Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Grant Invigorates Native Orchids

A grant makes possible an elegant solution for rebuilding and restoring the Jean Avis Wilson Native Orchid Garden. Read story about the gift, the garden, and the plans to rejuvenate our nataive orchid garden.

Update, April 12, 2017:
Thanks to Ford volunteers, Matthaei-Nichols staff and volunteers, and U-M student workers for your amazing help with the Jean Avis Wilson Native Orchid Garden in the Great Lakes Garden at Matthaei. Also to Ann Arbor Farm & Garden for their gift to cover the costs of the materials and plants that will go into the special boxes we built to grow native orchids. 

In all we filled over 10 orchid boxes with soil that will soon support 8 species of native orchids. This work included creating 5 different soil mixes, re-positioning and leveling 5 boxes, and installing a drainage system in 6 boxes to support bog orchids. 

We have now completed filling the 8 boxes that will support fen orchids. We have another volunteer workday on Saturday to fill the remainder of the bog orchid boxes.

Even gardeners devoted to growing native plants might be surprised to learn that 57 species of native orchids are found in Michigan—and that many of these orchids grow in remote or relatively inaccessible habitats, such as fens or bogs. Thanks to a $12,000 grant and an ingenious orchid-cultivation concept, visitors will soon enjoy a rare view of some of those native orchids in the Jean Avis Wilson Native Orchid Garden.

The grant comes from Ann Arbor Farm & Garden, a longtime Matthaei-Nichols supporter whose founder Mildred Hague Matthaei was, along with her husband Frederick Matthaei Sr., the driving force behind the gift that provided the land for what became Matthaei Botanical Gardens. 

Theses boxes were designed and built by Matthaei-Nichols staff
and volunteers. Great Lakes native orchids wil grow in them,
and the boxes will help prevent the orchids from flooding in
this low-lying area.

A Great Lakes native pink lady-slipper orchid

A Great Lakes native showy lady-slipper orchid

A Great Lakes native grass pink orchid.

A Great Lakes native yellow lady-slipper orchid.

Jean Avis Wilson was a local gardener and active participant in the University of Michigan’s Continuing Education for Women program. Her husband Richard Avis Wilson and daughter Christy Klim contributed the initial funds for the garden. (As we went to print we learned that Richard Wilson had recently passed away.)

The orchid garden is one of five spaces within the Great Lakes Gardens at Matthaei. This unique garden concept showcases not only the plants native to the region but the habitats in which they live. Touring the garden, visitors see and learn about our native plants and gain a new appreciation for these often rare plants’ one-of-a-kind habitats.

Initial plans for the orchid garden called for planting the orchids directly in the ground along with background vegetation to allow visitors to see the orchids and their related flora, says Matthaei-Nichols’ director Bob Grese. “The site has natural groundwater seepagethroughout the year, which led us to think this would be a good site for featuring native orchids,” he explains. When the site flooded several years in a row, Grese realized a different strategy was required to ensure the orchids’ success.

Mike Kost, Matthaei-Nichols’ curator of native plants, helped design the garden and choose the native orchids. Kost initially thought of planting the orchids in tree stumps or on hummocks. But that wouldn’t solve the problem of future flooding, he says. “Then I came up with the idea of individual boxes.” After he and Grese designed the orchid planters, Matthaei-Nichols’ Collections and Natural Areas Specialist Tom O’Dell determined the best materials to use and how to build them. When the design and materials were complete, volunteers extraordinaire Tim Schafer and Richard Vix began building the cedar-wood boxes. The varying-size boxes will elevate the orchids above the level of future flood waters. The boxes also make it easier to control the complex soil variations that some orchids need, Kost explains.

“Many of our rare and most beloved native wildflowers are seen as off-limits for horticultural gardens,” Grese says. While many people have long enjoyed photographs of these rare wildflowers, he adds, fewer have been able to experience them firsthand because so many of them grow in fragile wetland environments that are hard to reach. “This is a conservation garden in the truest sense,” says Grese. “It’s meant to inspire visitors by the beauty of these unique and rare plants and to build support for conserving the special places where these plants still exist.”

Ford workday volunteers along with Matthaei-Nichols staff, students, and volunteers, help fill and plant the orchid boxes on Tuesday, April 11, 2017:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Annual Artisan Market at Matthaei Offers Up Out-of-the-Ordinary Art and Crafts

Back by popular demand! The artisan market at Matthaei features unique, handcrafted items from local artists. Perfect gift ideas for Mom. Free admission.

Sale located at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800 N. Dixboro Rd., Ann Arbor 48105.

9 am-4:30 pm.

Participating artists: BioArtography - University of Michigan, Crafty Darling, Creative Photo Effects LLC, Ej3Art, Elophina, JB Works in Wood, Julie's Ceramics, Kitchen Table Books, Mary Whiteside, Mason and Birch, My Sweet Allison, Penrith Goff, Quinn Burrell, Red Opal Designs, Stephanie King, Straight from the Lake, Sue Shine, The Awkward Crafter, Tin Ruby, Whimsical Garden Art, Inc., WildEdgeFelt, Angeline Rebottaro-Mason and Birch.

Click here for directions and map. See below for a gallery of artists' work.

Angeline Rebottaro-Mason and Birch

Adrienne Elliot-photography

Agnes Soderbeck-textiles

Allison Okuyama-textiles

Angie Hauch-jewelry

Bev and Len Spigoda-jewelry

BioArtography-University of Michigan-photgraphy

Ed Warzyniec-original drawings


Jess Lovell-jewelry

Julie Corey-ceramics

Kiersten Kern-jewelry

Mary Whiteside-photography

Nancy Slebodnik-garden art

Nick Morley-paper-notebooks

Pen Goff-colored pencil

Quinn Burrell-prints

Sheena Awad-cards

Sophia Fenby-jewelry


Sue Shine-art

Vase by JB Works in Wood

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Grandmother Tree Walk: a Journey through Michigan Time

A tour of trees in Nichols Arboretum offers a unique take on the University of Michigan Bicentennial.

The U-M celebrates its bicentennial throughout 2017. Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum is doing its part to honor this 200-year milestone with a look at history from the perspective of trees. Take a self-guided tour any day of the week, sunrise to sunset, in Nichols Arboretum. 

Maps are available at the Arb’s Washington Heights entrance, at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, and online (download and print). The tour features 12 trees and their stories, and how they connect with events happening at the U-M when the tree started growing. It’s informative, easy, and free. We also want to send a big thank you to former U-M student Meredith Burke, who, as a summer 2016 intern, worked intensively on the Grandmother Tree Walk as her main project. Also, to welcome the next 200 years, this fall we’ll be planting two native white oaks and giving away 200 white oak seedlings grown from acorns harvested from a tree at Matthaei. Stay tuned for dates and times.