Hidden Lake Gardens is a 755 acre botanical garden and arboretum owned by Michigan State University. MSU is the Michigan land grant college and they truly do fulfill their mission of preserving and developing landscapes that exhibit plant collections for education and enjoyment of the public. They do an outstanding job of arranging the many wonders that God created for us to behold – not their words because they are a state-supported university.
My friend Julie and I spent 4 hours there last week enjoying (and photographing) the solitude and beauty of Michigan spring. My goal was to practice landscape photography because I haven’t been especially excited with many of my previous sweeping vistas. What I came away with are images of not-so-sweeping vistas because of the nature of the steeply rolling hills and woods. This is the type of landscape photography I could get excited about. Come along with me.
The Hidden Lake
Hidden Lakes Garden is located in the Irish Hills section of southern Michigan. This is where the glacier stopped as the ice age started warming and the glacier started to recede. This is where the glacier shoved and dumped huge piles of dirt and rocks resulting in beautiful hills and lots of small to medium lakes. And lots of rocks.
Hilly hosta rock garden.
Our first stop was the Hosta Hillside. The hosta leaves are a few inches high and haven’t unfurled yet but there are lots of other flowers in bloom. I have already posted some of these here and here and Julie has a post here, – we will be posting more. What was so striking about the landscape was how it was planted to maintain a natural feel but better.
One of many places to sit and view the lake.
Evergreens, flowering shrubs and trees form a backdrop for hostas, daffodils, bluebells, and tulips. The horticulturalists also seem to encourage nature to establish it’s own naturally occurring plants around their plantings.
We lingered, and wandered off, and beckoned each other to see new beauty. Our attention was constantly pulled from the garden close by, to the vistas across the lake, and back again. We circled back and forth, up and down, two, three times and where-ever we walked again we saw new beauty, new wonders.
Bright yellow-green of the weeping willow across the lake.
Eventually the road ahead beckoned us.
Road along the lake.
There are over 6 miles of paved roads for cars and bikes. There are also 5 miles of marked hiking trails of various lengths. We took the Woodland Drive that winds through an oak and hickory forest. There weren’t many people in the park so we were able to stop often on the road to enjoy the woods.
Naturalized daffodils along winding roads.
Stone retaining wall along road we had climbed.
The allure of a forbidden path.
Leaving the forest, we entered the open, sunny part of the garden. We stopped in the parking area where the walking trail begins to the Glacial Kettlehole – but didn’t do the hike. Our goal was to capture the flowering fruit trees, but we became engrossed within the canopy of an amazing tree that deserves a post all its own (see link at end of this post). Then we moved on to the conifers.
Collection of conifers on Juniper Hill.
The educational mission of the gardens is evident in the mature displays of conifers, over 500 specimens that are enjoyed year around. There is also a display of Dwarf and Rare Conifers.
We were getting hungry and could see the conservatory and visitor center from this overlook.
Overlooking raised beds that will be planted with summer annuals.
As we passed the picnic area we bemoaned the fact that we didn’t pack a picnic. There wasn’t food at the conservatory or visitor center, but we were soon distracted from our hunger by the plants in the conservatory and the grounds surrounding these buildings.
Can you hear the low, gentle tones of the wind chime?
It was here, as we were each wandering in our own worlds of wonder, that we laughed about how we have different ways of approaching our subjects. We haven’t photographed together before so it will be fun to see how each of us captured the Hidden Lake Gardens with our lens. Julie just (this week) retired from university teaching and we have a date next Tuesday to return to see the lilacs in bloom. I hope we will also visit the places we missed because of hunger – I think I’ll pack a picnic lunch.
On this trip we had a great lunch at Jus’ Bad Food in the nearby village of Brooklyn and then stopped off for wine tasting at a small vineyard close by. A perfect ending to a perfect morning.
You can join our secret club at Hidden Lake by viewing my post of the “Tree with a Secret Escape.” The secret password is: