Nationally significant botanical collections, right here in Lenawee County.

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Located right here in Lenawee County is a botanical garden that contains nationally significant collections of conifers, hostas, and bonsai.  Right here in the scenic Irish Hills is an arboretum with magnificent specimens of beech and birch, crabapple and magnolia, maple and oak, pine and spruce.  Right here on Highway M-50 is a conservatory that grows plants from both the tropics and the desert year-round.  Right here in tiny Tipton, Michigan, is the 755 acre Hidden Lake Gardens.

Hidden Lake Gardens was founded by Harry Fee, an Adrian businessman. Upon his retirement in 1926, Fee fulfilled a lifelong dream by purchasing 200 acres of farm land that included Hidden Lake.  Quickly realizing that the land was neither suitable to conventional farming nor raising livestock, he began to grow nursery stock on his farm and arranged plantings in a “series of beautiful scenic pictures,” a philosophy that continues today.  Fee donated Hidden Lake Gardens to Michigan State University in 1945, in order that the Gardens would remain open for the benefit and education of the public.

Educational programs for all ages are offered in the Visitor Center which also houses a gift shop.  The Auditorium and Garden Room are available to rent for business meetings and family celebrations.  A beautiful location for an outdoor wedding, couples can book the Gazebo, the Pond, Evergreen Hill, or the Hosta Terrace for their marriage ceremony.

The Conservatory includes the newly renovated Tropical Dome, cactus and succulent plants in the Arid Dome, and foliage and flowering houseplants in the Temperate House.

Plant collections at Hidden Lake Gardens continue to grow and develop out of Mr. Fee’s inspiration. In 1981, Justin “Chub” Harper donated 350 conifers which now comprise the Harper Collection of Dwarf and Rare Conifers.  These conifer plants were transported from Mr. Harper’s home in Illinois and transplanted at Hidden Lake Gardens.

Another significant plant collection is Hosta Hillside located on the east bank of Hidden Lake.  In 1989, the Michigan Hosta Society began donating and planting hostas to transform what was originally Mr. Fee’s rock garden into a Hosta collection that now displays 1,000 cultivars.

The Bonsai Display Courtyard provides a seasonal attraction of miniature trees.  About 20 bonsai trees grace the courtyard along with attractively arranged benches, pedestals, and stones from late April through October.
The Demonstration Garden features colorful flowering plants that frame the gazebo.  The raised bed garden is home to “Project Bloom,” a Lenawee County 4-H program that provides ability-challenged students with opportunities to “experience the wonders of nature” through gardening and other outdoor activities.
Hidden Lake Gardens began as a simple testament to one man’s desire to provide a garden of education and enjoyment for the public. Open 362 days of the year, the Gardens are a natural paradise, a place to escape from everyday life and to connect with nature.  From the comfort of a car or on meandering footpaths, visitors will experience a visual treat, ranging from the modest to the magnificent. Every season offers new highlights, views, and adventures. Come and experience this beautiful botanical garden and arboretum right here in Lenawee County.

Article provided by:

Paul Pfeifer

Managing Director, Hidden Lake Gardens – Michigan State University


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