Tassell-Wisner-Bottrall English Perennial Garden
The Tassell-Wisner-Bottrall English Perennial Garden is the most horticulturally diverse amid our 158 acres. This fresh space honors its classic roots while inspiring a modern experience—one that’s distinctively Meijer Gardens. Wander through as you enjoy contemporary versions of typical English garden features: an inviting exedra bench, a rill, a cherry tree allée, a sunken garden, a knot garden, a wild garden at the top of the landscape.
The Conversation Garden
The visitor enters a woodland setting with shade-tolerant, wild and native dominant species—gently melding into more complex and cultivated varieties as you curve inward toward the center of the Conversation Garden. A spiraling yew hedge will surround the central seating, a collection of cultivars selected for mature size as the spiral starts low and ends high. In June, visitors will be welcomed by the gentle aroma of standard fringe trees, a scent slightly reminiscent of lilies of the valley.
The Allée and The Secret Garden
Continue westward through a billowy allée of Accolade cherry. This was kept intentionally soft and will have a brilliantly pink blooming moment in spring, before fading into a gentle green. The plants beneath and to the north, in the Secret Garden, are shade-tolerant and quiet in color. There are maroon sweetshrubs, dark pink mountain laurels, soft yellow deciduous azaleas and purple-leaved elderberries. The perennials include astilbes, dark-leaved cimicifugas, and the office-favorite hostas, ostrich ferns, and tall Solomon’s seal—all backed by a sheared wall of arborvitaes providing a clean, green backdrop, uncluttered by the side of the greenhouse.
Balk Square | The Sunken Garden
Opposite the Secret Garden is a great expanse of green lawn, edged with colorful, mixed-color sun perennials as rich and complicated as any true English garden. Though not really sunken to remain universally accessible, we call this area the Sunken Garden in reference to the common English garden technique. Plants include roses, garden phlox, salvias, veronicas, culvers root, geraniums, bearded irises and a rich assortment of daylilies. It’s softened with billowing plumes of miscanthus, baptisias, meadow sweet and Bowman’s root, through which we hope to see wind movement. The westernmost points of these gardens are punctuated by two symmetrical crab apple trees that frame the central and showiest area: the Knot Garden.
The Knot Garden
A series of almost 200 ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods, chosen for their height and cold resistance, encase the Knot Garden and will be sheared to shape as they reach maturity. Instead of traditional woven shrubs within this Knot Garden, we have added our own interpretive shrubs in the form of matching evergreen topiaries. These topiaries, the specimen shrub pines, junipers and boxwood provide a winter framework for this garden. Within this framework, the garden shifts and grows from spring bulbs to its aster-heavy autumn look.
Hot colors and drought-tolerant plants like baptisias, coreopsis, prairie clover, butterfly weed and yarrow compose the Knot Garden. Rich in yellows, reds, and oranges, it’s softened by punctuations of purple gayfeather, catmint, anise hyssop, and delphinium. It offers a palette with which to add fun new cultivars of echinacea, like ‘Orange You Awesome’ and ‘Tomato Soup.’
The Wild Meadow
As the Knot Garden reaches west, it becomes wilder and wilder. The plant groupings become less organized and more reflective of a wild meadow. This slow fade culminates in an actual Wild Meadow—a cultivated collection of wildflowers and grasses, hand selected and placed to form rivulets of color and interest. Included are yarrows, asters, broom sedge, lupines, beebalm, bluestem and black-eyed Susan. We expect it to be wild, colorful, bee-filled and productive. We’ve dotted the occasional tree-formed juniper within this intentional planting, for vertical appeal.
The Discovery Garden
One of the showpieces for this garden is the Green Cube: a perfect square of hornbeam trees pleached to create living walls. Branched at four feet high, a subtle garden is revealed beneath and behind, along the north and west side walls. These gardens receive quite a bit of shade and are primarily composed of subtle foliage plants like hosta and Solomon’s seal. They are not a focal point but a background to the Green Cube.
Near the Entrance Walkway
The garden north of the entrance walkway is filled with shade-tolerant and placid plantings, including two ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maples and native chokeberry, bush honeysuckle, hydrangeas, and sweetspire. The perennial underlayer includes lesser-known plants such as blue speckled lungwort, ‘Black Stockings’ meadow rue, the lesser-known native Indian pink, and an unusual Mukdenia and Bergenia cross.
Along the Rill
Plants that might otherwise be situated near a water source are placed along the rill. Completing the illusion are Siberian iris, primrose, Canadian burnet, Heart-leaved Alexander and globeflower—plants that can survive in the normal garden setting but would be recognizable in the riparian setting to those in the know.
Complementing and Protecting
For areas under and around sculptures, we selected plants that complement the sculptures and discourage human access to the art. For shadier sections in the shadow of the Welcome Center, we chose a low-growing Mahonia with prickly leaves, semi-evergreen foliage and a luscious aroma supplementing its lovely, yellow springtime bloom. For drier, sunnier areas, we chose less conspicuous, ground-hugging sedums to form a neat carpet beneath the art.
The trees we selected for the patio immediately outside the new Welcome Center were up for a long debate. Knowing they had to be strong and sturdy enough to stand up against the pride and prominence of the new building, we ultimately selected the London Plane tree and underplanted with vigorous, spring-blooming Siberian barren strawberry.
Information courtesy of Erica Bowman, Senior Landscape Architect, Julia Moir Messervy Design Studio | JMMDS
“To be given the reins to create a garden that came with its own full-time staff and expectations of high maintenance was a great gift. It meant complicated combinations were allowable. Perennial-heavy borders were possible and interesting. Unusual plants were acceptable.”
—Erica Bowman, Senior Landscape Architect at Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio
A study in planned chaos, the sprawling English Perennial Garden has an abounding energy embodying our promise to be Always Growing. Always Beautiful. Always New. Upon approaching the Welcome Center, low-profile walls offer a first glimpse of the garden that’s carried through in surrounding buildings and areas. The space is impressive, inside and out.
The Conversation Garden offers a peaceful entrance into the perennial playground. In a nod to tradition, a serpentine yew hedge flanks the winding path leading to the refreshed Leaping Gazelle Fountain by Marshall Fredericks. This lively water sculpture anchoring the intimate space is refined with a granite seat wall and black concrete base, reflecting the modern architecture of the Welcome Center while responding to the surrounding solstice walls.
Like rooms within rooms, each area within the totally accessible landscape begs discovery. An incredible 519 plant types—388 perennials, 114 shrubs, 17 trees—and more than 6,000 individual plantings and an abundance of plugs and bulbs are home here. Beautifully curated and placed sculpture provide contemplation throughout. Take a seat on one of the many benches throughout the garden or in the Cook Entryway, and savor the view.