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

Category Archives: Garden Gazette Newsletter

Category Archives: Garden Gazette Newsletter

Category Archives: Garden Gazette Newsletter

Get to Know the Board of Directors: Kevin Egan

Get to Know the Board of Directors: Kevin Egan

By Carly Kwiecien

Pottawatomie Park native Kevin Egan has been a supporter and visitor of Friendship Botanic Gardens ever since his youth.

From growing up in the neighborhood behind the 105-acres of land, Egan has found the Gardens to be a memory-making place for decades.

“I went to the Gardens a lot as a child, just playing around,” Egan said. “I always remember having a good time here.”

He was intrigued by the beauty of the Gardens right in his backyard.

In fact, the house that Egan grew up in was developed by Dr. Warren, the same person who was so impressed with the grounds of the garden and the theme of “Peace and Friendship to All Nations,” that he made an offer to the Stauffer brothers to create an International Friendship Garden at the site.

“I always enjoyed planting and everything about nature,” Egan said. “My grandfather and father both loved to garden so it was a natural extension for me to study biology in college.”

Although Egan has been a long-time visitor to the Gardens, he became a member of the board of directors through one of his friends.

“The most rewarding part of being on the Board for the Gardens is knowing you’re trying to change Michigan City for the better and provide a beautiful place where people can come with their families and enjoy the day,” Egan said.

For the past three years, Egan and 14-year-old son, Sean, have put in countless hours into the development of their own garden, which is titled the Juvenile Diabetes Peace Garden.

Sean was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the young age of 7. It is an incurable, chronic disease in which the body is unable to produce the insulin needed to break down and store energy for food.

“Before we began maintaining this garden, it was titled the Peace Garden,” Egan said. “I wanted to incorporate the past into the future by keeping its original name and by adding ‘Juvenile Diabetes’ to the beginning of it.”

This garden serves as a resource to help raise awareness for Type 1 Diabetes research.

“I hope this garden will provide peace to the lives of Type 1 juveniles,” Egan said. “Hopefully people will come out to this beautiful garden and perhaps participate by helping take care of it. There’s a lot of confusion circling the differences in Type 1 and Type 2, so it is my goal to make the community aware of the tremendous differences between the two.”

Egan’s garden is a place of tranquility and bonding for he and his family. One can spot his garden by the American flag, lavender and the abundance of roses.

“It has taken a lot of work to get the garden to be what we had envisioned it to be, and we’ve been keeping up with it by visiting every few weeks to take care of it,” Egan said. “It’s pretty much grown and matured and is just a matter of maintenance now. It’s been nice to come here and be able to spend time with my family doing something different together. I hope that someday Sean will have the same love of gardening as I do.”

In addition to gardening with his family, Egan also enjoys traveling with them all around the country.

“One of our passions is to take a vacation every year and visit a National Park in the United States,” Egan said. “They’re really great places, of course filled with flowers and nature.”

Together, they’ve traveled to Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Badlands, Tetons and Acadia and are already planning to go to Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park next year.

“Every trip we go on is its own adventure,” Egan said.  


Get to Know the Board of Directors: Stu Franzen

Get to Know the Board of Directors: Stu Franzen

By Carly Kwiecien

In the beginning there is a plan. In the end there is a flourishing, blooming garden.

Stu Franzen, long-time landscape architect with Planned Environment Associates, is a dedicated member on the Board of Directors at Friendship Botanic Gardens, as he brings new garden arrangements for the grounds by preparing site plans, specifications and cost estimates.

Both he and his wife, Sue, received Bachelor of Science degrees from Purdue University and are both registered landscape architects.

Together, they work for the firm, Planned Environment Associates, which was founded over 37 years ago and brings clients expertise with a vision to design solutions tailored to their needs. The firm is commercial and residential, and institutional design is well-versed on plant material, natural stone and other construction techniques.

He first learned about Friendship Botanic Gardens after meeting John Leinweber, current President of the Board for the Gardens.  

“About three years ago, John asked me to be a part of the Board for the Gardens, and you know when John asks you to help with something, you can’t refuse it,” Franzen said. “I was enlisted to be a part of the Board mainly because of my design background and big-picture outlook I could bring to the Gardens.”

Franzen has worked on several projects during his time with the Gardens, such as refurbishing the front entrance, the Veteran’s Memorial Garden, the island on Lake Lucerne and designing the Horizon Bank Labyrinth Garden.

