Want something off the beaten path? The southern Garden Peninsula, as it’s so known, is a land mass that juts out into Lake Michigan to form Big and Little Bays de Noc. In August and September, the cedar trees around Peninsula Point Lighthouse Park between the bays is a popular stopover for thousands of Monarch butterflies during their migration south. It’s an overwhelmingly magical experience to see so many fluttering wings in one place. You’ll feel like you’re in another world altogether. Visit travelbaysdenoc.com.
Mid-August is also the perfect time to visit Hall Farms in Rock, Michigan. The owners have opened their land to the public for the past three years and plan to continue to cheer up visitors with the happy faces of 440,000 sunflowers spread over 20 acres. Peak bloom for sunflowers lasts about three weeks. Hall Farms has become a destination for travelers as well as engaged couples looking to have a one-of-a-kind photo shoot. Visit www.facebook.com/hallfarms.rockmichigan/.
The Old Mission Peninsula juts out 13 glorious miles between East and West Grand Traverse Bay. Its long history as agricultural area runs to the present day. There are rows and rows of cherry trees, which burst into bloom every May for a spectacle that’s riveting for the eyes and senses. Take a drive to see the dainty blossoms in all their splendor, and maybe stop at a winery or two that offers a view of the French-like countryside.
One winery on Old Mission, Brys Estate, offers visitors more than delicious wine. Starting in June, Brys invites you to enjoy its Secret Garden, which has more than 6,000 lavender plants, fresh flowers, and a strawberry patch. Meander among the diverse blooms with a glass of lavender lemonade or strawberry and lavender ice cream, custom prepared by nearby (and famous) Moomers.
Dahlia Hills just one mile north of Midland is comprised of eight terraces filled to the brim with 3,000 dahlia plants. There are aluminum sculptures available for viewing, too, among the tiers, stairways, and gravel pathways. Visit www.dahliahill.org.
If you are farther north in May and June, then take a ferry to Mackinac Island to see the fragrant purple and white lilacs, which is part of the island’s fame. They are everywhere! Some lilacs are two centuries old. Join in the festivities of the annual Lilac Festival, which takes place every June and lasts for 10 days, if you wish. Visit www.mackinacisland.org.
The Children’s Garden in Lansing is a well-loved spot for those who love flowers. There are nearly 100 themed gardens that are sure to delight young and old alike, including Crayon Color Garden, Imagination Arbor, Train Garden, Pot of Gold, Pizza Garden, Monet Bridge, and more. As if that isn’t enough, the whole garden is laid out to visually enchant you, to make you feel like you’ve stepped in another world. There’s a maze, a Monet pond (complete with the iconic green bridge Monet used in some of his works), a tree house, and dance chimes. Visit https://4hgarden.msu.edu/.
Also maintained by Michigan State University is the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden, which covers five acres on the east campus of the university. It’s beautiful and functional, as it’s utilized as an outdoor laboratory for the study and appreciate of plants. With towering trees, peaceful ponds, and 2,000 types of flowers, it’s easy to relax and a joy to learn about the flora that naturally thrive in Michigan. The W.J. Beal Botanical Garden also ranked among the “50 Most Amazing University Botanical Gardens and Arboretums in the U.S.” according to Best Colleges Online. Visit www.cpa.msu.edu/beal/.
The Arb – the Nichols Arboretum – on the campus of the University of Michigan is 123 acres of nature situated in the heart of the bustling college town of Ann Arbor. One of the highlights is the peony garden, which has 929 individual plants including tree peonies. There are also 3.5 miles of trails through the Arb, with the Peony Trail being just one of them. Another favorite and close to the peonies, is the Riverfront Trail, a loop with an overlook and a landing on the bank of the Huron River. You’ll pass the Appalachian plant collection at Heathdale.
The garden is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. There are multiple entrances and parking options depending on where you want to go first. Only walkers are allowed, and dogs can come along if they are on a leash. Visit https://mbgna.umich.edu/nichols-arboretum/.
Belle Isle and Cranbook House in the Detroit area are two spots worth checking out. However, Flower Lane at the Ford House, which belonged to Edsel and Eleanor Ford, in Grosse Pointe Shores is an amazing experience. The sightseeing begins in the spring, where you can enjoy tulips – 6,000 of them – daffodils, and hyacinth. Later on you’ll be able to see veronica, Shasta daisies, and day lilies add some more interest in the predominant blue, yellow, and white color palate. To top it off, the lane is bordered by overhanging, flowering trees and old maples. Visit www.fordhouse.org/about/grounds-gardens/flower-lane.
To take some of Michigan’s blossoms home to cheer up the RV, visit the Eastern Market on Flower Day, traditionally the Sunday following Mother’s Day. You have your choice among 15 acres of flowers. There are flowers sold at Eastern Market all season, but Flower Day is when you’ll see the greatest spread.