Category Archives: Garden Gazette Newsletter

Category Archives: Garden Gazette Newsletter

Category Archives: Garden Gazette Newsletter

Category Archives: Garden Gazette Newsletter

Category Archives: Garden Gazette Newsletter

Category Archives: Garden Gazette Newsletter

Category Archives: Garden Gazette Newsletter

Grounded in the Roots of NWI

Grounded in the Roots of NWI

Carly Kwiecien

Friendship Botanic Gardens is a hidden gem among the valleys of Trail Creek, tucked away off of U.S. Highway 12 in Michigan City. Beyond the gates lie 105 acres of colorful palettes of flowers, plants and trees that contribute to its several gardens that are cultivated primarily by a team of volunteers.

The Polish Garden, The ArcelorMittal’s Children’s Garden and Juvenile Diabetes Garden – just to name a few. Each brings their own energy to the newly renovated grounds, bringing a diverse experience for the Gardens’ various guests. Each Garden grows with its own purpose, representative of something important and beautiful in its own way. Some might find peace and tranquility while taking a stroll through the Cancer Survivors’ Garden of Love and Hope, while others might enjoy spending more time strolling past the Rose Garden. There is something here for everyone.

About 3 miles of natural hiking trails are available for those who wish to rejuvenate for a bit in between moments of chaos of everyday life. Due to its remote location, Friendship Gardens is difficult to stumble upon, if one does not know about it.   

However, if one drives down the highway and sees the bright green sign at its entranceway, pulls-in and stops to visit May 1 through October 31, Wednesday through Sunday 10 - 6 p.m., and on weekends April through November from 10 - 4 p.m., one may purchase a one-day pass Thursday through Sunday for $8. Wednesdays are half-price admission ($4) and children under 12 and active duty military are free every day.

The Gardens host various events throughout the year, both entertaining and educational, that can appeal to people of all ages. Upcoming events include Bug Safari (June 24 from 2:00-4:00 p.m.), Gatsby in the Gardens (July 28 from 6:00-9:00 p.m.), Lyric in the Gardens (August 5 from 3:00-6:00 p.m.) and the Bacchus & Beer Fest (August 18 from 5:00-9:00 p.m.) More events can be found here.

I was born and raised in La Porte, Indiana, and grew up a tomboy, which meant that I was more interested with the bugs and animals outdoors than I was interested with the dolls and playhouses indoors.

Each season I spent as much of my time outside as possible.  In the summer I enjoyed getting dirt stuck under my fingernails, playing in the summer sun and building sand castles at the lakefront.  In the winter snowmen were my personal sculpture in my grandparents’ backyard. Autumn called me to rake enormous amounts of piles of leaves and the thrill to jump into the center releasing a confetti of leaves.   In the spring, I would hike in the woods in to see what new arrivals and blooms I would encounter along the trails.

Although I spent most of my time outdoors in the comfort of my family members’ property, it wasn’t until I was about eight-years-old that I first experienced the beauty and peace of Friendship Botanic Gardens.

My grandmother was a member of the Michigan City Art League, a local group of talented artists, and when I was about 8 years old (I am now 21), they held their art festival at the Gardens.

This was my first time venturing in the Gardens. The day of the art festival, I helped the artists set up their work under the tents and walked around to not only view the artwork of those around me, but also to view the beauty and peace of the Gardens.

With paintings on display, coupled with the picturesque views of the Gardens around me, that day remains a vivid and radiant memory in my mind.

Since my first visit years ago, I have decided to dig up the roots and return to Friendship Botanic Gardens, but this time, as a summer intern.

This season, I will be wearing many hats, taking on multiple roles and assisting in several Garden operations. I am excited to kick off this summer by helping out at events, weddings and more.

There are big things happening at the Gardens: new garden areas to explore, new events breaking ground and much more.  

My eight-year-old-self regarded the Gardens as just another place to enjoy the outdoors, bask in the sun, and smell the sweet perfumes of flowers and plants I had never heard of up until that moment. I saw it as just another location to relish in the Earth’s beauty. I now see it as that, too, but also as something more.

