Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hidden Lake Gardens

After we finished supper Monday evening, which was at a restaurant in Tecumseh, we drove west out of town. Just as I was glancing at a map of Michigan and noting that we were driving into the Irish Hills, I looked out the window and saw verdant rolling hills. That best describes the area. And tucked into these hills of southeastern Michigan is Hidden Lake Gardens. In 1926 it was started as a nursery and private garden, now it is a 775 acre botanical garden and arboretum owned by Michigan State University. We were warned by the attendant at the gatehouse that we had best first stop at the plant conservatory as it was getting late into the evening and would be closing soon. The conservatory certainly is a lot smaller than ours back home in the St.Louis botanical garden, but it still has some awesome large plants in it. Below is a picture of a bottle ponytail tree, a native of Texas and Mexico. Its large swollen trunk can store a year-long water supply.
After touring the tropical room of the conservatory we got into our car to drive the 6 miles of paved roads through the gardens. On the first part of that drive we saw lush green hillsides covered with hostas, ferns and myrtle. From there we were soon on the scenic woodland drive which took us to the glacial kettlehole. Here we could park and take a short hike into the natural depression which had been left by a mass of glacial drift. There are five miles of hiking trails in the gardens. Below is a picture of the kettlehole, a swamp can be seen in the background. While we were looking down into the area a small raccoon scurried into the woods.
As we were exiting the gardens we drove past the dwarf and rare conifers section. According to a park brochure it is one of the finest conifer collections in the country with 500 specimens. What an interesting scene, the conifers are in all shapes and sizes. It would have been fun to walk among them but it was getting late and the park closes at dusk. We saw a deer bounding through a field of wildflowers as we headed out.

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