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Garden Photo of the Day

A Horticultural Playground on Hermit’s Lake

By: Kim Charles

Wayne Gruber, a horticulturist for over 35 years, showcases his home that sits on an acre of rolling hills overlooking Hermit's Lake, a private 33-acre lake in Crowne Point, Indiana.

"My various garden settings are created for both beauty and purpose.

The shade garden is used for testing the shade tolerance of newer plant varieties as well as traditional shade plants. The lakeside garden is filled with plants that are both beautiful and useful for erosion control. The multiple sun gardens are filled with brightly colored annuals and some of the newest perennials coming to the market. The 40’ stream garden serves as a focal point for a private outdoor room, that is enjoyed from both inside and outside the home. A custom built mirrored garage door reflects the garden views of the stream and lake.  Throughout the yard are specimen trees carefully placed to enhance the landscape views. A large number of windows in the home, allow for the outdoor landscape rooms to become an extension of the indoors. This property ultimately reflects my adoration for new plants, innovative outdoor spaces and the love of Horticulture!"

Photographs by Scott Johnsen — Crowne Point, Indiana

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  1. wayneagruber 09/27/2017

    A special thanks to Scott Johnsen, Crown Point, IN for sharing your creative artistry through photographs of the garden! Also, a thanks to Stephanie Cohen for sharing your vast Horticulture knowledge and connections. And to my family & friends who share & support my extreme journey in gardening as a career and hobby...I am grateful!

  2. frankgreenhalgh 09/27/2017

    Hello there Wayne - My word you must have been up very early indeed to make your comments 2 hours ago! Congratulations on utilising your considerable horticultural skills to develop such interesting and varied gardens in an absolutely wonderful setting. It is all great, but the stream garden particularly attracted my attention. The brick/rock work on your house is also very appealing. If I had your property I couldn't resist wandering down to the lakeside garden and sitting on the bank of the lake with a fishing line in the water - what a great space to solve the problems of the world! Your mirrored garage door is very innovative, unique and effective. I have a mirror near my gazebo, and it drives some of the Aussie native birds crazy - wanting to mate with their image! Thanks for the post and virtual tour. Cheers from Oz

      1. User avater
        treasuresmom 09/27/2017

        Woah there! What is that Frank?

        1. frankgreenhalgh 09/27/2017

          Mirror at the back; possum art on the pine sleeper.

      2. user-4691082 09/27/2017

        Hi Frankie! I love the reflection in the mirror of a porch? Gazebo? I've never thought about possums being art!

        1. frankgreenhalgh 09/27/2017

          Greetings Rhonda - I like the 'Frankie' bit - I also get that sometimes here. My grammar was appalling - it should have read, a possum made out of tin i.e. garden art. In relation to a horticulturalist, my take is somebody who cultivates plants such as vegetables, fruit trees (e.g. an orchardist), flowers or ornamental plants (e.g. a nursery person). So it covers a very wide area, and you too are a horticulturalist through your gardening activities. We tend to call somebody growing vines commercially a viticulturalist. Hope you are having a nice fall. Cheers, Francis

      3. user-6536305 09/27/2017

        Very effective ways of using mirrors Frank. Like the decoration on fence. Thanks for sharing.

    1. wayneagruber 09/28/2017

      Thank you for your compliments and for sharing your story. The mirrored door also drives the midwest birds insane. Keep gardening!

  3. sandyprowse 09/27/2017


  4. DeeinDe 09/27/2017

    What a beautiful setting! Is the patio separate from the house and down by the lake? I would never get anything done in the garden with that lake in front of me.

  5. Dvngardener 09/27/2017

    I love how you have stylized the color in different parts of your garden, it really pops, and is an effective and bold used of color. Not often seen. I love it!

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 09/27/2017

    I would never get anything done there! I would sit for hours with coffee and/or wine and maybe a book? Amazing!

  7. anabowers 09/27/2017

    What a wonderful piece of land you have to practice your skills! Thanks so much for sharing your masterpiece with us. It is amazing.