I look back at the true meaning of the words in its name “Friendship” Botanic Gardens and see it as a place of community, unity and harmony -- a place for gatherings, for growth and for gratitude.

October 2017

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Fall 2017

Happy Fall from Friendship Botanic Gardens!

It’s been another incredible year, and we’d like to take a moment to look back on some of the amazing events and experiences we’ve shared with the community over the course of an unforgettable 2017 season.

Bacchus and Beer Fest among Botanic Splendor

In August, FBG hosted our first ever Bacchus and Bear Fest in the Symphony Garden. Over 250 people enjoyed craft brews and fine wines from 15 of the best breweries from across our region while rocking out to live music from Johnny Vermilye and Matt Gabriel. This evening served as the perfect showcase for all of the remarkable improvements made to the grounds over the past 3 years. The Bacchus and Beer Fest would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the FBG Board of Directors’ Events Committee.

A Remarkable Season of New and Continuing Garden Experiences

We kicked off our 2017 season with the first-ever FBG Easter Egg Hunt, which generated a response that exceeded our wildest expectations. Nearly 1400 people packed the Gardens to hunt for eggs and get a first look at the remarkable transformations debuting to the public for the first time in 2017.

In June nearly 150 supporters of the Gardens from across our region and beyond joined us for dinner, drinks, and silent and live auctions at the 2nd Annual Garden Gala. This celebration of FBG’s past and future raised over $35,000 toward the continued revitalization of the grounds and facilities. The FBG family continues to be amazed and inspired by the outpouring of community support that makes it possible for us to dream bigger and bigger as we chart a course to the future. Be sure to save the date for our 3rd annual Garden Gala on June 16th 2018 at Blue Chip Casino. We can’t wait to host another elegant celebration of the FBG legacy, along with a special sneak preview of the exciting future taking shape at the Gardens.

Bugs and Butterflies Galore

Our new educational events continue to generate unprecedented enthusiasm and interest from the local community. In June, our 2nd annual Botanic Bug Safari drew hundreds of families to the Gardens for a spectacular afternoon of citizen science fun and exploration. Hundreds of young budding naturalists had the chance to learn from experts about the untold wonders of the natural world unfolding within the habitats that make up FBG. This event joins our roster of free environmental education programming, which includes the annual Butterfly Bonanza and the Maple Sugar Time demonstration. We’re thrilled to be able to offer curious minds of all ages the chance to experience the majesty of nature and all of the learning opportunities afforded by the diverse habitats of the Gardens. These events were made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Michigan City Community Enrichment Corporation.

The ArcelorMittal Children’s Garden

Last Spring, we were proud to unveil Phase 2 of the ArcelorMittal Children’s Garden, featuring a giant multifaceted Cedarworks playset to complement the previously unveiled sensory garden plots and a simulated groundwater well that teaches children where their water comes from. This new feature has been met with rave reviews from visitors and has proven to be our most popular new attraction yet. Stay tuned for updates about the next phase of this ongoing project, premiering to the public at the start of our 2018 season! The entire FBG family wishes to extend our sincerest thanks to the ArcelorMittal Corporation for making this project a reality.

New Entryway

Even the entrance to Friendship Botanic Gardens has been revamped and revitalized. Thanks to a design plan created by Board member Stu Franzen and a grant from the Michigan City Redevelopment Commission, the highway 12 entrance to the Gardens now serves as a captivating first impression that heralds the ongoing rejuvenation of downtown Michigan City. What was formerly an empty stretch of highway frontage has been transformed into a rich tapestry of garden plots interwoven with stone walls, all offsetting our digital LED sign and the “Garden Magic” sculpture by artist John Searles.

The Irish Garden

Johnny Stimley, the owner of Ryan’s Pub in Michigan City, has taken the initiative in creating an Irish Heritage Garden next to the Native American Garden on the Symphony side of the grounds. Recently installed centerpieces include a giant steel Celtic cross, an Irish Flag, and a wayfinding sign pointing to the historic major cities of the emerald isle.

