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Posted on Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 3:05 p.m.

Holiday events abound at gardens around lower Michigan

By Monica Milla


A 16-foot-tall poinsettia tree greets visitors at the Michigan State University Gardens holiday open house.

Photo by Michigan State University Department of Horticulture Staff

Gardens are just as much fun to visit during the holiday season as they are during the growing season. Many area gardens offer indoor and outdoor holiday lights, displays and events.

Here are some of the holiday happenings at area botanical gardens. Get out and enjoy!

Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor hosts Pineapples & Pincushions: The Art & Science of Patterns in Nature in the conservatory from Nov. 26 to Jan. 8. The exhibit features a close-up view of plants' amazing patterns and a seasonal display of flowers. Also showcased is research by Inés Ibáñez, a professor in the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, on climate change-induced patterns of plant distributions. Special events for Nov. 26 include live music in the conservatory (noon to 2 p.m.), demonstrations of locally made natural skin-care products (10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), and the Spinners' Flock Holiday Sale (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Taylor Conservatory in Taylor hosts its annual Tree Lighting and Sing-A-Long on Dec. 3 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Watch as the tree in the conservatory is lit for the first time of the season while drinking hot chocolate and singing carols. On Dec. 21, enjoy a Winter Solstice Walk from 5 to 6 p.m. to recharge, get some fresh air, and embrace the new season. Dress for the weather; hot chocolate provided. After the walk, there is an optional visit to Santa's Magic Forest ($3 for adults, $2 for children; all proceeds benefit the Fish and Loaves Food Pantry).

Michigan State University Gardens in Lansing is hosting a Holiday Open House on Dec. 8 from noon to 7:30 p.m. in the MSU Plant and Soil Sciences Building. The event showcases a 16-foot poinsettia tree, more than a dozen evergreen trees decorated by school children and volunteers and model trains set up by the Capital Area Railway Society. Enjoy complimentary hot cider and cookies, and purchase MSU-grown poinsettias (proceeds support the MSU gardens), wreaths, and centerpieces. Santa arrives in his sleigh at 5:30 p.m. Free parking in the Garden Visitor lot off Bogue St.

Hidden Lake Gardens in Tipton hosts An Evening of Lights on Dec. 2 and 4 from 5 to 8 p.m. where visitors can enjoy a winter walk through the grounds which are lit up by more than 2,000 candle luminaries and other light displays. On Dec. 3, the Holiday Festival (4 to 8 p.m.) features musical groups performing holiday favorites inside the conservatory, and Santa makes an appearance at the Visitor Center. Also on hand is a craft room for kids, plus the gift shop is open late for unique holiday gifts and garden items. You can also stroll the grounds during the festival.

The Toledo Botanical Garden hosts Heralding the Holidays on Dec. 2-4 (5 to 9 p.m.on Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday). This event features free horse-drawn wagon rides and a tree lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. on Friday night; plus festive entertainment, children's activities, Santa and refreshments on all three nights. Also, arts, crafts and other special items are on sale. Through the whole month of December, the garden gates will be open until 9 p.m. for visitors to enjoy the holiday lights.

Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids hosts an indoor/outdoor Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World display now through Jan. 8. The display has 300,000 lights, strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides and more than 40 trees decorated in styles from around the world. There are daily activities outside in the Childern's Garden, plus a model railway is set up inside the conservatory gardens. The buildings in the model railroad display are made using only natural materials. And don't forget to go into the cafe and look up at the ceiling — you don't want to miss the gorgeous Chihuly glass artwork. And don't forget all the sculptures outside!

Dow Gardens in Midland hosts an annual Christmas Walk, taking place this year Dec. 8-10 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Paths are lined with luminaries, several trees are lit, and choirs perform. Free refreshments. Santa's reindeer will be on-hand Dec. 8 -9. For guests with mobility issues, there is a special golf cart tour on Dec. 7 (reservations required). There are also walks without musical accompaniment (Silent Nights) on Dec. 16-17.

Monica Milla, the Garden Faerie, is a master gardener volunteer, instructor, speaker, garden coach and author of "Fun with Winter Seed Sowing."