Meijer Gardens is a 125-acre botanical garden with sculptures. In 1990 the West Michigan Horticulture Society won Frederik Meijer's support for the concept of a botanical garden for the community. To launch the project, Meijer donated the initial funds and a 70-acre site at Bradford Street NE east of E. Beltline Avenue. Local authorities had deemed the site unsuitable for a big box store. The botanical garden was planned to provide a home for Meijer's collection of playful sculpture by Marshall Fredericks. Frederik Meijer's (b. 1920) chain of massive retail stores grew out from Grand Rapids across the Midwest. His father, Hendrik Meijer, son of a Dutch immigrant, founded the Meijer store in 1934.
The towering, five-story, fifteen-thousand-square-foot Lena Meijer Conservatory (1993–1995, Cox, Medendorp and Olson) houses tropical plants from around the world. The five-acre Lena Meijer Children's Garden (2003–2004) is one of the largest and most interactive in the nation. After inspecting children's gardens elsewhere and collecting ideas from local child development experts and teachers, the garden staff formulated the concept.
One hundred sixty works of sculpture from the Meijer collection are installed outdoors among waterfalls, woodlands, wildflower meadows, streams, and slightly rolling landscaped settings that landscape architects and garden designers created for them. The Meijer collection has expanded from mostly late-nineteenth-century to contemporary holdings. Plantoir (2001), a twenty-five-foot-tall garden trowel by Claes Oldenberg and Coosje van Bruggen, embodies Meijer's vision of a harmonious melding of horticulture and sculpture. The American Horse (1997) by Nina Akamu, a copy of an unexecuted work by Leonardo da Vinci, captivates the imagination.
Two-mile-long nature trails and boardwalks meander through the grounds, leading visitors to a Michigan farm garden, carnivorous plant house, Victorian era–inspired greenhouse, and the Cultural Commons, a grassy gathering place for listening to musical performances and resting.