How Does Meijer Garden Grow With Seven Themes

June 5, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — What started as a place for Fred Meijer to display his sculptures will end up as a “theme” park for gardens and art.

Frederik Meijer Gardens last week announced plans to develop the remaining 95 acres of the land located near East Beltline Avenue and Bradford Street over the next 10 to 15 years. When completed, the 125-acre site will house seven theme areas

The horticulture committee, master pla

n committee and the design team for the gardens have been collaborating on this plan for the past three years.

The seven theme areas are slated to include the Meijer Sculpture Park, the Cultural Arts Center, AdventureScapes (children’s garden), Michigan Heritage Landscape, Gardens of Innovation, Gardens of the World and America’s Backyard.

“We chose these theme areas because this is what the community told us it wanted to see,” said Executive Director Brent Dennis.

“The master planning team has made every effort to appeal to diverse age groups, audiences and interests. Using input from the community through a community survey, and with the help of a diverse and creative group of master team members, we think we’ve put together something that will be appreciated by people from all walks of life and from cultures around the world,” added Rebecca Finneran, board member and chair of the master plan committee.

Now that Fred Meijer has a place to put his sculptures, he continues to grow his collection. Meijer said he feels the park is a perfect blend of sculpture and garden. He also explained to the audience on Wednesday that in some areas of the gardens, sculpture will be the main focus, and the landscaping and garden elements will enhance the sculptures. In other areas, gardens will be the main focus and the gardens will be enhanced by sculpture.

The Meijer Sculpture Park, expected to be completed this summer and with a dedication scheduled for Oct. 3, will feature sculptures within a landscaped setting, including a majestic waterfall with winding stream. The works of sculptors Auguste Rodin, Aristide Maillol, Henry Moore, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Arnaldo Pomodoro and Keith Haring will appear within the 30-acre Sculpture Park.

The Sculpture Park also will include a cultural commons area and the site for a future wedding garden.

The Cultural Arts Center will be introduced in 2002 and will include a 1,000-person amphitheater and stage with support for future musical events in collaboration with area music organizations.

The American Horse, Leonardo da Vinci’s famous work, will be the centerpiece of this area at the northern end, with the amphitheater built directly to the south of it. A Music Garden will feature musically inspired plants and topiary creations and Tin Pan Alley will feature interactive sites where guests can create their own symphonies.

AdventureScapes, the children’s garden, has designated five acres with interactive features throughout to engage children in creative play and learning. It will include a topiary maze; a hands-on garden called kidsense; a tree house village where children will learn about animals that call trees home; a storyteller garden; and a continental divide of water features.

It is anticipated that AdventureScapes will be completed by 2003 and a campaign has now begun to fund it. Gift opportunities range from stepping stones at $125, to trees at $2,500 and benches at $10,000. The project currently looks to raise $7.5 million to build the children’s garden.

“While it may seem ambitious, when completed we will have the nation’s largest children’s garden in our own backyard,” said Dennis. “This supports our plan to rally support of national companies and foundations whose primary audience is also families and children. AdventureScapes will truly fulfill our goal of building gardens for generations.”

Michigan’s Heritage Landscape, a designated 30-acre setting, will highlight the native plants found in Michigan’s wetlands, woodlands and meadows and will reveal heritage plants as well. The Landscape will feature an orchard with various Michigan apples, life-size farm animal sculptures, heirloom vegetables, herbs and an apple press, all of which will be accessible through the railway garden that will take visitors on a whistle-stop tour.

The Gardens of Innovation will serve as a proving ground, Dennis said. It will showcase some of the new annuals, perennials, trees and roses. A unique water feature will soothe the senses and provide a place to display some of the best water plants that can be grown in home gardens.

Gardens of the World will feature just that — garden styles from around the world. A Japanese garden will feature a bonsai pavilion. Gardens of the World will also include a Chinese garden, French garden, Italian garden, an English cottage garden, a Dutch garden, alpine garden and a Northern European garden.

The America’s Backyard garden will be a true gardener’s garden and will offer take-home gardening ideas, know-how and inspiration. Demonstrations will be offered on how to create a garden from the ground up. This will include all the amenities, such as brick patios, irrigation systems and water gardens.

Meijer said the gardens should enhance the area for many generations.

“Every generation leaves their mark and leaves something to the future — that is what this is all about and now it is my turn to leave something for the future generations to enjoy.”

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