All of the photos in this blog today are from my adventures this past weekend in the Holland, Michigan area.  I attended our regional meeting for the Garden Writers Association (GWA) and traveled over to MI with Ed Lyon (former Executive Director at RBG) and Jessie L.  Ed is currently the Executive Director at Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University and Jessie is a horticulturist at that same garden.  After Ed and Jessie toured RBG upon arrival Friday, we had lunch and hit the road in time to catch Chicago rush hour traffic (yuck!!!).  We made it to Holland, MI in good order though and our first stop in the morning on Saturday was the Holland Farmer’s Market which was exceptional.  We were given a tour of the market and talked to some of the vendors that sold plants and/or plant related crafts.  There were 40 attendees at this GWA gathering and I knew almost half the folks and made some new friends.  These are people that write gardening articles for newspapers and magazines and there were some book authors in the crowd as well.

The heat was pretty intense and I easily drank a dozen bottles of water throughout the day which saw a heat index of 105 degrees F!  Ugh.  Our stops after the farmer’s market included three exceptional private gardens and the trial/display gardens at Walters Gardens (Zeeland, MI).  I’ve included some highlights below.  I took over 1,500 photos on this trip which wasn’t a record but I was sure glad to get my plant fix.  On Sunday morning, prior to our smooth return trip, we stopped by the home garden of Susan Martin, the young lady that arranged this fun weekend.  Her garden was immaculate and she is also a well known garden writer and plantswoman!  Busy day at RBG today too!

above are (left to right) Irvin (from the Indianapolis Museum of Art – awesome gardens – cool dude!), Ed Lyon and Jessie (both from Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University)

The photo above and seven below are from the amazing garden (only three years old) of Chris Hansen.  Chris is a very well known plant breeder and nursery owner with heavy duty “street credentials” in the horticultural world (domestic and international).  He also has boundless energy and enthusiasm and took us through this wonderful rock garden that blended, both in front and back, with the topography and included lots of details, combinations and beautiful rocks (from Kansas).  Chris was an excellent host and this was certainly a highlight for me to see.

Seen above is the horticultural legend Hans Hansen (no relation to Chris!).  The seven photos below are also from his engaging garden.  Hans is a plant breeder at Walters Gardens but has been well known for over 25 years for his breeding and plant introductions which includes many hostas, false indigo selections (Baptisia), hardy hibiscus and much, much more.  He is the Director of New Plant Development at Walters and his garden was fabulous.  There were so many plants new to me that I took a whole bunch of photos.  Hans, whom I’ve met previously, is a total plant nerd with encyclopedic knowledge of a very wide spectrum of plants.  He was also a great host!

The photo above and five below are from the private garden of the Geschwendt family.  Holy wow did this contemporary landscape include lots of fun plants, sculpture, modern art, metal work, etc.  We met the wife and husband and one of the sons, all of whom are super handy and talented.  I believe they run a landscape business as well but this setting was exceptional and included some quite impressive woody plants as well.  Note the tree house apartment and pontoon boat apartment.  These were created by the adult sons (college age) who occasionally stay in those structures too!  Super cool.

The photo above and four below are from the Walters Gardens trial/display garden which was gorgeous.  At the time of these photos, it was about 105 degrees F with the heat index but I toughed it out for 2 hours and took over 800 photos.  Lots of cool plants.  This was my second visit to this garden and I enjoyed it just as much.  The Walters Gardens folks (including Hans and Laura R.) were very cordial and provided beverages, snacks and some plant freebies.  Lots of fun.

The photo above and all of those below were taken at the home of Susan Martin on Sunday morning.  We’re so glad we stopped and were grateful for the invitation.  I’ve known Susan for years and not only does she know her plants, but her combinations, containers and use of her wooded site near Lake Michigan was exceptional!  What a great weekend!

‘Sun King’ Japanese spikenard (Aralia cordata) – perennial (in the center)

‘Rainbow’s End’ plantain lily (Hosta) in the center – perennial

‘Godzilla’ Japanese painted fern (Athyrium sp.) above – perennial