The Cancer Survivor’s Garden of Love and Hope

The Cancer Survivor’s Garden of Love and Hope has fully taken shape, thanks once again to renowned landscape architect Stu Franzen and his continued dedication to fully realizing the potential of Friendship

Botanic Gardens. This new plot encircles a snow white gazebo situated on the peninsula in Lake Lucerne -- formerly the site of the Theater of Nations stage where world-famous performers delighted thousands in the mid-twentieth century. It’s our hope that the Cancer Survivor’s Garden of Love and Hope can serve to commemorate and honor the countless lives touched by cancer. The Cancer Survivor’s Garden of Love and Hope was made possible thanks to the generous support of Horizon Bank.

Juvenile Diabetes Garden

Board member Kevin Egan has continued to grow and develop the Juvenile Diabetes Garden, which encircles a flag pole near the Spruce Walk on the Celebration Side of the grounds. Next year this Garden will serve as a jumping off point for fundraising efforts that will help raise awareness of the millions of children affected by this life-changing illness.

The Future and Beyond

Our Board of Directors is always hard at work dreaming up new gardens and attractions to increase FBG’s relevance and impact in the Northwest Indiana community, and we’ll debut countless new projects in the years ahead. Here are just a few of the new plots we’re developing as we work to reintroduce the world to the magic of the Gardens:

  Board member Stu Franzen has completed plans for a new garden dedicated to Veterans of Foreign Wars, with special plots focusing on World War II, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, and Middle Eastern wars. This expansive new garden will serve as a monument honoring the incalculable sacrifices of America’s service members.

  Thanks to the remarkably generous support of Horizon Bank, we’ll soon begin construction on a giant Labyrinth Garden spanning nearly 100 feet on the Symphony Side of the Gardens. This ambitious project will serve as a “wow factor” signature attraction that can further establish Friendship Botanic Gardens as a can’t-miss tourist destination capable of raising the profile of Michigan City and the entire Northwest Indiana region.

  We’ll soon be unveiling a massive signage project that will highlight the myriad heritage, educational, and historical points of interest that dot the landscape of FBG.

  Looking for new ways to get active? Fitness trails with exercise equipment stations will soon line the FBG wilderness trails thanks to a generous grant from the Healthcare Foundation of Laporte. Phase 1 of the Friendship Fitness Trails will center on 5 pieces of aerobic exercise equipment. We’re already hard at work planning a second phase for 2019 that will add anaerobic exercise activities.

  Stay tuned for updates on the new Jazz Concert Series and a very special Chamber Music Festival debuting at the Gardens in the summer of 2018.

The entire FBG family wishes to extend its sincerest thanks to the stalwart community supporters who are helping us bring our vision to life. Thanks to supporters like you, over 25,000 people have experienced the Gardens in 2017, compared to just 4000 a few years earlier. Our dream is to grow into a destination point that enriches our community by hosting transformative garden experiences for over 50,000 people every year. We’re honored to be joined by a loyal base of corporate and individual donors who are bringing us closer to this dream every day. Thanks everyone!

Two More Magical Garden Experiences left in 2017

Our season may be winding down, but there are still 2 more momentous garden experiences fast approaching. On Oct 28th the Gardens will host the second annual Haunted Trails and Ghost Stories Event. This evening of family fun proved to be one of our most popular events of last year, and we have an even more spook-tacular celebration planned this year, with face-painting, trick or treating and the renowned barbecue of the Up N’ Smoke Food truck.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the Thanksgiving Turkey Walk and Native American Heritage Celebration on November 23rd. Children can count the paper turkeys hidden throughout the Gardens for a chance to win a special Thanksgiving prize. Then, head down to the Native American Garden for a demonstration of traditional indigenous peoples’ cooking techniques. This afternoon of Turkey-themed fun has grown into an annual tradition for local families, and we’re looking forward to hosting our most memorable day of fall festivities yet.

None of the phenomenal progress of the last 3 years would be possible without supporters like you. That’s why we’re always eager to hear your comments and suggestions as we move forward. Feel free to contact us at 219 878 9885 or

Looking for more ways to help the Gardens grow? Consider becoming an FBG volunteer! We have a variety of opportunities available to anyone who wants to help, no green thumb necessary.