  8. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 09/27/2017

    Certainly looks like you have an idyllic property situation, Wayne...the natural beauty of the lake is a wonderful starting point to inspire an addicted gardener. Since you describe yourself as a dedicated horticulturist, do you have a business that uses your knowledge and talents or are you, perhaps, a college professor? Even though you say you trial new plants, you seem to incorporate them beautifully into your existing garden beds and everything has a hugely pleasing flow. Your water's edge planting must be a beacon of interest to other lake residents...I love the large pops of chartreuse and am curious what the trees are that are so colorful?

    1. wayneagruber 09/28/2017

      Thank you for all your kind words! I have been in the horticulture industry (specifically garden center) for over 32 years. During this time I have been purchasing, selling and designing with plants. I am exposed to new plant varieties every year and love to try them. Nonetheless, I have one of the largest compost piles from unsuccessful plantings! You can't be afraid to try new plants...just do them on at a time...you will certainly find hundreds of winners! I believe the tree you are referring to is a Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Gold Rush'...that's a Gold Rush Dawn Redwood hardy to zone 5.

  9. tennisluv 09/27/2017


  10. peggyjomccrackensheets 09/27/2017

    Wayne, just amazing! I'm in awe! And jealous. Why aren't there holes in the leaves of your cannas? Everything is perfect! I'll be in Huntington this weekend and looking forward to seeing some Indiana beauty.

    1. wayneagruber 09/28/2017

      Thanks for your comments. There are holes in the cannas...you just missed them. I use very few pesticides. I believe in accepting a minimal amount of plant damage and my father always said...."everybodies got to eat"....so just plant a few extras!

      1. peggyjomccrackensheets 09/28/2017

        I should show you my leaves as they're proof of no pesticides for sure and really no harm to the plant. I have mine next to my banana, but their leaves must not be as tasty since it's pristine.

  11. chelleisdiggin 09/27/2017

    Wow, Wayne! What a beautiful setting. I hope you get to spend lots of time in your gardens. I have to ask about the acorns in the stream bed. It is gorgeous, but do you spend much time clearing it out to keep the stream flowing? I planted just a bit of lovely blue carex in my 'rain garden' (that's code for swampy area from the sump pump outlet) and it's turned into a thug, taking over almost everything!
    Good gardening!

    1. wayneagruber 09/28/2017

      Unfortunately I work in the yard more than I take time to enjoy it...however, I love working in the yard so I'm blessed. I usually only clean the stream out 1 time per week for about 3 months out of the year. I actually enjoy walking in it while I clean, rearrange rocks, connecting with nature...it takes about 15-20 minutes. It's quality time away from technology and the crazy, busy world!

      1. chelleisdiggin 09/28/2017

        I completely agree about quality time in the stream! We had a koi pond at our last house and I never regretted one moment I spent clearing out spent water lilies or even spraying off the dirty filter medium. I loved being in the pond with the fish and having them bump into my legs and take a little "taste" of the algae that would collect on my legs.

  12. Maggieat11 09/27/2017

    What a fabulous property and wonderful plants to enhance it. It looks like the perfect place for plantaholics to congregate and enjoy several days of exploration/study/comaraderie!

  13. normafloressanchez 09/27/2017

    Amazing! I can't choose what section I loved the most. It has a wonderful layout. From every view, you can appreciate the love and hard work that went into creating such a beautiful garden.

  14. mjensen 09/27/2017

    wow beautiful

  15. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 09/27/2017

    I'm stunned. What magical property filled with botanical treasures. The mirrored garage door is very cool.

  16. Sheila_Schultz 09/27/2017

    Gorgeous property Wayne, you have your own botanic wonderland! The stream garden is particularly beautiful and quietly soothing. I'm curious about the grass amid the orange impatiens. What variety is it? I love the way the rich colors of the canna continue into that impatien bed, It's stunning in it's simplicity!

