I orginally fell in love with Mackinac Island for the first time in 2003 while working a summer job for three months. After graduating from Ohio State in 2004, I spent 1 year at a Country Club in New York, and then 3 years at The Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City. In 2008 I saw the Golf Course Superintendent position open up at Grand Hotel and immediately knew I wanted to apply. I have now been with Grand Hotel for 11 seasons. The first 5 seasons I spent working as the Golf Course Superintendent, and the last 6 as the Director of Grounds. My responsibilities include over seeing the Grounds and the crew, (roughly 25 crew members and about 166 acres total). Each year I’m responsible for ordering approximately 60,000 annuals designed by our team- Grand Hotel’s Vice President, Mimi Cunningham, Julia Viel, Head Gardener, and Dr. Bob Shutski, Associate Professor of Horticulture at Michigan State University.
The Hummingbird Nook was an empty space with dead trees and debris located mere steps away from the main road. Our garden crew filled it with a weeping Katsura tree that now fills the space with the aroma of cotton candy in the fall. Also filling the space are hundreds of perennials, a looping flagstone path, as well as an antique stone bench for people to sit down and enjoy the hummingbirds and butterflies that frequent the hidden nook.
Now, the Secret Garden is probably my favorite project and something I had been thinking about since 2015. I decided to split the Secret Garden into 2 very different sections; one full of perennials and the other dedicated to a spring flower bulb display, which will then be removed to make for an ever changing annual garden year after year.
I initially decided to clear this area out to utilize for a section of our Haunted Woods Trail in 2015. Where some may remember a few fun witches!
This enormous area was filled with, dead trees, stumps, logs, brush as it was a compost site for decades. It took me weeks worth of nights to clear the area out, while leaving all the good compost as a perfect base for the future planting. After seeing it as a blank space, I started dreaming up ways to use the incredible space. Now the Secret Garden will provide guests with a new experience each and every season.
The Secret Garden – 8,000 Hyacinth Bulbs create the illusion of a river flowing to Grand Hotel. The project included the planting of more than 8,000 Grape Hyacinths to form the purple river, with over 1,000 daffodils and tulips to line the river’s edge.
See my interview with 9&10 News featuring the Secret Garden here!
Grand Hotel has also been committed to establishing multiple large areas filled with milkweed to help with the monarch butterfly population. We have really noticed a difference in the last few years!
Pictured below is The Jewel restroom project where we planted dozens of hydrangeas and butterfly bushes.
We continually stay in the off season to complete projects. Our season is so short that many projects need to be accomplished in the winter in order to not have a negative effect on our guests experience.
This Garden Wall construction was completed in 2015 and lines the Tea Garden fountain with beautiful stonework.
I love fall on Mackinac more than any other season! With that being said it will come as no surprise to hear that I have been looking forward to the planting of bulbs. This fall we will plant more than 65,000 bulbs throughout our grounds! Julia Viel has some new design ideas for the tulip display in front of the hotel, and I have been thinking about the new design the Secret Garden all season long! The new display in the secret garden turned out so perfectly this season that it will be tough to beat, but I have some new ideas that will allow guests to experience the display in a whole new way and am really looking forward to it.
The crew and I plant over 10,000 tulip bulbs every October.
We will begin renovation projects throughout our gardens and golf course immediately following the closing of the hotel. We all put our ideas together and see what we can dream up for next season! We’ve already got plans in the works for some expansions of current plantings, as well as a few completely new installations!
When I leave for three months this winter, I plan on visiting other historic properties, attending seminars, and visiting with our growers. This is the perfect time to be on the lookout for new inspiration and ways to improve the grounds at Grand Hotel for our guests.
LEAVE DREW YOUR COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS
Thank you for your interest in Grand Hotel’s beautiful gardens. Feel free to leave any ideas you may have in the comments below or ask me a question and I will follow-up with another blog!