It’s a milestone year for the Grosse Pointe Garden Center, which opens on Friday and Saturday, May 24th.
Seven specially selected gardens in the Grosse Pointes will welcome guests, as will the Trial Garden – celebrating its 70th anniversary – and the Veterans Garden – celebrating its 10th anniversary – at the War Memorial.
“We are pleased to announce that this special tour features seven gardens including many native plants, interesting landscapes, hardscapes, a variety of ponds, various composting areas, raised vegetable beds and a garden with plants from around the world world and another where the homeowner is working to replace her lawn with micro clover,” said co-chair Kathy Brown. “These gardens are clearly unique.”
Below is the organic garden of Adrianna Birnbaum’s home, Grosse Pointe Woods. She and her husband moved to Doyle Court five years ago and only found two small raised beds in a corner of their backyard; they weren’t enough.
“I’m from Vermont,” she said. “I felt so disconnected from nature, from farmers markets and from growing food, so I decided to grow as much food as possible.”
The couple designed several new beds that encompass much of the backyard and produce a variety of vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers.
“We’re trying to create a kind of suburban homestead,” Birnbaum said. “…I would ideally like to remove the shrubs and do any edible landscaping.”
In addition to her husband’s help, Birnbaum’s pet rabbits, Carmelo and Bella, help with the gardening.
“They work as our compost system,” she said. “They eat a lot of greens and we use their manure in our beds as fertilizer.”
While most of the daily harvests are enjoyed fresh, many summer favorites are reserved for preservation by pickling, canning, freezing, or dehydrating for the winter months.
Birnbaum also creates skin care products using the plants in her garden. For example, she uses pollen from the calendula plant to make an ointment that soothes inflamed skin, burns or rashes. During the garden walk she will talk about the use of herbs in such creams and show how to make herb butter from kitchen herbs.
“We were looking for a garden like this,” said Kathy Brown. “We’ve had gardens with small vegetable lots, but with an urge to grow our own food, this is exactly what we were looking for.”
Also at Birnbaum’s home, the Grosse Pointe Public Library will host a seed exchange and the Ecology Center will host an information desk.
Education is part of Grosse Pointe Garden Center’s mission, said co-chair Ginny Brown. The third annual enrichment series follows the theme of Creatures of the Night and focuses on bats and moths.
At the Ficarra Chalker Gardens on Torrey Road in Grosse Pointe Woods, guests learn about the benefits of bats and moths and children make origami bats to take home.
The Torrey Road house will also house the Garden Shoppe.
“At this year’s Garden Shoppe we will be selling native plants and other cute garden items,” said Ginny Brown.
The Enrichment Series continues in Steve Hansen’s garden on Stephens Road at Grosse Pointe Farms. Guests will learn about the life cycles and benefits of frogs and toads, and learn how to create and maintain a pond. The children decorate a “toad dwelling” that they can take home.
In addition, the courtyard will house an information desk for a Michigan State University Extension master gardener and will offer complimentary refreshments. Complimentary refreshments are also available at Lacerna Gardens on Touraine Road in Grosse Pointe Farms.
Joe Lacerna has lived in historic Tudor for four years. The previous owner was former President of the Grosse Pointe Garden Centre, Mary Northcutt, who was known for her horticultural skills and knowledge of herbs. She died in 2016.
“She had a huge perennial garden,” Lacerna said. “When we moved in, the yard had been unkempt for seven or eight years; everything had gone wild. I watched it for a year – and weeded it.”
He then got to work raising and emptying garden beds, tearing apart the front yard and laying a bluestone walkway, planting flowers from the back of the front yard to give it an English cottage feel, adding ground cover and planting among other things 1,400 flower bulb tasks.
Lacerna retained much of the former Northcutt garden but added much of its own touch. He is a natural green thumb and has been gardening since childhood.
“Even when I lived in apartments, I had flower boxes and escape gardens,” he said.
His current project, which includes a tea garden among other points of interest, is worth the effort, he said.
“I love the circuit. Love being able to watch it from winter to fall and seeing a constant wave. Something is always blooming. There is always something extremely fragrant blooming all year round.”
Also on the tour this year is the garden of Grosse Pointe Garden Club member Janet Dettloff and her husband Daniel Barrett. Her Devonshire garden at Grosse Pointe Park includes a few red flowers to attract hummingbirds, as well as a collection of bird feeders and other appealing keepsakes. The focal point is a perennial garden with a grand trellis, stone pathways and a fountain perched amidst a selection of plants that attract birds, bees and butterflies.
Completing the private gardens on the tour are the Paquette Garden at Balfour in Grosse Pointe Park and the Bonahoom Garden on Country Club Drive at Grosse Pointe Farms.
As at previous events, artists will paint in the gardens and lecturers will answer questions.
This year’s walk also features a raffle with prizes including a $155 Garden Night Creatures gift basket from Wild Birds; a $180 Lake St. Clair wood inlaid serving tray; a $225 Waterford Crystal Lismore pattern platter; Gather in the Garden, a $374 watercolor by Lisa F. Chalker;
and “Just Because,” a watercolor painting by Robert Fionda, valued at $400.
Raffle tickets are $5 each, or three for $10. Only 500 tickets will be sold. The draw will take place on Saturday 25th June at 4pm at 1399 Torrey, Grosse Pointe Woods. Winners do not have to be present to win.
Garden Walk tickets are $15 in advance, $20 on tour days. They can be purchased online at gpgardencenter.org and picked up on tour days at the War Memorial, 32 Lakeshore, Grosse Pointe Farms.
“I like doing this so people can see what they can do in their own gardens,” said Ginny Brown.
In keeping with this year’s theme, “Grow Green for Earth’s Sake,” she added, “You can see that you can start a garden and take care of plants without using any pesticides.”
It’s not too early to be considered for next year’s event, she noted. Those interested in considering their 2023 gardens should call (313) 499-0743 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sean Cotton, owner and editor
Jody McVeigh, Editor-in-Chief