See You At The Gardens!

July 2017

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Summer 2017

Another season of spectacular Garden experiences is finally here, and dazzling new gardens and attractions are sprouting up everywhere in our 105 acre oasis of natural beauty. This spring we were honored to unveil phase 2 of the ArcelorMittal Children’s Garden, now featuring an expansive and multifaceted Cedarworks playset beckoning families to explore an array of nearby sensory garden beds. This centerpiece and focal point for the entire FBG grounds further establishes the ArcelorMittal Children’s Garden as a visually captivating arena for learning and play experiences set against the backdrop of natural habitats and formal garden landscapes.

This stunning addition to the Friendship Botanic Gardens experience would not have been possible without ArcelorMittal’s unwavering commitment to enriching the lives of the people of Northwest Indiana. Thanks ArcelorMittal!

A New First Impression for FBG – and all of Michigan City!

The profound transformations underway at Friendship Botanic Gardens are leading the way as Michigan City grows into a thriving destination community for tourism, recreation, and economic investment. It’s for this reason that the Michigan City Redevelopment Corporation generously committed to funding the rejuvenation of our Highway 12 entrance – along with much-needed improvements to the electrical infrastructure throughout the grounds. Thanks to a visionary landscaping plan by Board Member Stu Franzen, our main entrance is being transformed into a mosaic of perennial gardens and naturalistic stone masonry.

Combined with other new features like the “Botanic Magic” sculpture by John Searles and the “Botanic Beacon” digital LED sign, our stretch of the Highway 12 gateway into Michigan City is conveying to millions of motorists annually that Michigan City is a flourishing and vibrant lakefront destination community with endless opportunities to “Create, Play, Repeat.”

Gala in the Gardens

On June 3rd over 150 FBG supporters from around our community and beyond came together for a very special celebration of the rich legacy of the Gardens... as well as their unlimited potential for the future. The Symphony Garden proved to be a magnificent backdrop for this elegant evening of dinner, drinks, and live auctions of artwork and other prize packages. Thanks to the hard work of our events committee, the Gardens raised over $35,000 in funds toward the continued revitalization of this once-forgotten community treasure! The entire FBG family wishes to thank the variety of community stakeholders who attended this magical evening and the hardworking board members who made it reality.

Springtime Egg-Stravaganza

FBG kicked off the beginning of our 2017 season with our first-ever Easter Egg Hunt in the Symphony Side of the Gardens. The response from families in our community exceeded our wildest expectations. Nearly 1400 people flocked to the Gardens to search for Easter treats while getting their first look at all the remarkable improvements we’d been working on all winter long. Stay tuned for an even grander Easter experience in Spring 2018!

A New Attraction Taking Root on Lake Lucerne

If you’ve visited the gardens lately, you may have noticed new plots steadily sprouting up on the Lake Lucerne Peninsula – the historic site of the Theater of Nations performance area where big bands and Opera performers entertained thousands in the mid-twentieth century. Thanks to generous

support of Horizon Bank, this storied peninsula is now home to the Cancer Survivor Garden of Hope and Love. Our Board of Directors conceived of this new plot encircling the freshly painted gazebo as a tribute to the countless lives affected by cancer. We hope the stunning panoramic views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding walls of willow trees can help bring visitors a small measure of the peace and tranquility that renews and revitalizes the human spirit. Transformative projects like these wouldn’t be possible without the unwavering support of stakeholders like Horizon Bank. We continue to be honored and humbled by the broad swath of supporters who’ve believed in us along every step of this unprecedented journey.

New Equipment and Infrastructure is “Powering” FBG’s growth

As our hardworking grounds crew and operations staff work to continually improve the Friendship Botanic Gardens Experience, we’ve been fortunate enough to steadily grow our collection of equipment and improve our facilities and infrastructure. Both Horizon Bank and the Michigan City Redevelopment Corporation have funded extensive electrical improvements throughout the grounds that make it possible to host crucial events like evening wedding receptions and fundraisers. Thanks to a grant from the Barker Welfare Foundation, our staff now has two brand new forest-green people movers that will allow us transport disabled and elderly guests throughout the grounds – now everyone has the ability to fully appreciate the natural splendor that graces the vast FBG landscape.

