I’m a big proponent of visiting gardens.  Here are some of my favorites in the midwest.

Chicago Botanic Gardens, Glencoe, Illinois.  Truly an amazing resource.  Publishes regular plant evaluation reports on varieties trialed.  Home of Jim Auldt’s famous interspecific Echinacea breeding program.

Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Requires a paid entrance fee, but well worth a visit.  Extensive sculpture park, gardens, and an excellent conservatory with an intersting plant collecon.

Hidden Lake Gardens, Tipton, Michigan, in the Irish Hills area of southeast Michigan. Hidden Lake Gardens is an endowed public garden operated by Michigan State University. It includes 755 acres of developed and natural areas, with over 6 miles of scenic drive, 5 acres of marked hiking trails, and year-round educational programs. A truly wonderful arboretum, sadly underappreciated in the state.

Matthaei Botanic Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Featuring excellent gardens in multiple styles and a very well-stocked library.

Michigan State University Gardens.  MSU has a garden page for their excellent 4H Children’s Garden, Horticulture Gardens (which includes a very nice perennial garden),  Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum, and annual trial gardens.  (Don’t forget to visit the gardens at the MSU Clinical Center, just around the corner from the Horticulture Gardens on Service Road.)  Also at MSU is W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, an extensive, labelled collection with plantings arranged by plant family, as well as plant characteristics (useful, medicinal, poisonous, weeds, etc.).  A wonderful resource.

Raker Trial Gardens, Litchfield, Michigan.  Featuring annual and perennial comparison trials, new varieties, and display gardens.  An amazing resource for the horticulture community.  The Raker gardens are open to visitors mid July through the end of August.