    1. wayneagruber 09/28/2017

      Thanks for your comments. The grass is an annual grass in our area called Vertigo Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum). I start with a 1 gallon plant (about $10 retail) and plant it about May 15. The picture was taken about August 15 and it had grown to 3-4' tall. It will mature to about 5-6' tall before being killed by a frost in October. I dig out the dead grass in late fall and plant a new one in the Spring...it's a great bargain for $10!

      1. Sheila_Schultz 09/28/2017

        Vertigo is a beauty. I haven't seen that variety in Denver, but I have used others in containers and in the ground over the years. I love it's intensity of color.

  17. BTucker9675 09/27/2017

    Stunning! Love your description of being on an "extreme journey" of gardening... I used to describe myself as a full-contact gardener to explain my constant cuts, scrapes, bruises, etc.!

  18. VikkiVA 09/27/2017

    You have everything Wayne. I really like the different levels of structure, i.e. the terraces. You have masterfully used plants and their colors to frame your landscape. i was planting two standard Lime Light Hydrangea yesterday in the rain so I can truly appreciate the words "extreme journey in gardening." Vikki in VA

  19. user-4691082 09/27/2017

    Wow, Wayne. What, exactly, is a horticulturist? You have created quite a paradise there. What zone are you? That banana tree is so cool. I'm in 6b and I don't think they are hardy here.😔 Your garage doors are amazing. Sometimes I look at all of the money I've spent, and I know if I ever sell this place, the price would never reflect it. But, what a joy it has been!

    1. wayneagruber 09/28/2017

      I'm in zone 5 so the banana is not hardy in our area. After it gets hit by a light frost I cut it back to 12" tall and overwinter it in a 40 degree garage for the winter. In May after any danger of frost, I put the pot outside and it regrows from the center. I really like to design with the entire palette of plants...trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and tropicals! I probably have more invested in my garden than my house. Nonetheless, it also brings me great joy to garden and even more joy to share it with others!

  20. Schatzi 09/27/2017

    Gorgeous! I especially love the waterfall and stream. and the rocks, and the stonework, and...

  21. user-6536305 09/27/2017

    Stunning! I especially love the color of your outdoor furniture and glass doors. Thanks for sharing your horticultural achievement! What is the name of the black grass like plants amount the red annual on the second photo please?

    1. wayneagruber 09/28/2017

      Thanks for your comments. The grass is an annual grass in our area called Vertigo Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum). I start with a 1 gallon plant (about $10 retail) and plant it about May 15. The picture was taken about August 15 and it had grown to 3-4' tall. It will mature to about 5-6' tall before being killed by a frost in October. I dig out the dead grass in late fall and plant a new one in the Spring...it's a great bargain for $10!

  22. noradowsett 09/27/2017

    So very beautiful! What a relaxing paradise! I am also interested to know what zone you are in and whether you need to bring in the banana tree.

    1. wayneagruber 09/28/2017

      I'm in zone 5 so the banana is not hardy in our area. After it gets hit by a light frost I cut it back to 12" tall and overwinter it in a 40 degree garage for the winter. In May after any danger of frost, I put the pot outside and it regrows from the center.

  23. pattichorba 09/27/2017

    Wayne, your property looks spectacular as always! Dave and I truly enjoy spending time there!

  24. LaurelEm 09/27/2017

    Spectacular. Your lot is just so Spectacular for your gardening art!

  25. wayneagruber 09/28/2017

    I am overwhelmed by your compliments...thanks! I'm always gardening in the yard and seldom take time to "smell the roses". It's times when I share the garden that I realize I'm blessed to be gifted with a passion that is both my career and hobby.

  26. user-7008735 09/28/2017

    What a glorious setting and what great use you have made of it, Wayne! The mirrored garage is such a great idea -- at least with the reflections you are able to achieve in your beautiful garden.

  27. Cenepk10 09/30/2017

    Good Ness, Wayne. Those mirrored doors, that home, that view, those gardens... I'm talking whole package fabulous... Just super stunning & groomed to perfection. What a reason to go to Indiana ! ( Kidding- I won't turn up... even though I'd love to ). So delighted you shared this with us. Truly a life's work & what a fabulous job you have done !!! Is that variegated iris popping out of the pond ?

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