Local garden spotlights coming autumn colors

NILES — As the weather cools, it is time to put on some sturdy shoes, a cozy sweater or jacket and take to the outdoors to celebrate the beauty of autumn.

The tree canopies are shifting from green to stunning yellows, oranges and reds. The satisfying crunch of a leaf during a walk can be heard.

Without the usual fall festivities this year, many people are seeking outdoor alternatives to celebrate the season in order to keep a social distance from others. Elaine Rowland, director of development and external relations at Fernwood Botanical Garden, thinks the gardens are the perfect place to spend time taking in Michigan’s seasonal beauty.

“It’s hard to predict,” Rowland said of the anticipated date for the most colorful part of the trees’ colors changing. “The colors are starting to show now. It’s a must-see for the season.”

The 105 acres that Fernwood Botanical Garden, located at 13988 Range Line Road, owns has trails for hikers to enjoy the scenery from different points of the grounds. The trails have new markers from a partner organization that Rowland said help with both finding one’s way, and gauging distance for a hike.

The grounds also feature the Pumpkin House, according to Rowland. The feature changes with the seasons. This is the second year for the attraction, which can be used as a backdrop for fall photos.

The Pumpkin House is not far past the entrance to the grounds. Visitors will find a structure covered in green, bean vines, purple and orange flowers, pumpkin vines on the ground and pumpkins on and around Pumpkin House. Visitors can enter and sit inside the structure to be completely surrounded.

Touring the grounds, Rowland will point out each new thing she sees, as it changes daily.

“I love [the gardens] because it is constantly evolving,” Rowland said.  “This time of year, every day is different. I love the different textures of the different trees, and they start changing colors at different times, so the depth is pretty incredible there.”

One of the areas previous visitors may remember is The Green, located behind the visitor’s center building. This area is notable for Rowland, as visitors can stand where the herb garden is in the summer and see a wide array of fall colors starting to show overhead.

For those who want to take a rest, or who are not ready to hike the gardens’ trails, the Sims Education Center on the paved path allows for a viewing area over the ravine that would lead to Big Pond. The Fauna wing of the building has viewing areas where birds visit feeders outside the window.

“We have microphones outside, so you can hear the birds inside,” Rowland said of the center.

The microphones outdoors also pick up the sounds of wind, rain and thunder through the trees, creating the feeling of being outdoors without the hike.

Rowland said the gardens have also been hosting yoga and wellness classes outdoors, as the weather allows.

As the seasons transition to fall, and ultimately to snow, she wanted to remind visitors the garden stays open through the winter. Visitors will find trails to snowshoe and cross country ski.

Rowland encouraged visitors to consider volunteering or purchasing a membership to continue visiting throughout the season frequently as the scenery changes.

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