Members: If you would like to host holiday gatherings in the Gardens, please donate a discounted admission fee for additional guests here , admission is $5.00 each.
Use the below button to pay for your holiday gathering guests. You will be directed to paypal where you will choose your number of guests. Then you may pay with paypal or choose to pay with a credit/debit card. Thank you!
Please use the below form to enter details for your holiday donation. Thanks for helping the Gardens!
One of the most exquisite, panoramic views at Friendship Botanic Gardens can be seen from the peninsula known as the Cancer Survivors’ Garden of Love and Hope.
The garden’s planting scheme was developed in July of 2016 by Stuart Franzen, Secretary of the Board of Directors and local landscape architect. The garden was partially funded by Horizon Bank and was installed that fall by H&S Services.
It serves as one of the premiere locations for contemplation, prayer and meditation on the 105-acres of meadows, wooded trails and cultivated garden areas. It is also one of several venues for intimate wedding ceremonies and can accommodate up to 100 guests.
The peninsula is home to a snow-white gazebo and colorful plants ranging from chokeberries, fragrant sumac,and geraniums, to cardinal flowers and catmint. It branches out into the gentle waters of Lake Lucerne, a spring-fed lake where muskrats, turtles and geese can often be found.
“The plants were specified for their compact growth habit and extended period of seasonal interest,” said Franzen. “They were also selected for their ability to tolerate some inundation, as Lake Lucerne water levels fluctuate during wet periods.”
This garden is the former site of the “Theatre of Nations” stage, where world-famous performers entertained thousands in the mid-twentieth century with Shakespeare productions, opera performances and more. Majestic weeping willows envelope on the adjacent shore.
Visitors may sit in the gazebo and admire beautiful blooms in the Persian Rose Garden from across the lake or transfix themselves on the breathtaking, 26-foot fountain that illuminates an array of colors throughout evening events, courtesy of the Barker Welfare Foundation.
One of the most popular sites at Friendship Botanic Gardens is the ArcelorMittal Children’s Garden, an arena for educational play experiences set against the backdrop of cultivated gardens and surrounding wilderness.
Funded byArcelorMittal, this garden was installed in four phases beginning in 2016 and serves as a place for children to learn about flora and fauna, the wonderful world of bees and the water cycle.
“We are so gracious for ArcelorMittal’s continued support throughout the years,” said John Leinweber, President of the Board of Directors at FBG. “On beautiful days and during our events, the Children’s Garden is full of families learning about the natural world.”
Volunteer Carol Sloane has spent ample time in this garden and is dedicated to improving the learning experience for children.
The Garden consists of a playground set that includes slides, climbing walls, a wooden tower and more; a hydraulic hand pump where kids can draw groundwater up from the earth and watch it trickle down a 16-foot gold miner’s sluiceway, demonstrating the fundamental process and understanding of where water comes from; a small butterfly garden; a garden of senses, which includes five raised flower beds with plants and herbs specifically selected to provide a feast for the senses; three flower-shaped, permanently installed xylophones featured in the sound garden, and a whimsical, learning cabin with an observation window where children can view the inner workings of a honeybee colony.
Accompanying educational signage explains the water cycle, the science of sound and information about living organisms in the nearby forests.
Friendship Botanic Gardens is open Tuesday-Sunday 9-5 p.m. Children 12 and under are free. Please visit www.friendshipgardens.org for more information.
Solace and peace, especially during these uncertain and difficult times, is very important to one’s mental health and may be best found in Friendship Botanic Garden’s Horizon Bank A-Maze-Ing Labyrinth Garden.
This garden, which was installed and graciously sponsored by Horizon Bank in 2018, serves as a primary place for peace, meditation, and prayer. Its beauty and eternal promise of growth and rejuvenation have made labyrinth gardens infamous places for healing, reflection, and a place to unwind the mind.
“The A-Maze-Ing Labyrinth Garden is an extraordinary garden – over 500 chokeberry bushes in such a captivating setting,” said John Leinweber, President of the Board of Directors at Friendship Botanic Gardens. “Children will love it as a maze, and those who appreciate labyrinths may utilize it as a place to reflect, meditate and pray in peace.”
