 01/14/2015

      yes we do "trash" the bulbs and replace every year! About 60,000 bulbs are replanted by machine and the rest of the 47,000 tulips are planted in teams of two people, one person digging with a "standup" digger and her/his partner tossing a bulb in! When treated like annuals, the bulbs follow geotropism and do not need to be put right side up but allow gravity to orient them in the ground for blooming.

  7. GrannyCC 01/09/2015

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful garden. Makes us feel that there is hope for Spring.

  8. hortiphila 01/09/2015

    Because my daughter lives near Holland MI, I've heard much about the Tulip Festival and need to put it on my bucket list this year as they celebrate their 50th. Great Pix! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Schatzi 01/09/2015

    Beautiful! And I especially like the last 2 photos - the graceful shape of the trunks in one and the peeling bark in the other. Wonder what they are?

    1. User avater
      gringopeligroso 01/10/2015

      Miss Graves,
      I'm 90%+ certain that the peeling bark tree in the last photo is a River Birch, (Betula nigra). But, with so many OTHER Birches available to thrive in the Snow Belt regions, I'll reserve a margin of error until positive identification is provided. River birches are native here in the Ozarks and further South, and are one of the only members of that genus which will tolerate our summer's heat, as well as much colder conditions, also.
      And, I'm with you on wondering what the graceful trees are, too!!

    2. user-7007357 01/14/2015

      Yes the two graceful trees are Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Dawn Redwoods and the other with the peeling bark is a River Birch. We are also an arboretum with over 90 varieties of trees identified with signs.

      1. Schatzi 01/14/2015

        Thank you for the reply, Sara, and for the beautiful pictures. I have never seen redwoods that multi-trunked. Beautiful.

  10. user-7007327 01/09/2015

    Do you dig them up each year? Surely not. So peaceful and lovely to see. Thank you.

    1. user-7007357 01/14/2015

      sorry that I am so late in replying to these notes! Yes, we pull our tulips every spring/early summer and reorder in June to replant every autumn. When you have 30,000 guests in the days around the tulip festival, you want the gardens to be spectacular and we can almost guarantee that with fresh bulbs every year. Of course the bulbs come with a good price when you order over 100,000 every year and combine with the city order of 400,000! It takes about 2 weeks to get the bulbs in at the gardens and a month to 6 weeks to do the rest of the parks in town every fall.

  11. user-7007327 01/09/2015

    Love your story.

  12. User avater
    gringopeligroso 01/09/2015

    Sara, (or anyone else who may know,) I LOVE multi-trunked trees, but I'm unfamiliar with the two massive specimens in your wonderful captures above. Could and would you illuminate this olde boy's mind as you have my imagination and start me upon a quest to secure a smaller version (or two, or three!) for my own garden? Thanx!!

    1. user-7007357 01/14/2015

      The two Dawn redwoods are Metasequoias and are 49 years old in that location. They were planted in either summer 1965 or '66 and i believe they were "clipped" either intentionally or by deer to remove the meristem tip and lose the apical dominance of the leader. The wonderful branching have made them beloved and very unusual since other specimens in our city have grown straight up to the
      normal 65 to 75 feet in height for Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Summer or winter they are fantastic deciduous conifers. This year they flowered very late and produced a few cones.

      1. User avater
        gringopeligroso 01/14/2015

        WOAH!!!!!! Would have NEVER guessed that specie!!! Thanx, Sara! I actually have a very young one (1 gallon,) in the ground and 4 more in my small nursery area attaining their "plantable" size (5 gallon) to go somewhere in my expanding gardens. I would like to steal y'all's idea and prune a couple of them to obtain a similar look! ...If'n y'all don't press charges, that is!! ;-)
        The other truly magnificent examples I've seen of these living fossils was/is at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis. They had/have a mature grove of them arranged geometrically next to their Education Building (?); if my swiss cheese memory serves me correctly. Strolling amongst them was pert-near a religious experience!! They were also hosting a Giant Bug exhibit at the time, and standing amongst these primordial trees, next to a mirrored glass building, with a 12-15 ft Preying Mantis staring down at us from the top of the reflective building was an "over the top" experience!!
        Thanx for sharing your pix and expecially Thanx for responding to our inquiries!! "Expiring Minds want to know!!" Perhaps we'll see more from your neck of the woods this season coming? Hope so!!

        1. user-7007357 01/16/2015

          The Missouri Botanical Gardens are quite the experience, aren't they? I was there a few years ago (Could it be 5 years already???) and their plantings were thrilling! The art integrated with so many displays was challenging to charming, as the piece spoke to us.
          No one here 'fesses up to the Dawn Redwood trimming so I really think it ws the dear ol' deer! They are voracious and plentiful in our neck of the woods and fields, even though we are in the City limits, technically. Deer don't read the signs "Don't eat the daisies, hostas or trees!".

  13. Annek 01/09/2015

    Your photos provide a great escape from the cold winter scenes outside. Sounds like you have a fun job

  14. Foxglove12 01/09/2015

    What is going on in photo #6?
    LOVE the white tulips and the snow photos are so beautiful.
    My husband and I plan to be at the NWFGS and work a few booths. Not sure what days yet. Would love to meet up if possible.

    1. user-7007357 01/14/2015

      That is our tulip bulb planter! We can plant 1500 bulbs in less than a half hour (or even less if all goes well) We plant 60,000 in a field in 6-8 hours: one ;person driving the tractor, three riding and "throwing bulbs" down the chutes for two rows each, 6 rows total...and me, the runner, taking crates of tulip bulbs from stacks of bulb crates to a small vehicle (gator) to drive to the machine and load them up. the 6th and 7th person rakes the rows shut and the 8th puts up a fence to keep the deer out of the newly planted and tasty field!

  15. PerenniallyCrazy 01/09/2015

    Talk about business with pleasure... and beauty too. Way to go Sara!

  16. user-7007357 01/14/2015

    A wonderful heritage!

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