Behind the scenes, a brand new tractor is helping our grounds crew make the Gardens more beautiful and spectacular than in any time in recent memory. Just this month, acres upon acres of brush and weeds have been cleared away from areas like the spruce walk, revealing quaint meandering footpaths and sun-dappled clearings where visitors can appreciate the serenity and tranquility along with the timeless rhythms of nature.

Our Board of Directors never ceases striving to create new gardens and attractions throughout the FBG grounds. That’s why we’re currently in the planning stages for a variety of new projects made possible thanks to community-oriented donors who are eager to become a part of the amazing story of Friendship Botanic Gardens. These visionary new additions will include an expansive labyrinth garden designed to serve as a one-of-a- kind signature attraction that can draw visitors from across our region and beyond. Local community organizations are also spearheading the creation of 2 new Ethnic Heritage Plots: an Irish Garden and an African Garden.

Another Season of Transcendent Experiences at FBG

Be sure to mark your calendars for all of the momentous events we have in store for our 2017 season. The improvements to the Gardens and grounds will be on full display during our flagship 2017 fundraiser: The FBG Bacchus and BeerFest. Buy your tickets early for discounted pricing to this evening of music and exquisite craft beer and wine.

Other 2017 Events On the Horizon:

August 13th

Lyric Opera in the Gardens

August 19th

Bacchus and Beer Fest

August 20th

Butterfly Bonanza

October 28th

Haunted Trails and Ghost Stories

November 23rd

Native American Celebration and Thanksgiving Day Turkey Walk

Don’t Forget, FBG is hosting Nature Inspired Art Classes for children ages 8-12 on

July 19th, August 2nd, and August 9th Register online at

See You At The Gardens!

Fall 2016

Fall 2016

Happy fall from the entire Friendship Botanic Gardens Family! We’re incredibly grateful for your ongoing personal and financial support, and there’s no question that your contributions are the sole reason the Gardens are able to survive and prosper. Please help us spread the word and encourage your friends and family to become members so that we can continue to reintroduce the world to the magic of Friendship Botanic Gardens.

This past year has been a whirlwind of excitement and transformation for the Gardens. Now as our 2016 season draws to a close, we’d like to share a few of the highlights from this latest chapter in the FBG story.


A Botanic Beacon

The Northwest Indiana region’s best kept secret is not a secret any longer. Our new 10 foot wide LED sign is now up and broadcasting the presence of the Gardens to the hundreds of thousands of motorists that pass by our entrance every year. With this new “Botanic Beacon,” along with the newly installed “Botanic Magic” sculpture by John Searles, our slice of the Highway 12 gateway into Michigan City is steadily being transformed into an unforgettable first impression conveying that visitors have truly arrived at a lakefront destination community.

We’ve also just put the finishing touches on phase 1 of the ArcelorMittal Children’s Garden! Now kids can simulate drawing groundwater up from the earth with a hydraulic hand pump before watching it trickle down a 16 foot gold miner’s sluiceway. Next spring, the nearby garden beds will blossom with flowers and herbs selected to provide a feast for the senses of smell, touch and sight. This installment is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to unveil what we have in store for phases 2 and 3. This ongoing project wouldn’t have been possible without ArcelorMittal’s generosity and enduring commitment to the Northwest Indiana community. Thanks ArcelorMittal!

AM Childrens Garden

Earlier this month, we finished planting the perennials that will bloom into the Cancer Commemorative and Cancer Survivor’s Garden on our Island in Lake Lucerne (formerly the site of the world-famous Theater of Nations). In accordance with a plan created by new FBG board member Stu Franzen, the island’s shore is now adorned with a variety of plants that will encircle and offset our newly repainted white gazebo – thus creating a perfect new wedding venue with a stunning panoramic view of Lake Lucerne and the entire Celebration Side of the Gardens.