Labyrinth gardens were originally designed as a meditation tool and a place of personal and spiritual healing. A labyrinth is a complex circuitous path that leads from a beginning point to a center, which can be walked. Walking a labyrinth can assist one in resolving inner discomfort and life’s distractions. This spiritual tool can be used to calm and quiet the mind; the pathway represents a spiritual track or can be seen as a symbolic “hero’s journey.”
In the labyrinth, as in life, there is no “right” way to follow the path. Labyrinths themselves are geometrical patterns used for walking and act as tools to assist the consciousness. However, this garden has several maze-like qualities: there are multiple dividing paths which force the traveler to choose one of many options, there are more than one possible exits and there are dead ends, too.
“This area is a beautiful addition to our grounds and we can’t thank Horizon Bank enough for this phenomenal garden,” Leinweber said.
Hello, I am the summer 2020 Intern at Friendship Botanic Gardens, and it is such a pleasure to be here! I have just received my Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana State University and am excited to have this opportunity where I can continue to grow.
At school, I studied human and environmental systems, sustainability, and art. In short, I have learned how environmental justice issues are social justice issues and how to transform into a greener way of life to benefit not only the Earth, but ourselves. While I was in school, I was also able to work within other nonprofit organizations and experienced how they operate, so I am glad to be using some of my existing knowledge while continuing to learn more in this new environment. I am excited to acquire the knowledge of how a nonprofit of this size and mission functions and for all of the new learning opportunities Friendship Botanic Gardens has for me.
As the new intern, I have a variety of jobs that range from learning about fundraising and other behind the scenes tasks, to getting my hands dirty in the gardens with our botanist, Rima, and other volunteers. You will often see me posted at the Welcome Cabin as you enter the Gardens, or you may see me assisting our Wedding Coordinator, Stephanie, with events! As I am a few weeks into this position now, I am being assigned additional side projects like collecting a list of all the species within the gardens and attempting to map them out, as well as conducting interviews with volunteers, staff, and board members! I love being able to spend my summer learning and growing in such a beautiful space with such welcoming people.
Growing up in the Chicago area and having family based here, Michigan City has always been my vacation spot. Over a year ago, my mother moved here to be closer to my grandparents, and when I graduated from ISU and moved out of Terre Haute, I moved in with my grandmother and became her housemate! My mother and grandmother were actually the ones to recommend that I apply to work at Friendship Botanic Gardens and after hearing so many wonderful things about this place, I chose to shoot my shot and apply for the internship position way back in December. Luckily, I was able to keep my position through all the chaos and everyone has been very supportive here. I have already been enjoying my experience so much and am looking forward to the rest of the season!
By Carly Kwiecien
Coming home for summer vacation after being away at college is always hard. Things change when you’re gone, and you come back to piece it all back together and find your place again. This summer, I interned at Friendship Botanic Gardens, which is where I found beauty, peace and serenity after a hectic school year. It began as just a place of work, but soon transformed into a place I now call home. The coworkers and volunteers I worked closely with soon became my second family.
For the past few months, I wore several different hats. It was a diverse internship for me; I was graciously given the freedom to spread my wings and become successful in a variety of specialties.
I took on several writing projects featuring board members and events at the Gardens. Writing is my passion, and it was easy for me to write about a place that felt so magical to me. Throughout my time at the Gardens, I learned about its rich history and legacy in Michigan City. I taught this mine of information to Garden guests on multiple cart tours through the grounds.
I continuously felt the energy and passion that Board Members, volunteers and staff members had for the Gardens. Their optimism invigorated me to give 110 percent of myself, helping it grow in popularity, and by making guests who visited feel welcome and invited to share this energy and excitement, too.
There were several opportunities for me to grow both personally and professionally. I worked directly with the public while cabin hosting and working events and weddings.
In the welcome cabin, I greeted guests who were at the Gardens to walk, jog or be immersed in its natural beauty. My favorite part was being able to be a part of their experiences. Some people who passed through had never been to a botanic garden, while others had been visiting Friendship Botanic Gardens for decades. I enjoyed informing them of our legacy, along with our hopes of expansion and growth in the near future.