“About a year and a half ago, I unrolled the plans for the maze garden during a meeting at John’s house,” Franzen said. “After he said it was great, we soon got started. Horizon Bank has been gracious enough to fund that garden, which helped move the plan forward.”

The maze is one of the newest additions to the Gardens.

“That was my favorite project because it’s more family-oriented,” Franzen said. “The goal of it is to entice families to walk through the Gardens and to have children run through the maze.”

As Franzen is truly a man of innovative ideas, he has several goals and plans for the Gardens.

“One of my goals is to use some of the artifacts we have from the 1930s and bring them to life,” Franzen expressed. “There’s a big terracotta statue and big concrete spheres, pillars and columns that I want to bring into more visibility as visitors come into the parking lot. Right now, they’re buried in weeds but to use those would show even more of all of the history that is here.”

Franzen enjoys seeing his plans come full circle and is excited about the progress the Gardens have made over the years.

“It’s pretty exciting to be a part of the team here,” Franzen said. “The exciting thing is that we’re going to start getting more recognition, not only in Michigan City, but also in the whole Midwest.”

He believes the success of the Gardens is attributed to the President, as well as the volunteers and the Board of Directors.

“That really boils down to John’s passion to keep everybody motivated,” Franzen said. “It’s easy to get discouraged if things aren’t going well, but from my view, things are always going great. I love when other board members are excited when I bring up a new project. It’s great to have that support.”


Educational Events

Educational Events

By Carly Kwiecien

As the 105-acres of Gardens is a place of pray, peace and preservation, it is also a place for families and children to gather for both educational and entertaining activities and events year-round.

This year, there several family events hosted by the Gardens, some of which include an Easter Egg Hunt, Reptile Romp, Bug Safari, Native American Heritage Day celebration, Butterfly Bonanza, Haunted Trail and Family Fun Fest and the Maple Sugar Time Demonstration.

Ron Taylor, communications director at Friendship Botanic Gardens, has worked in various capacities to put on these events.

“Usually beginning in the winter, I start researching and trying to book potential speakers and presenters from local zoos, universities, etc.,” Taylor said. “I also apply for grants to try and secure funding to pay the cost of supplies. In the days leading up to the event we usually have to bring out a few carloads of supplies and decorations.”

Rebecca York and Ron Taylor at the Moonlight in the Gardens Ball. York was recognized as the 2018 Volunteer of the Year at the reception.

All of these are tasks that must to be done in preparation for the events. However, Taylor has more fun collecting life specimens to put on display for events such as Bug Safari and Reptile Romp.

“For the Bug Safari, I usually head down to Otter Creek and dredge for dragonfly larvae and tiny shrimp-like organisms called scuds,” Taylor said. “If the water levels aren’t too high, I’ll try to wade into Trail Creek in the hopes of finding a giant crayfish.”

Taylor’s interest in nature began at a young age, and he began volunteering at events at the Gardens in the fall of 2014. This soon turned into a full-time position at the Gardens in the summer of 2015.

“I’ve always been fascinated by nature and science, so it was just a natural fit for me to help plan and organize the educational programs when one of the previous volunteers moved away,” Taylor said. “I love being able to share everything I find amazing and wonderful about nature with other people. When I was a kid, my dad and I would walk the Gardens looking for snakes and turtles and frogs, and it’s really a blast to be able to create programs where I can share that fascination and passion with other people in the same setting. It’s like reliving childhood.”

Taylor’s mother, Rebecca York, began volunteering with the Gardens shortly after Taylor began working there.

“He had asked me to cut out some construction paper leaves for a craft project that someone was going to do with the kids at the Gardens,” York said. “When he got home that night, I asked him about the craft project and he told me that the person never did the craft that I had prepped for. That's when I decided to take matters into my own hands and volunteered to help him with all the free education events.”

York does most of the shopping for the events after researching decorations and props needed for each one to help set the scene.

“I try to do as much ahead of time, so I have time and energy to enjoy the kids the day of the event,” York said.

York was recently recognized by Friendship Botanic Gardens President John Leinweber as Volunteer of the Year at the Gardens at the Moonlight in the Gardens Ball on June 16.

In her three years as an active volunteer, she has helped the Gardens expand and improve the educational events by introducing the new Annual Easter Egg Hunt and by helping with the development of the Reptile Romp, Bug Safari and Haunted Trails and Family Fall Fest. She has also been a major contributor to the long-standing Butterfly Bonanza, Native American Heritage Day celebration and Thanksgiving Turkey Walk. York donates a great amount of time, creativity and financial contributions to each event.

