Peacock topiaries mark arrival of flower season in Bronson Park
Kalamazoo in Bloom still needs volunteers to help plant about 20,000 flowers in downtown Kalamazoo and Portage
Kalamazoo’s signature topiary, Mike the Peacock, has arrived in Bronson Park.
The peacock has been on display in Bronson Park since 1988, according to The Kalamazoo Gazette archives. But he’s only been ‘Mike’ since 2011. He’s named in honor of Mike Blakely, a volunteer who oversaw his creation. Blakely died in 2011.
The twelve-foot topiary was joined by his smaller counterpart, Mike Jr., in 2021. Both Mikes are cared for by Kalamazoo in Bloom, which also oversees the planting of about 20,000 flowers in downtown Kalamazoo and Portage each year. Kalamazoo in Bloom began 39 years ago as the Kalamazoo Flowerfest. Monika Trahe directs the nonprofit.
“We obviously cannot plant all these thousands of flowers, so we really rely on anywhere from handful to a hundred volunteers for each of our activities,” said Trahe.
C.J. Drenth is the non-profit’s gardener. She said that many visitors to the parks think the flowers are donated by greenhouses or purchased by the cities. This is not the case. She said Kalamazoo in Bloom relies on fundraising and grants to purchase nearly all of its plants and supplies.
Drenth also explained that the organization has received some criticism in recent years for not using perennials or native plants. But she said that if visitors want to see colorful flowers all summer, that means annuals.
“They say, ‘It’s a waste. You have to put them in every year and pull them out.’ Well, that gives me the color all year and it helps us support our local growing industry,” said Drenth. “The greenhouse business is an incredibly important business to our entire county and community.”
Kalamazoo in Bloom will be planting throughout May. It’s looking for volunteers, and no prior gardening experience is necessary.
There’s more information on volunteering at kalamazooinbloom.org.