I was also trusted to be a member of committees for events. For example, I was on the committee for our annual fundraising gala, where we discussed what items would be donated for our auctions, who would speak, where volunteers would be placed throughout the evening and what needed to be done in preparation for our big event. This experience was beneficial to my education because I was able to learn about different aspects of a nonprofit and what it took to plan and coordinate an event.
I also attended several Garden events, ranging from family-friendly events such as Bug Safari, Butterfly Bonanza, and Taste and Tribute to more formal gatherings like Gatsby in the Gardens. I helped out wherever I was needed and was willing to take on whatever tasks that would help the events move smoother.
On other weekends where there weren’t events, I had the pleasure of assisting with weddings. The Gardens are a major destination spot for both wedding ceremonies and receptions, hosting anywhere from 55 to 60 weddings each year. I helped vendors and DJs set up and take down equipment and drove guests to and from the venues scattered throughout the Gardens. I found it magical being a part of someone’s special day, no matter the size or significance of the role I played.
It has been a truly rewarding summer being a part of a team that has mentored me and allowed me to grow in places I didn’t even know I could. Friendship Botanic Gardens is a place for peace and prayer and has been tucked away off of Highway 12 for decades. In the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, it was place for concerts, festivals and social gatherings, and we are trying to bring it back to its magnificence.
In the past four years, the Board of Directors, along with its President, John Leinweber, have donated so much effort, time, energy and money to make it thrive.
In order for the Gardens to be put on the map again, the need for volunteers and interns is constant. There is something here for everyone, no matter demographic, skill level or interest. It is my wish to see others have the same passion and drive for success for this place as I have for it.
Thank you to those who have contributed to my summer at the Gardens and to those who continue to see its potential.
By Carly Kwiecien
Stephanie Graham, fun-loving mother of two, bus driver and wedding coordinator, is always on the go. Whether she’s running around to support her children’s extracurricular events or attending weddings at the Gardens, she is always wearing a warm and inviting smile on her face.
Above everything, she takes pride in being a mother to her 14-year old son and 7-year-old daughter.
Her son, Honor Roll student and four-sport athlete, will be starting high school this year. Her daughter models in Chicago, in addition to being a gymnast and taking wrestling and taekwondo classes.
“They’re my everything,” Graham said. “Being a mom is my favorite thing and I love supporting them in all they do.”
During the school year, Graham works as a bus driver for the La Porte Community School Corporation.
“I’ve truly had the pleasure of getting the best bus route,” Graham said. “When I started this route, the kids were in elementary school and now this year, they’re beginning their first year of high school. It’s such a unique job because unlike a teacher where they have different students each year, I get to have the same kids year after year. Summer isn’t that long, but on the first day of school, it’s great to see how much they’ve changed and grown. I absolutely love it.”
From May 1 through the latter part of October, Graham works as the wedding coordinator for Friendship Botanic Gardens. It has been the perfect fit for her, as she genuinely enjoys putting those around her first.
“I love making someone’s big day absolutely perfect by making it everything they want it to be,” Graham said.
Graham plans, books and manages about 50 weddings at the Gardens each wedding season. This year, she coordinated 55 weddings.
With over 100 weddings under her belt, she is expecting next year to be an even more successful wedding season at the Gardens.
“Last season, we had 45 weddings booked and this year, we have ten more than that,” Graham said. “I want that number to keep increasing; I wish we had more weekends and shorter winters so we could book more.”
Ironically, the first time Graham came to the Gardens was years ago when she came to attend her brother-in-law’s wedding.
“I was disappointed in the fact that my husband and I had an outdoor ceremony and didn’t know about this place at the time of our wedding,” Graham said. “If I would’ve know, we definitely would’ve gotten married there instead.”
Friendship Botanic Gardens offers couples with unique and beautiful outdoor settings and can accommodate small and intimate wedding ceremonies, as well as wedding ceremonies with up to 600 guests. While most weddings take place under the Symphony Garden canopy, the ethnic gardens and the gazebo on the peninsula on Lake Lucerne are also popular locations for ceremonies and receptions.
