Magical Mosaics

Matthaei Botanical Garden, Ann Arbor, MI affiliated w/ University of Michigan.

Near the entrance

We were confused about where to park and as a result we ended up at the far side of the office building away from the main entrance of the conservatory.  This turned out to be the best possible start to the day. 

Walking back to the entrance we discovered eight brilliant mosaic panels illustrating the ecosystems of the state of Michigan. The individual panels are around 3’ x 3’ and are the work of Yulia Hanasen, a second generation mosaic artist.  Made of Vitreous glass tiles, stain glass and dimensional elements of glass marbles and stone, all hand cut, took 535 hours to complete. Yulia worked with 47 volunteers to complete this remarkable project.

Each panel illustrates a different ecosystem. Just look at this remarkable work.

Evergreen Forests




Deciduous Forests


Rivers,Streams & Floodplains
Alvars & Rocky Shorelines

I was unfamiliar with the concept of Alvar as a landscape description but I learned it is a grass- and sedge-dominated place, with scattered shrubs and sometimes trees. The name “alvar” is derived from a Swedish word for similar landforms near the Baltic Sea.

Dunes & Shorelines


Lakes & Ponds



These renditions of the Great Lakes ecosystem landscapes are even more impressive close up.  You can see the individual pieces, the dimensional elements of the protruding rocks and glass marbles. Here are some closeups of the panels.

Detail of Alvar & Rocky Shorelines
Detail of the Bogs
Detail of Alvar & Rocky Shorelines


Detail of the Prairies

Once I completed (with some great effort) a simple flower pot mosaic kit purchased from the craft store. I was shocked by the mess, the fiddly pieces and the uneven results I managed to produce. Seeing this incredible mosaic work I was in awe of the detailed imaginative beauty the artist,Yulia Hanasen and her volunteers produced.

I couldn’t imagine the garden could hold anything better than this wonderful art work but of course I was wrong.  This is a wonderful garden with an excellent teaching conservatory filled with excited school children and volunteer docents introducing them to the plants in the garden.  

The art of engagement, every child inhales the scent of a new plant

Outside in the garden I found even more wonderful art pieces beginning with the entry gates to the Gateway Garden.

Gift of Ann Arbor Garden club, Artist David Torgoff


Memorial to past Garden Director Erich Steiner, Artist John Stevens

One of two bluestone fountains create wonderful sound in the Gateway Garden.

These are permanent pieces in the garden but the affiliation with the University allows for rotating exhibitions by both faculty and students.  All of these are wonderful elements in the garden but the mosaic illustrations are inside the garden gates in the very living plants and gardens you wander through.  Every garden surprises me.

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