Garden Inspiration and Permaculture Projects

Yesterday, David and I enjoyed an afternoon in Grand Rapids, including our second trip to the Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. We took my mom there back in December 2017, and this time proved different but equally enchanting.

Even more exciting, walking around all those carefully planned gardens gave me some alternative solutions for our yard and neighborhood, which will be going through major changes in the next couple years due to mandatory sewer and possibly sidewalk installation. We’re fighting pretty unanimously to save as many of our neighborhood’s gorgeous, old trees, but in the event we lose to the Township’s dedication to the “Agendas,” yesterday’s creativity inspired some lovely “lemonade” recipes from the Township’s would-be lemons.

It’s all very Uranus in Taurus: major upheaval on the physical level, concern for “the greater good.” The questions remain: what is the greater good, who gets to determine that, and how? I’ll share some photos from Meijer Gardens first, followed by a few of our yard and some of the “problem is the solution” ideas this visit inspired. Even this entryway at Meijer Gardens may change, as we heard people discussing a major planned shift in where people enter the park.


David included me in the photo for scale:


Some of the sculptures have a grand presentation, while many others play hide and seek within the landscape and winding pathways. This next sculpture is one of my favorites, called “Espaliered Girl.”


We heard so many different languages as we wandered around the Japanese Gardens.






Towards the end, we saw this enormous sculpture, called “Neuron,” and in person it really does give a Uranian lightning aha impression. The photo doesn’t do it justice, as it fills most of large clearing, surrounded by a circle of trees. Somehow, this piece captured the inspiration that then followed in our yard today:


Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of our house purchase, and our yellow irises sent their congratulations:


As did the peonies today:


While puttering around the Smart Pots and Big Bag Beds around our ailing birch tree …


… I realized that a Uranus in Taurus tree disaster could, in fact, improve our yard. Instead of the three weeping cherry trees we love out front, if the Township wins with their 15-foot-from-the-road sidewalks, I would have clear cause to permaculture our front yard.


If we lose those trees, I would mulch out an even wider expanse of lawn between sidewalk and house and fill it with an impenetrable Robinhood rose hedge like we had in Goshen, coupled with serviceberry and apple trees on the house side of the hedge. The sidewalk side of the hedge can have pollinator friendly bulbs and perennials, and I can line the driveway with boxwood.

If we lose the weeping birch tree at the center of the front yard garden, we can use very large Smart Pots to bring in just the right soil environment for a happy and edible tree. That spot’s clay soil and location near the driveway and walkway makes for a very unhappy birch tree, but if our efforts to save it don’t succeed, it will open the way for a much larger edible landscaping project. Everyone in our neighborhood has been bemoaning the mandatory (and expensive) conversion to sewer — again due to tree loss — but the constant evolution of Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park reminded me that we can use any tree loss as a different kind of gain.

This neighborhood is very involved anyway, but the sidewalk issue has brought everyone even closer together with the common enemy of a lying Township Board. In the event the Uranian forces of change cannot be stopped, it bodes well that we could work together to replant our neighborhood — perhaps with edible landscaping and maybe a community garden or two for the apartments whose residents would be the main ones benefiting from our neighborhood’s tree massacre. I still hope and pray we save as many old trees as we can, but at least I have a vision now. Those Robinhood roses smell so heavenly, and I already know they grow well with serviceberry trees:


Thanks to my experiments in Goshen, I know which tree retailers ship well established, older fruit trees. I also know which perennials require far less work, and which play nice together. I know not to plant the Robinhood roses too close to the sidewalk so I won’t need to prune them, but I also know they’ll form a truly effective hedge. I know which fruit bushes and trees we actually enjoy harvesting from. And I know which ones were better in theory than in real life. I can imagine my “problem is the solution” approach inspiring other neighbors who want to maintain privacy while also creating beauty and easy maintenance.

This Township disaster could turn our neighborhood into a far more resilient place. I’m still rooting for the trees — always the trees — but at least I know beauty will return.

2 responses to this post.

  1. […] got heavy, clay soil here, and as mentioned in a previous post, some upcoming large scale yard changes due to mandatory sewer conversion and possible sidewalks. […]



  2. […] May, I mentioned our neighborhood’s fight to preserve our majestic trees while the Township Board t…This is turning into a classic Uranus in Taurus situation with questions of the highest good of all […]



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