This past season has seen several other new and revamped gardens truly come into their own as signature features that enhance the FBG experience. The Romanian Garden has undergone an extensive makeover thanks to the dedication of stalwart FBG supporters George and Jeanette Neagu. Board Member Rima Binder has worked tirelessly to expand and transform the Lithuanian Garden into a singularly rich and fascinating celebration of Lithuanian culture. Board member Kevin Egan has taken the lead in creating a first-of-its-kind garden for FBG: a plot dedicated to Junior Diabetes patients. And finally, the Rotary Club of Michigan City has renewed their commitment to realizing the full potential of the Rotary Garden.

Something for Everyone

This past summer we unveiled our most jam-packed roster of events and programs in the entire history of Friendship Gardens. In addition to 3 momentous Music Under the Stars Concerts, we added a Botanic Bug Safari to our slate of free education programs. We then rounded out a spectacular year with live music and brewers from across the country at Okto-BEER-Fest. Things may be winding down as winter approaches, but there are still a few more garden celebrations before we say goodbye to 2016 for good. On October 29th we’ll be hosting our first ever Haunted Trails and Ghost Stories Event – a spectacular opportunity to see the grounds illuminated by the new Trail of Lights. Finally, on November 24th we’ll once again play host to the local tradition of the Thanksgiving Turkey Walk.

Golfing for the Gardens

The entire Friendship Botanic Gardens family would like to extend a special thanks to the Briar Leaf Men’s Club for sponsoring the first-ever Golf Outing to benefit FBG. This was an unprecedented fundraiser for the Gardens -- not to mention a magnificent afternoon of spirited competition, live music, and world-class food from Portofino’s Grille in Laporte. Thanks to the Men’s Club’s efforts, we raised over $6000 toward the ongoing revitalization of the grounds and growth of our community-enriching public programs and events.

A Sneak Peek at 2017

There are even more exciting developments on the horizon for 2017, and we hope you’ll continue to support us as we expand and build upon the rich legacy that began over 80 years ago.

  • Soon the Gardens will be home to 2 new ethnic heritage plots: an African Garden and an Irish Heritage Garden, both spearheaded by local community groups inspired to become a part of the growing buzz surrounding FBG.
  • The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission is launching an ambitious new project to build a bike path extending from Chicago to New Buffalo, and one portion of the trail will go straight through Friendship Botanic Gardens. NIRPC has committed to funding a paved pathway through the Gardens that will greatly improve the accessibility of FBG.
  • We’ll soon be launching major capital improvement projects, including projects centered on revamping and repairing the electrical infrastructure throughout the Gardens.
  • In 2017 we’ll begin installing more comprehensive signage to better guide and educate visitors about the most notable, plants, landmarks, sculptures, and other features found throughout the sprawling FBG grounds.

We can’t express what an honor it is to have the unwavering support of so many community stakeholders as we blaze a new trail to FBG’s future. We’re always eager to hear your suggestions, comments, and ideas as we continue to grow into a transformative force for good in the Northwest Indiana region. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 219 878-9885 or

See you at the Gardens!

John Leinweber
FBG Board President
Ronald Taylor
FBG Communications Director


Download a pdf file of this newsletter here.

Thanksgiving Turkey Walk

Thanksgiving Turkey Walk

turkeyOn November 24th from 11am to 4pm CDT, join us in the pristine natural beauty of Friendship Botanic Gardens as we host a FREE celebration of Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month. Kids will have the chance to embark on a turkey count scavenger hunt throughout the gardens and nature trails – find every hidden paper turkey and win a special Thanksgiving prize!

Then, join us in the Native American Heritage Garden and get a firsthand look at Indigenous Peoples’ cooking techniques as our garden educator demonstrates the cooking of traditional pumpkin stew over an open flame. Kids can also check out phase one of the ArcelorMittal Children’s Garden, a newly installed arena for interactive natural play experiences created thanks to the support of the ArcelorMittal corporation.

