by Darlene Blasing
There’s no need to travel to Giverny, France for a glimpse of Monet’s beautiful garden. The Master Gardeners of Muskegon County, Michigan have created an exquisite miniature version on a once vacant lot in the heart of their historic town.
Completed in October of 2001, the pocket park features an arbor covered avenue and a lily pond traversed by a copy of the famous bridge. Wrought iron pillars were installed throughout the garden for climbing roses and clematis. Made by local craftsmen, the pillars are identical to those in the artist’s garden.
The project was the brain child of Master Gardener, Florence Bright, who owns a Victorian era home on the adjacent lot. She was also instrumental in raising funds for the garden. The city of Muskegon, along with many local businesses and individuals contributed generously. Several thousand dollars have also been raised by the sale of memorial bricks, which are set in the outside perimeter of the lot.
The president of the Muskegon County Master Gardeners’ Club, Deb Jensen, and Michigan State University Horticulture Agent, Coleen Boyer, co-chaired the project. It required months of planning and hard work. Approximately two dozen Master Gardeners contributed untold hours to creating the miniature masterpiece.
Advanced Master Gardener, Marcia Willbrandt, and a dedicated plant committee devoted a year to research before the first plant was put in the ground. Only perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees found in Monet’s garden were considered for the project. No ordinary nasturtiums would do. Marcia ordered seeds for special trailing plants to duplicate the look of the oft photographed Grande Alée. Even the material used for the paths matches that of the original garden. Crushed pink granite was shipped all the way from South Dakota.
Thousands of visitors have viewed the garden since its dedication in June of this year. Situated in the heart of the historic district, it has become a favored destination of tourists and local people, alike.