Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens Welcome New Additions
The Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens received a facelift this past summer. A new entrance and theme garden were installed in the Schoolyard Demonstration Garden and three willow art structures are among the additions.
“The willow structures were created by artist Bim Willow, who does art all around the country and is very well known. He created our willow dragon a few years ago,” said Jessica Wright, Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens education coordinator. “We knew we wanted to do something to change the feel near the east entrance.
The willow structures are under the spruce trees, which makes you feel like you’re in an enchanted forest.”
The willow structures are equipped with miniature furniture, which makes for a comfortable and creative space for children to read and write.
“So far, people love them! I was hoping that kids would go down there and think ‘Wow, this is a space where I can play whatever kind of imaginary game that I want!’” Wright said.
This year, the 4-H Children’s Gardens will be celebrating their 23rd year of operation. Wright and garden curator Norm Lownds have big plans for the future.
“We’re designing a plan for a new play structure,” she said. “There are lots of new developments and play equipment out there that we want to take advantage of, and these additions are the kick-off to new play equipment.”
In addition to the willow art structures, the Schoolyard Demonstration Garden has a fresh, new look and features new learning experiences.
“We also installed a new schoolhouse entrance to the Schoolyard Demonstration Garden with a cast iron bell that the kids can ring. We wanted to add a ‘wow’ presence, so we put it in to let people know they can explore inside,” she said. “We also added a flag with a light outside, just like real schoolhouses have. It looks really nice, and we’re really excited about how much it has changed the entrance to the garden.”
The Schoolyard Demonstration Garden has a new theme garden. The My Plate Garden – complete with a plate, knife, fork and spoon – is a space where kids and parents can learn about agriculture and food sciences. Even with all the new additions, the gardens have kept and maintained their most popular attractions, such as the musical chimes and the treehouse. “We want the garden to be recognizable but include spots for new things. We want to keep the iconic pieces in the garden but also add new features that can be changed, adapted and grown upon,” Wright said.
In addition to the keyboard, a new drum set has been added to the Sound Garden, and a new trellis in the Better Living Garden. The new additions create a more imaginative environment for kids to play in, create, and explore science and art.
“Overall, the new additions have encouraged our visitors to have a more lasting experience in the garden instead of just a walk through,” Wright said.