It all happens Thanksgiving Day from 11am to 4pm CDT, at Friendship Botanic Gardens, located at 2055 E. US Highway 12 in Michigan City, Indiana. Friendship Botanic Gardens is a historic 105 acre garden park tucked in the majestic old-growth forests surrounding Trail Creek. Pets on a leash are always welcome. For more information, contact us at 219 878-9885 or visit

4 Person Scramble to Benefit Gardens

4 Person Scramble to Benefit Gardens

September 30, 2016 4 Person Scramble, all proceeds to benefit gardens.

Entry fee includes:

  • Golf Cart
  • Range Balls
  • Prime Rib Dinner at PortoFino's
  • 2 "Music Under the Stars" Concert Tickets


Prizes that can be won:

  • Up to $1000 in prize money.
  • Concert Tickets
  • Dinners
  • Golf Rounds
  • and More

Entry Fee: $400 per foursome. Sign up by September 23rd to enter.

Hosted by the Briar Leaf Men's Club

Call Briar Leaf Golf Club for more info:


Or call us at the Gardens for more info:


-Click image to enlarge.


Happy Spring 2016

Happy Spring 2016

Happy Spring from Friendship Gardens!

We’ve been very busy this winter, and we’d like to take a moment to share all of the exciting developments in the amazing Friendship Gardens comeback story. Last November, our Board of Directors voted to officially give the Gardens a new name to reflect our growing presence as an educational and scientific institution. Welcome to Friendship Botanic Gardens! We believe this new moniker captures our far-reaching vision for what the Gardens can become, while still commemorating the rich legacy laid down by the Stauffer brothers more than eighty years ago.

Our Board of Directors has undergone a few changes of its own. In 2015 and the beginning of 2016, we were honored to welcome 10 new Board Members into the Friendship Botanic Gardens family: Cathy Kearney, Don Dixon, Kevin Egan, Craig Phillips, Richard Houck III, Phil Poznanski, Rima Binder, Frank Seilheimer, Rubia Jascinevicius, and Alexander deHilster are the newest additions to our garden dream team, and we’re incredibly fortunate to have their talent and know-how moving forward.

At the helm of this new group of dedicated leaders is a new Board President: Mr. John Leinweber – the architect of the entire Friendship Botanic Gardens revitalization project. The Gardens hold a very special place in the hearts of everyone on the FBG Board of Directors, and we’re committed to making sure everyone in our region comes to appreciate the awe-inspiring potential that the Gardens hold. It’s no exaggeration to say that people from all over the country are becoming aware of the monumental progress we’ve made.

This month, we were thrilled to welcome 47 students from the University of North Dakota, who stopped by Friendship Botanic Gardens to volunteer as part of an annual cross-country service learning trip. They were a tremendous help in getting the grounds ready for our big spring opening.

Beginning in the spring, scientists from Loyola University will use the pristine wilderness on our grounds as a site to conduct research on red-backed salamander populations.

New Trails, Gardens, and Beyond

This April, we’ll be breaking ground on several monumental new construction projects that will forever transform the FBG experience. Thanks to the generous support of NIPSCO, the Michigan City Redevelopment Fund, and the Board of Public Works, we’ll begin construction on the “Trail of Lights,” an illuminated pathway of streetlamps that will guide visitors through the garden entrances and exits after sunset. With the Trail of Lights in place, we’ll be able to safely host receptions and concerts that run into the evening hours, and we’ll be able to launch new fall and winter festivities like our upcoming Christmas Festival of Lights. Michigan City has long been in need of year-round tourist destinations to supplement our summer attractions like Washington Park, and Friendship Botanic Gardens is proud to lead the way in filling this crucial role for our community.

This is far from the only community need we’re filling. Soon we’ll be revamping our main entrance along Highway 12 – one of the crucial Eastern Gateways into Michigan City. This transformation will include a new sculpture by artist John Searles, and an electronic sign broadcasting the offerings of Friendship Gardens to the world. These new additions will serve as a stunning first impression for motorists entering Michigan City from the east, and they’ll reinforce the Michigan City brand by letting visitors know they’ve truly arrived at a preeminent lakefront destination community.

