Do you live in a small town?

For those of us who live in cities, or in my case a suburb of a large city, visiting a small town may be as close as we get to experience the delights that they have to offer.

My husband and I recently took a trip to the delightful town of Petoskey, Michigan where our oldest daughter, Brittney moved along with her husband and daughter.

The town of Petoskey is located at the “top of the mitt” as locals like to say.  

I had been fortunate to have visited this picturesque downtown that sits on the shores of Little Traverse Bay, 1 1/2 years ago – long before we had any idea that my daughter and her family would end up there.

This time, my husband came with me and we looked forward to spending time with family as well as exploring Petoskey, which is consistently ranked as one of the “10 Best Downtowns To Visit” in America.

Like many small towns, many residents are within walking distance of the downtown area.  So, on a brisk November’s day, we set off on foot toward the downtown area.

Signs of fall could be seen all around, from the bright red berries of Ilex decidua Possumhaw to…

fallen apples filling the stomachs of squirrels and autumn leaves being raked up by homeowners.

As we walked I could see gardens getting ready for a long winter’s sleep, although some plants were still in flower.

Dried hydrangea flowers decorated many gardens, which added stark beauty.  I would love to use these dried flowers for floral arrangements in my home.
Did I mention that number one on my list of plants that I wish I could grow in my desert garden is hydrangea?

Landscapes were filled with leafless shrubs and trees along with evergreen plants.

I think that large leafless trees have a beauty all their own, don’t you?

What’s a small town without a gazebo in the local park?

Or a general store?

Yes, those are live greens, which they use to decorate with.

The arrival of the Christmas season is a big deal in many small towns and Petoskey is no exception.  

Fall-themed window displays were soon to give way to those filled with Christmas greenery and decorations.

The merchants were also transforming the interior of their stores.

Yes, that is a mannequin dressed in all her Christmas finery.  As you may have guessed this was the local florist and home decor store.

These stainless steel Christmas tree containers outside of this store were also pretty cool.  

Being a horticulturist, it is physically impossible for me to simply pass by any garden-themed store, so I went in.

Christmas trees decorated in different themes were displayed throughout the store.  I suspect that they offer tree decorating services.

While I am not personally a fan of artificial flowers, I really liked how they worked on this tree.  Of course, that could be due to the fact that they were decorated with one of my favorite flowers.

Fairy or miniature gardens are pretty popular in this area as I saw several displays throughout the stores we visited.

If I lived in area that experienced cold, long winters, I might be more likely to grow plants indoors.  
However, I am not very attentive to my indoor plants, so they usually die.  Perhaps, it’s a good thing that I live in a place where I can garden outdoors year round, thereby saving defenseless indoor plants 😉

 A large display of artificial flowers and succulents, perfect for brightening up the indoors through the winter.

Shopping with my daughter and granddaughter – can life get any better?

Next stop was the local bookstore, so of course I had to check out the gardening section.

Not surprisingly, there weren’t books on drought tolerant gardening in this region where water is plentiful.

Our next stop was to visit one of my favorite stores from my previous visit to Petoskey, ‘American Spoon‘ is a local company who sells fruit preserves and condiments from produce grown in Michigan.

I think that this was my husband’s favorite shop that we visited because there were ‘samples’.  I tried several different kinds of preserves and decided on getting my favorite, sour cherry preserves and vanilla bourbon pear conserve.

We also tried roasted pumpkin seed salsa – it was delicious, so I had to buy a jar of that too.

As I mentioned earlier, the Christmas season is celebrated throughout the gaslight district of downtown Petoskey.
What was striking to me was that the towns gaslights and stores were decorated with live evergreen wreaths and garlands – not the artificial ones that are commonplace throughout the desert Southwest.

On the first Friday of December the town hosts an Holiday Open House when streets shut down and Santa arrives to light the town Christmas tree.  Merchants vie to win the Holiday Window Contest and townspeople celebrate the first Friday of the season along with carolers and the local high school’s drum band.

I hope that you enjoyed this glimpse of a small town.  Wherever I travel, I love to explore new places and experience and observe the local traditions, gardening practices, plants, people and of course the food!

Our next visit to this small town will be in June, when the days are long and warmer.  We’ll bring the kids with us next time and explore further out to some of the other surrounding towns and take a trip to Mackinac Island, which is just over an hour away 🙂

**Have you ever lived in a small town?  What did you like about it?**
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

5 replies
  1. Jane Strong
    Jane Strong says:

    This is a very cheerful post something we need right now. The transitional town decorations between Thanksgiving and Christmas are very tasteful, not artificial as you mentioned, not overly commercial, nor materialistic. Have you tried the oak-leaf hydrangea in the shade. (I'm sure you have.) But it does pretty well here in inland southern California. It takes heat if it is watered.

  2. ladyhawthorne
    ladyhawthorne says:

    Having grown up in Grand Rapids, MI I thoroughly enjoyed this post. And they can use real greens because it is cold enough that they don't die & turn brown…..or need to be spray painted green like here in TX.

  3. RobinL
    RobinL says:

    You probably know that I am a small town Michigan girl at heart, having grown up in St. Joseph, which is similar to Petoskey in many ways. I'm a big fan of those charming towns along the shores of Lake Michigan, but we usually stop when we get to Traverse City, so I've never made it up to that far. Thanks for the glimpse! I'll have to go even farther north next time. Glad you are enjoying your visits with your daughter and family up here in the frozen tundra.

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