“I love hearing and seeing the kids enjoying the Gardens,” York said. “I want them to fall in love with the Gardens, so in the future, they will bring their children to enjoy the Gardens and maybe one day become volunteers or even board members themselves.”

Taylor, like York, believes that these events are important because of the impact they can have on children’s’ futures.

“People are always looking for new ways to connect with nature, and those experiences [at our events] can really inspire and enrich people’s lives,” Taylor said. “Just from my own experiences when I was a kid, I’ll never forget how awe-inspiring it was to look through a net full of mud I scooped out of a pond to see all these strange, writhing, aquatic insects bubbling up from the algae and muck. Whether someone is more captivated by the scientific minutiae of pollinators and insect locomotion or the just the stirring visual poetry of nature, those very different ways of exploring and seeing the world can converge in places like the Gardens.”

This duo has big plans for new events to implement in the future, as well as small changes to enhance the current events.

“As far as new events, I would love to have a family overnight campout type of event or day camp, a movie night in the Gardens and maybe have some mammal-themed events in addition to the insects and reptiles,” York said.

Taylor is interested in introducing late-night events for families.

“There’s an entirely different world of nocturnal life that emerges around dusk,” Taylor said. “You can see dozens of bats shooting through the sky above Lake Lucerne, hear great horned owls calling from the wilderness trail, or see and hear flying squirrels scurrying in the treetops. One of our

The team at the Reptile Romp in June 2018.

speakers at the Bug Safari last year explained to me how he attracts and studies moths by throwing a spotlight onto a sheet in the middle of the forest at night. That would be a really fascinating process to show people and there’s no telling what kind of giant, spectacular moths we could draw out of the forests.”

The next event is the Butterfly Bonanza on Sunday, July 29 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Come by the Gardens to watch monarch butterflies be released, make butterfly feeders and learn more about these creatures in all stages of life. This event is free admission.


Get to Know the Board of Directors: Alexander deHilster

Get to Know the Board of Directors: Alexander deHilster

By Carly Kwiecien

Socialite. Gardener. Event planner. Friend. Alexander deHilster, who has been on the Board of Directors for Friendship Botanic Gardens for three years, is all of these and much more.

Born in the Netherlands, deHilster first traveled to America 32 years ago. After two weeks of visiting, he changed his plane ticket to stay for another six months after falling in love with it.

“When I came to America, I lived in California: San Francisco, San Jose, L.A., Sonoma, then onto D.C., New Orleans before moving to Chicago 19 years ago,” deHilster said.

In Chicago is where he met his husband, Mike. In the recent years, the two purchased a house in the area. Although traveling is in his blood, deHilster and his husband have made Michiana Shores their home with their maltipoos Seymour Kibbles and Rufus de Cinco.

“Northwest Indiana is a hidden gem that nobody knows about,” deHilster said. “My husband and I just fell in love with the area after we learned about it. We do a lot here. We’re still getting our house together and traveling a lot, but there are great restaurants, art scene, people and the lake is amazing.”

While attending a local party, deHilster met a woman who was on the Board of Directors for the Gardens at the time.

“I didn’t know what the Gardens were then, so I asked questions, and before I knew it, I was on the Board,” deHilster said.

deHilster has been a creative event planner for 27 years and has shared his expertise among different companies over that time span. He has had his own company for six years, has worked for another one for seven and has currently been working as an Event Design Manager at Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Inc. for six years.

Although he spends a lot of time on the road traveling for work, deHilster is able to work from home most days, which allows him to be heavily involved as a Board Member for the Gardens. He demonstrates his event planning expertise at the Gardens by being an active participant on the Ball committee.

This year, deHilster put in several hours to turn his visions for the Moonlight in the Garden Ball fundraising gala into a reality.

Held at BlueChip Casino on June 16, the ballroom area in which dinner, dancing, bidding and paddle raising took place, deHilster created a garden atmosphere by projecting light images of trees onto each wall. Orchids were beautiful centerpieces on each table and a projector with a slideshow of images from the Gardens played on repeat throughout the evening to make guests feel as if they were in there.

He finds his role on the board to be a rewarding one, and relishes in the thanks he and other board members, volunteers and staff receive after an event.  