“The Bridal Cabin is one of the greatest things we have to offer to our brides,” Graham said. “It’s a great place for brides and their bridesmaids to get ready before the ceremony. I also love that we use people movers to transport guests to and from the venues. It’s funny when people get on my golf cart, I always say, ‘You didn’t know you were going to go on a golf cart ride today, did you?’ It’s fun and people enjoy it, and it comes incredibly handy for our guests that have mobility issues.”
Each wedding party brings a different style and flare to the Gardens, and Graham gets to be a part of each one.
“We had a reception last season that was exactly what I would have wanted,” Graham said. “It was a real fun-feel reception that had different food trucks, a taco bar and yard games. Everything was fun and super relaxed, and it felt more like going to an event than a reception for a wedding.”
Graham has ideas for future weddings to come in the upcoming seasons.
“I’m excited about our new Horizon Bank Labyrinth Garden, and it’s on my bucket list to get a bridal party in there with a drone and have aerial shots taken of them,” Graham said. “Right now it needs to grow a bit and get a little fuller but once it does, it will be a great photo opportunity.”
She also has big hopes for a new building, which will allow individuals with the chance to book weddings year-round.
“My favorite part of the Gardens is honestly everything,” Graham said. “I want everyone to experience it.”
Graham spends her free time running trails and, in the winter, snowshoeing.
“I also love going to the beach to listen to my audiobooks and hunt for beach glass and cool rocks,” Graham said. “That’s my thing. Beyond that, I make jewelry and paint the rocks that I find at the beach.”
By Carly Kwiecien
As a retired teacher and the second vice president of the Board of Directors at Friendship Botanic Gardens, Steve Kahn is a seasoned leader in the Michigan City community.
For 33 years, Kahn taught physical education and health at Krueger Middle School. He also coached football to children of different ages for 25 years, spent 15 years coaching basketball and coached his son’s little league baseball for countless seasons.
“I’ve always been around sports,” Kahn said. “For my very first job, I was a summer playground supervisor with the Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department. They used to have summer programs at all the summer playgrounds in town. I helped run the playground and umpire little league baseball. Back then, it took place during the day when the parents were at work, so us playground supervisors ran the leagues.”
In 2008 when he retired from his teaching career, Leslie Samelson, former coworker of Kahn’s at Krueger and Board Member at the Gardens, asked him to begin volunteering his time once a week.
“There were about five or six of us [grounds crew members] back then,” Kahn said. “I started helping because we were losing help. At the time, the Gardens were in need of volunteers that were serious about dedicating their time because it was hanging on by a thread.”
He began by simply cutting the grass, which improved the aesthetic of the Gardens.
“When I was little, I’d drive by this place and see the entrance sign, but I didn’t know exactly what it was,” Kahn said. “Even though I had grown up in Michigan City and had lived here my entire life, I had never come to Friendship Botanic Gardens until I came in on my first Tuesday here to work with the grounds crew.”
After volunteering for four years, Dr. Houck, president emeritus of the Gardens, invited Kahn to be a part of the Board of Directors.
“It was about then that I got my friend John Leinweber involved,” Kahn said. “One thing led to another and he eventually became the new president of the board. Once he got involved, this place started taking a turn for the better. It’s incredible to see the transformation of the Gardens from just a few years ago to what it is now. It’s pretty rewarding to see the changes, and I hope it will continue to grow.”
Kahn, like many others, was unware of the Gardens for a long time, despite living in the area his entire life.
“It’s really a hidden treasure,” Kahn said. “It’s been right in our backyard the entire time we’ve lived here and there are still so many people in Michigan City who have never been here before. My favorite thing about being at the Gardens is seeing people’s reactions once they experience its beauty for the first time.”
Kahn’s favorite corner of the Garden is the Celebration Side. Since the first time he was at the Gardens, he could tell it was a special place, one where he soon found peace and comfort.
“Once I started coming here regularly, I’d grab a golf cart and sit by Lake Lucerne at night to contemplate, take a break and just think,” Kahn said. “I immediately fell in love with the place. It grows on you more the more that you’re here.”
He also loves the Persian Rose Garden because it reminds him of the roses his mother used to grow.
“I like to walk the trails a lot in the fall and spring when the weather is beautiful,” Kahn said. “They’re very unknown and are not traveled often. It’s just a nice place to be.”
