There’s a buried treasure in Lansing, buried in the concrete and glass of the central business district, buried yet sprouting from the cool, surprising earth: Cooley Gardens. Planted almost a century ago, they remain a delight to all who discover them.
Cooley Gardens were designed by noted landscape architect, Edward H. Laird in 1938 from land donated to the city by Eugene F. Cooley and dedicated to “the horticultural education and pleasure of garden lovers.”
Cooley was a well-to-do industrialist and the gardens stood in his then affluent neighborhood but, as times changed, so, too did the city. The neighborhood and gardens slowly fell into decline and it looked for a while as if Cooley Gardens might be lost. And so they would have been but for a group of concerned citizens who formed the “Friends of Cooley Gardens” group and began the restoration and maintenance of the gardens in the 80’s – work they continue to do.
Just over an acre in size, the park contains a large variety of plants, many of them rare or unique. Typical of formal gardens of its time, Cooley Gardens is an eclectic collection of foliage, separated into different themed “rooms” by carefully placed shrubberies. This is not to imply so rigid a formality as to stifle the potential brilliance of the gardens – on the contrary!
Outside the order of the hedges, this garden is a riot of color and variety: brightly colored blooms overflow from their beds, large open spaces contrast with quiet, intimate alcoves, shading trees and carefully laid paths outline exuberant plantings. Benches scattered thoughtfully throughout the gardens offer a place to rest your legs and a respite from the overwhelming beauty of the surroundings.
With a pavilion, picnic tables, and the aforementioned benches, Cooley Gardens is a wonderful place for short or day-long visits – and no end of inspiration for your own garden’s landscaping.
Open year-round from dawn ‘til dusk. Admission is free.
Gardens and Lodging
Garden enthusiasts will love Cooley Gardens – and the grounds of English Inn bed and breakfast, too. Just south of Lansing, we have a room for you and our own, carefully landscaped and manicured gardens await you.