“The best part of planning and attending events at the Gardens is getting the thank-you from all of the attendees afterwards. I love when they exit and just say, ‘This was amazing, thank you for having this.’ That makes it all worth it,” deHilster said.

Although he loves when people attend and enjoy Garden events, he still hopes to make others in the area more familiar with the Gardens and encourages them to visit.

“The transformation the Gardens have taken in the past three years has been amazing, but not everyone in the area knows about it. I’m still trying to make it known publicly,” deHilster said. “I used to bring it up all the time when I met new people and most people still haven’t heard of it. It’s a little, hidden gem and it’s amazing how many people love it so much once they see it,” deHilster said.

As the Gardens are continually growing, deHilster is excited to see what other changes it will encounter in the next decade.

“I love the variety of the Gardens and love the modernization of the new ones,” deHilster said. “We now have a Labyrinth Garden and that is something we really needed. At some point, we should get a center, which can be used for research, for galas, other events or local business meetings. It’d also be great to be able to host weddings in the Gardens year-round. I think it’s possible,” deHilster said.  


Relax, Unwind with Yoga in the Garden this Summer

Relax, Unwind with Yoga in the Garden this Summer

Carly Kwiecien

Summertime is here, folks, which means it’s the season to relish in moments of relaxation and serenity. Come stretch away the worries of the day and welcome nature’s energy into your body, mind, and spirit.

Yoga instructors April Fallon and Page Rumer are hosting Yoga in the Garden this summer on the grounds of Friendship Botanic Gardens. Don’t worry – there’s still time to find your yoga mat – no need to practice beforehand! Students can unroll mats in the grass or on a platform in an area of the Gardens that overlooks a small lake, flora and fauna.  

Fallon has been practicing yoga for over 15 years and began teaching two years ago after completing a 200-hour teacher training immersion at Asheville Yoga Center in North Carolina. “It was a 3-week intensive in which studies and practices filled every day! It was an amazing experience,” she said.   

Yoga, an ascetic and spiritual discipline, includes elements of breath control, meditation and postures, and is a practice that connects both a state of mind and body. It is a process of self-discovery and leads to realization of oneself; it combines the essentials of balance, breathing techniques and flexibility.

“My favorite aspect of yoga is the way that I feel after practicing or teaching yoga! [I love the] vital energy and yet the sweet peace surrounding me. [When I do yoga], my body is alive, awake, mindful, and healthy. My spirit is lifted, and I see the good in folks – even challenging days are brighter,” Fallon said.

Yoga techniques allow for self-awareness, encourages self-care and can lead to the fostering of positive energy. This practice teaches us how important it is to allot even a mere 20 minutes each day just to bettering ourselves and takes us away from the presence of technology and the chaos one might face from day to day.

These classes are available to individuals at all levels in their spiritual and physical journey. “I've recently witnessed students who had never taken a class, and over several months of attending an all levels class they become remarkably stronger, and more importantly, confident in their strength,” Fallon said. “Personally, yoga has helped me navigate some very rough times. It has also given me clear vision during the best of times.”

It is an effective way to destress and focus on the disorganization one’s brain might be encountering; yoga’s long-term effects will improve both the mind and body in more than one way.

“Yoga teaches balance and conscious awareness throughout the best and worst life can dish out,” Fallon explained. “Balance and peace are critical to life in the 21st century.”

Yoga in the Garden classes with April are available Thursday mornings from June 7 to July 26 from 9-10 a.m. Classes with Page are on Sundays from June 3 to July 29 from 10-11 a.m. Each class offered is available for all levels. Enjoy a class surrounded by forest green shrubbery, plants and grass, as well as beautiful hues of flowers. Each class costs $10 (cash only). Instructors are paid directly. There is no entrance fee to the Gardens. Be sure to bring your own mat!

To begin, meet at the entrance cabin in the parking lot ten minutes before to be taken to the class’ designated location. After class, feel free to take a hike in one of the Garden’s many walking or hiking trails that wind throughout the entire Garden’s landscape.   

Friendship Botanic Gardens: Your Summer Destination is only Minutes Away

Friendship Botanic Gardens: Your Summer Destination is only Minutes Away

Carly Kwiecien

Tis the season of endless days and nights for making memories with friends and family! Summer is now in full swing, which means it’s time to bring out the sunglasses, bug spray, and sun tan lotion and head outdoors!  