When Kahn isn’t at the Gardens, he likes to spend his days surrounded by his family. He has five grandchildren, two of which play tee-ball locally.
“I also have a part time job at my church doing custodial work, helping where I can,” Kahn said.
Golfing is also another hobby of his that he enjoys playing in his free time.
By Carly Kwiecien
Long-time real estate broker and sales enthusiast, Dale Maher, has been involved with Friendship Botanic Gardens ever since her move here full time two years ago.
Maher was born and raised in the Chicago area and in 1990, she purchased a summer home in Long Beach.
“I’ve always been involved in some organization or another wherever I have lived,” Maher said. “When I moved here, I read a great article about John Leinweber and Jim Laughlin in the Lakefront Magazine. Since I was new to the community, I thought getting involved with the Gardens would be a great way to integrate myself.”
For six months, Maher volunteered her time in the Garden’s welcome cabin, greeting new visitors and learning more about the Garden’s rich history. She enjoyed meeting the people who visited the Gardens and was especially interested in visitors from other countries.
“I especially liked talking with the people who came from Europe and made Friendship Botanic Gardens a destination when visiting the area,” Maher said. “I had lived in London for a few years and loved spending time in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. I often see similarities Friendship Botanic Gardens shares with some of the fabulous European Gardens, so I liked to hear what European visitors had to say!”
After spending a few months working in the cabin, volunteering for Garden events and after getting to know John better, he asked Maher to become a member of the board. “I was thrilled and gladly accepted,” Maher said.
Back in the city, Maher was on the board of the Children’s Memorial Hospital Service Board for 10 years as well the Western Springs Historical Society.
“At the Historical Society, I began a preservation award that recognizes owners for restoring and preserving their homes while maintaining the historical integrity and beauty of the structures,” Maher said. “I gained some fundraising experience serving on several different committees of the Children’s Service Board’s Gold Coast Fashion Awards Show and also raising money for Western Springs Historical Society.”
At the Gardens, Maher was the chair of the third annual fundraising gala, “Moonlight in the Gardens Ball,” which took place at Blue Chip Casino on June 16.
“In the past, I have been the chair of several different charity committees, but I have never chaired an event the size of the gala. I gladly accepted the challenge,” Maher said. “It was a lot of fun and everything seemed to fall into place. John is a tremendous fundraiser and advocate for the Gardens, and several of the board members served on the Ball committee as well as some friends I had recruited. With about 325 people in attendance, there was an incredible amount of time and effort put into the gala, and the event was a huge success.”
Maher thought the Ball was fabulous. “We got help from so many wonderful volunteers and board members who tirelessly dedicated their time and talents to help make the Ball a success and a memorable occasion for all who attended,” Maher said. “I am extremely grateful for everyone who came to the event and who now have an interest in helping the Gardens grow.”
Since her time as a Board Member for the Gardens, Maher loves seeing the changes being made.
“The progress that has been made due to all of the fundraising efforts and donations from the community has been absolutely incredible,” Maher said. “In my short time here, I’ve seen such tremendous growth and I love hearing John Leinweber’s ideas and vision for the future of the Gardens. The newest addition to the Gardens, the Horizon Bank Labyrinth Garden is unique to the area and the ArcelorMittal Children’s Garden has become quite the family attraction for local residents, some families are here every weekend!”
While Maher volunteers her time at the Garden’s events, her true passion lives in real estate.
“I got into real estate over twenty years ago because it was a good combination of sales, which every job I’ve had involved some type of sales, and architecture and design,” Maher said. “I love that real estate brings it all together.”
She recently began working for the Line Mullins Group at Coldwell Banker Real Estate.
In her spare time, Maher loves spending time with her four children, who are all in their 20’s and live in Chicago.
“My kids are my greatest accomplishment and I enjoy them so much,” Maher said. “They have been coming to our Long Beach home their entire lives and when they are here, I am in heaven! Two of my kids are now engaged to be married, and I look forward to them having children so I can have another generation of kids who will visit the place my kids call our ‘Cation House. I have truly been blessed and my wonderful children and my involvement with Friendship Botanic Gardens has contributed to the reason why I love my life!”