Did you know there’s an Artesian Well hidden in Friendship Gardens? Tucked in forested hills at the far southern edge of the grounds is a little-known natural spring where fresh groundwater can be seen bubbling up from the aquifer. According to legend, the site was blessed by famed explorer and missionary Jacques Marquette. We want more people to appreciate this remarkable geologic feature, so our grounds crew will soon begin blazing a forest trail that will take intrepid explorers from Lake Lucerne up to the spring in the surrounding hills.

As promised, we’re just a month away from unveiling the first phase of the ArcelorMittal Children’s Garden. The entire garden will be completed in 3 phases over the course of 3 years, but our first phase installation will be ready in time for our May opening. The centerpiece of the first phase will be several pieces of educational nature-themed playground equipment, including a well hand pump and “Gold Miner’s Sluiceway” children can use to pump actual groundwater up from the earth.

Be on the lookout for these other new garden plots soon to make their debut at Friendship Botanic Gardens:

  • A perennial garden on the island in Lake Lucerne at the former site of the Theater of Nations.
  • Johnny Stimley of Ryan’s Pub will be spearheading the creation of an Irish Heritage Garden.
  • Board Member Kevin Egan has begun work on a garden dedicated to Junior Diabetes patients.


Farther on the horizon:

  • A Labyrinth Garden
  • A Veteran’s Garden
  • A Garden dedicated to Cancer Survivors and health and wellness.

With everything we have in store for 2016, over 18,000 people will experience the Gardens this year – up from 11,000 in 2015 and 6,000 in 2014. Eventually, our goal is to grow Friendship Botanic Gardens into a cornerstone of our community that can draw over 50,000 people annually!

None of this phenomenal progress would be possible without the support of members like you, that’s why we’re eager to hear your feedback, ideas and suggestions moving forward. Don’t hesitate to contact us at 219 878-9885 or

Looking for more ways to help the gardens grow? Consider volunteering. No green thumb necessary! We're highly flexible in scheduling volunteers and finding opportunities that match the strengths and interests of everyone who wants to help.

Don’t forget to buy your tickets now for our first annual Spring Garden Gala at Long Beach Country Club. RSVP online at

See you at the Gardens!

April 23rd

Spring Garden Gala at Long Beach Country Club

April 30th & May 1st

Wake Up The Gardens! Noon-4pm: Volunteers are needed to get the Gardens ready for opening

May 8th

Season Opening & Mother’s Day 10-6pm: Mother’s Admitted FREE

June 25th

“Music Under the Stars” Concert --Mike Struwin 5:00-9pm

June 26th

Bug Safari 2-4pm

July 10th

Native American Heritage Day Noon-4pm: Demonstrations, exhibits, crafts, open fire cooking. Come celebrate Native Peoples of the region

July 17th

Dragonflies Alive Program 1-3pm

July 23rd

“Music Under the Stars” Concert – Karissa Wilson 5:00-9pm

August 14th

Lyric Opera in the Gardens 4-6pm: Join us for another wonderful performance from the upcoming Chicago Lyric Opera Season! Tickets on Sale online or at Door.

August 20th

“Music Under the Stars” Concert – The Crawpuppies 5:00-9pm

August 21st

Butterfly Bonanza 1-3pm: See these wonderful creatures in all stages and watch Monarch Butterflies released. Simple Children’s Crafts. FREE Admission

September 11th

Polish Fest 11-6pm: Join us for a very popular day of festivities! Food, Dancing, Music Tickets available day of Event.

October 16th

Oktoberfest!!! 11am-6pm: Join us for an afternoon of Food, Beer, and Music! Peformances by The Crawpuppies and Matt Gabriel

October 29th

Haunted Trail and Ghost Stories 6-10pm

November 24th

Thanksgiving Turkey Walk and Native American Heritage Celebration 9-3pm

Dec 10th and 11th

Christmas Festival of Lights Join us for Holiday Festivities – Visit Santa, See the Lights!

Open the PDF file of this edition of the Garden Gazette here: Spring 2016