Garden getaways, without the grass stains

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published April 24, 2019

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METRO DETROIT — There aren’t many benefits we don’t reap from being outside in nature and enjoying the sights and sounds: stress relief, improved memory and energy, lower risks of cancer — you name it.

But if the very idea of picking up a trowel to create your own garden space makes you tired, that’s OK: You can borrow a bit of nature from someone else.

At Cranbrook House and Gardens, more than 3,000 visitors each year take a stroll through the historic property’s vast 40-acre oasis in Bloomfield Hills, with colorful blooms, native plants, streams and fountains, artwork, and other optical goodies.

“So many people come here to escape everyday life, find some stress relief, go for a run or take a walk. And the plantings and the sculptures around the gardens provide a source of inspiration for amateur photogs and painters,” said Eric Franchy, the public relations manager for Cranbrook House and Gardens.

The space is maintained by volunteer gardeners who, Franchy said, enjoy the opportunity to create something so joyful for others. And of course, they garden to mix and mingle with other gardeners.

“They like to connect with other like-minded people in the area. It’s a place for them to reap the health benefits of gardening itself, from an artistic standpoint and a physical standpoint,” he added.

There isn’t much cardio to be had when wandering around an art museum, but the mental health benefits of enjoying nature via a painting or a photograph are certainly tangible, according to Phil Gilchrist, the executive director of the Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens.

“I don’t have any real evidence to support what I’m about to say, but a lot of people find viewing artwork to be a cathartic experience,” Gilchrist said. “When you’re considering artwork of a pleasant setting, people can take some solace in that.”

Gilchrist said it’s no coincidence that artwork of flowery gardens, babbling brooks and majestic forests often adorns the walls of high-stress places, like hospitals. Just seeing a bit of nature really can make a difference in mood.

“Artwork can have that therapeutic effect,” he said.

That’s definitely true for Annie VanGelderen, the president and CEO of the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center in Birmingham. She said she loves to walk the halls of the gallery and get lost in the artwork on the walls, gathering inspiration for her own garden scheme.

“As spring approaches and we yearn for green grasses, flowers, birds and nature, we can always find that escape inside (our) home. Whether it’s a painting that reminds you of the ocean’s movement, a still life that captures that freshly cut bouquet or even a hand-thrown ceramic vase to hold your tulips, nature can surround your interior spaces even on the grayest of Michigan days,” VanGelderen said in an email. “Art can provide that memory of a favorite place or even a soothing getaway (from) everyday stresses.”