Dow Gardens Delights All the Senses
More than a place for residents of the metropolitan Great Lakes Bay Region to connect with the calmness and beauty of the natural world, Dow Gardens serves as a historical and cultural gem that helps restore the mind, body and spirit for hundreds of thousands of guests each year.
“Botanical gardens are more than just a place to grow plants,” said Carolynn Paten, assistant director of guest services at Dow Gardens. “We know that green spaces facilitate relaxation and offer refuge and respite. Gardens support ecology and promote biodiversity. However, it’s the memories made at Dow Gardens that are probably the most incalculable. Community members visit as preschoolers learning to hold a butterfly, as teenagers going to prom, as adults getting married and as individuals seeking healing. It’s really remarkable to be a part of that.”
The popular Midland facility dates to the late 1800s when Herbert H. Dow purchased a piece of land off Main Street and built a home on the property called The Pines. The vast landscaping undertaken throughout the property served as the foundation for what is today Dow Gardens.
“Due largely to Mr. Dow’s visionary spirit and Grace A. Dow’s gift of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, Dow Gardens now welcomes over 300,000 guests per year,” Paten said. “Their former home, The Pines, is now a national historic landmark.”
Guests to Dow Gardens can still visit The Pines as well as The Whiting Forest at Dow Gardens as part of their visit to the 110-acre grounds that is split into two separate 54-acre and 56-acre sites.
“The campus is geographically separated by the road, but it’s nestled right within the city. A lot of people are really surprised that this natural oasis is surrounded by a chemical city,” Paten said.
For local residents, Dow Gardens provides a sense of place, where they can relax and visit and enjoy a beautiful setting and backdrop. Each year, approximately 38,000 bulbs are planted, which are unearthed at the end of each season and donated to local nonprofits. In addition, the facility’s production greenhouse grows 35,550 annuals that adorn the grounds throughout the summer. Yet aside from the beauty of the flowers and other flora, Dow Gardens also is known for its warm and personable staff. Paten said it’s not uncommon for guests to turn to staff members for assistance and advice on their own ailing plants at home.
“So it’s also a resource for knowledge for a lot of locals,” she added. “But it’s also seen as a destination for visitors (outside the region). People more and more are looking to us as a place to travel to. Two-thirds of our guests come from outside the Midland community.”
There are myriad reasons why people visit the attraction; however, Paten explained that Dow Gardens categorizes its guest services under one of six overarching pillars of fulfillment.
- Personally enriching: self-reflective, opportunities for personal growth, poetry, music, etc.
- Memorable moments: weddings, proms, engagements, etc.
- Braggable moments: needing to share the experience socially through Facebook, Instagram, photographs or tasting a new herb, etc.
- New knowledge: learning a name of a plant you have always admired, learning how to climb a tree like an arborist, taking a tour, etc.
- Shared experiences: completing a scavenger hunt as a family, sharing Dow Gardens with a friend, etc.
- Enjoy a beautiful environment: taking time to notice the oasis that Dow Gardens is.
Over 100 programs annually – from history and horticulture to concerts and movies – invite visitors to reimagine what a garden can be. Dow Gardens works with emerging and world-renowned artists to bring new exhibits to the site each summer. This year, it is hosting David Rogers’ “Big Bugs” from June through September. Created with all-natural recycled and sustainably harvested materials, the sculptures tower up to 17 feet high and include a dragonfly with a 17-foot wingspan, a trio of 30-foot ants and a majestic praying mantis.
“Dow Gardens was created to be more than just a living museum,” Paten said. “Here, hands-on experiences are emphasized. You can wander across the grass to discover a hidden pathway, sample a vegetable in the award-winning Children’s Garden, rise 40 feet in the air to stroll along the nation’s longest canopy walk, connect with friends and community members or simply enjoy music and art in a beautiful setting.”
With 110 acres to discover, opportunities to explore are endless. However, the staff can help steer the inquisitive guests to some of the more unique and secret locations, such as Paten’s personal favorite quite spot to visit.
“There’s a walk that we call the Jungle Walk,” Paten said. “Not a lot of people know about it because it’s kind of tucked away, but it’s this little stone path that takes you up to a small little waterfall. … It’s my favorite place to go and have some peaceful and reflective moments.”
For more information on the offerings and programs at Dow Gardens, visit dowgardens.org.