Whiting Forest Tour

I have been to Dow Gardens twice now in my lifetime but those visits have been in the last 7 years. Before that, I had lived in Michigan for 40 years without visiting….and frankly did not know about Dow Gardens. In my opinion, Dow Gardens is highly underrated. No, it is not The Chicago Botanical Gardens or Longwood Gardens, but it is definitely worth the trip to visit every few years if not more. Dow Gardens was started in 1899 by Herbert Dow, founder of The Dow Chemical Company. The Gardens, originally developed on eight acres of flat, sandy land, provided a creative outlet for Herbert Dow and his interest in agriculture and design. He created gardens, ponds and hills according to a simple philosophy that we still follow to this day: “never reveal the gardens’ whole beauty at first glance.” Alden B. Dow, Herbert’s youngest son and an experienced architect, continued his father’s work on the Gardens. The family connection continued with the involvement of Herbert Dow’s grandson, Herbert Dow II. Thanks to the dedicated guidance of the Dow family, the Gardens have grown to 110 acres. Today, the creativity of Herbert Dow is still revealed to all those who visit Dow Gardens.

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APLD-MI Members Steve Cox, Karleen Shafer, Anna Brooks and Steven D. Thoms

Back in 2015, I served on the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) as the SEMNLA representative. Chuck Martin, Dow Gardens Senior Horticulturist, was telling us about this vision to create a canopy walk at Whiting Forest. I had not heard of canopy walkways nor The Whiting Forest at Dow Gardens but was very interested. I was really excited when I heard that this canopy walk would be the longest in the nation at 1,400 feet. A $20 million, four-year effort, creation of the Canopy Walk and other features is the Foundation’s largest project ever. Other features include two pedestrian bridges, an expansive Playground, Café, Outdoor Amphitheater, Forest Classroom, and orchards re-established where Herbert H. Dow, founder of The Dow Chemical Company, tended his own more than 100 years ago.

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Back row: APLD-MI members Steven D. Thoms, CGIP, APLD, CLP, from Thoms Bros. Landscaping, Inc in Macomb Township; and, Steve Cox from Cox Landscape & Garden Design in Grand Rapids

Middle row: Andrews Van Harken and Ryan Youngblood from Ryan Youngblood & Co. in Rochester; APLD-MI member Anna Brooks and son, Nathan; APLD-MI member Corinne Tucker all from Arcadia Gardens in Stevensville;  Bob and Diane Drost from Drost Landscape in Petoskey; and, Rob Bakhuyzen from Bakhuyzen Landscape in Grand Rapids.

Front row: Filipe Reyes from Ryan Youngblood & Co.; Dawn Endres from Lowrie’s Landscape in Clarkston; and, Kurt Schaus from Ryan Youngblood & Co.

On Friday, October 12, 2018, APLD-MI members invited other designers, landscape architects and horticulturist to join us in the one-week old (official opening was October 7, 2018) attraction. We were lucky enough to get Chad Gluch, Whiting Forest Orchard Specialist, to guide us around the canopy walk, forest trails and the children’s playground. Chad is a graduate of Michigan State University and holds degrees in both Orchard Management and Wildlife Management. He began his Dow Gardens career in 1999 and spent 8 years helping to develop Whiting Forest, making it available to the public. His career includes a variety of leadership roles including owner of a Critter Control franchise. Chad’s goal is to produce an educational and relaxing orchard environment that everybody will enjoy as much as he does.

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At a quarter-mile the nation’s longest, it reaches up four stories into the red pines and other trees. There, cargo nets beg young and old to dive in, wooden pods beckon all to duck inside, panoramic pond overlooks suggest that one pause for reflection, and transparent floors and other thrills await. Three elevated walkway arms extend into the woods: The Spruce Arm bears the tree-supported cargo net, the Pond Arm a tranquil overlook, and the Orchard Arm a glass overlook 40 feet above the ground.

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In the green industry it is extremely difficult to get away and do events like this, especially in this booming economy. But, after a long and hard season it is good to slow down and enjoy nature. I heard so many comments on how the attendees enjoyed getting away and spending time with other people in the industry. I even heard of one member omitting to lying to her employees just to get away. Events like this is the NUMBER ONE reason why I became a member of the APLD back 30 years ago! If you didn’t get a chance to join us, take a break next time and come play with us. Also, PLEASE provide suggestions on where you want to go and who you want to hear.

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One of the pods

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Play area from above

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Overlooking the newly planted orchard

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Blackgum in its Fall glory across one of the ponds in the Whiting Forest

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Attendees checking out the expansive children’s play area

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