Friendship Gardens is the place to be this summer. No matter your hobbies, we have activities for both children and adults alike. Here, one can hike, take all-levels yoga classes, attend education events and learn about bugs, butterflies, and more, as well as attend some of our bigger events such as the Gatsby in the Gardens, Opera in the Gardens and Bacchus & Beer Fest.

If interested in taking the children out for a day of educational and entertaining activities, head out to the Gardens on Sunday, June 24, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. for a Bug Safari! This will be the perfect afternoon to explore several diverse creepy crawlies and their lives in the natural habitats of the 105 acres of the Gardens. Families can discover a hidden world of marvelous creatures living among us. Feel free to bring nets and magnifying glasses to get a better view of the tiny insects that play crucial roles in our day-to-day lives. There will be hands-on crafts and other science-related activities available.

Each Sunday morning from 10:00-11:00 a.m. and Thursday mornings from 9:00-10:00 a.m., all levels-yoga courses will be taught in the Gardens by certified yoga instructors, April Fallon and Page Rumer. Yoga combines breathing techniques with physical flexibility and includes other elements such as meditation and postures. Find your peace and balance by unplugging for an hour each week for only $10 per class (cash only). The entrance fee to the Gardens is included in that price. An 8-class pass is available for April’s classes at the small price of $72. These classes will be available from June 3 – July 29.

Interested in learning more about Indigenous Peoples’ traditions and lifestyles? Come celebrate the cultures of the Native Peoples of the region on National American Heritage Day on Sunday, July 8, from 12:00-4:00 p.m. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about their gardening, trapping, cooking and crafting techniques. There will be demonstrations, exhibits, crafts and open-fire cooking. Learn about the rich legacy of Native American Heritage and come see the river banks and valleys where the Potawatomi hunted and fished hundreds of years ago. This event is free admission.

For a different change of pace, Friendship Gardens offer an evening of musical entertainment featuring local artist JohnnyV at the Taste and Tribute Concert on Friday, July 13, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. He is a singer/songwriter that offers music from genres such as blues, folk and Americana that is sure to keep the audience’s attention! He has been singing all across the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana region for over four decades. JohnnyV tributes Neil Young and the Classics, covering their greatest range of hits. Join us for an evening of music, beer, food and wine. Food will be offered from Taste of Michigan City’s Up N Smoke Food Truck. Tickets will be on sale at the door during the day of the event. Gates open at 6:00 and music starts at 7:00!

One of our biggest events of the summer is our annual Gatsby in the Gardens, which takes place on Saturday, July 28, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Here, visitors have the option to dress in 1920’s apparel and enjoy cocktails, dance or play lawn games while listening to live jazz music. Sample drinks such as BA to Barcelona, which includes sloe gin, tonic water, lemon and Miro extra ecco or Lashed to Mast, which includes rum, falernum and a hint of lime. Tickets are on sale via Eventbrite, our Facebook event page and may be available for purchase the day of the event. Individuals 21+ welcome.

At our Butterfly Bonanza event on Sunday, July 29 from 2:00-4:00 p.m., visitors can take advantage of free admission to the Gardens and learn more about these wonderful creatures in all stages of life. Monarch butterflies will be released, and participants will be able to construct their own butterfly feeders!

In August two of the Gardens’ biggest events of the summer take place and bring the season to a close as it winds down. On Sunday, August 5, from 3:00-6:00 p.m., join us for an afternoon of a captivating performance at our annual Opera in the Gardens event! Saunter around the gardens with friends and enjoy beverages from 3:00-4:00 right before the concert begins. Tickets are on sale on our website but are also available at the door day of the event.

Spend a few hours of your Saturday, August 18, at the Gardens for our annual Bacchus & Beer Fest! From 5:00-9:00 p.m. Enjoy sampling beverages from 15 local breweries and wineries. Up ‘N Smoke will be serving their famous barbecue, too. Live entertainment throughout the evening will feature Matt Gabriel and John Vermilye. Join us for an evening of beer, wine, food and music among the natural beauty of the Gardens. Tickets are on sale via Eventbrite, our Facebook page or at the door on the day of the event. This is a 21+ event.

We have events (that are not listed here) but are still available all the way through December. To keep up to date on our year-round events, check out our “Upcoming Events” page on our website. Stop by the Gardens Wednesday – Sunday from 10:00-6:00 p.m. for three miles of hiking trails, benches for relaxation, fishing along Trail Creek and more.


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.), Opera 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

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.