Garden Lifestyle

On the Road and Back–Springtime in Indianapolis

It is a challenge to be a traveling gardener--especially in the spring! Here are two gardens not to miss if you are in the Indy area.

Kitchen garden at the Indianpolis Museum of Art. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

Well, here I am again—it is springtime and this gardener is traveling again—from coast to coast. I think the term “traveling gardener” is an oxymoron. I know that it is challenging to be visiting all of these wonderful gardens bursting out all over and back at home, mine awaits my attention. Actually my garden is not really waiting for me—it too—is growing in leaps and bounds. Especially with all the rain that we have been having.

The rain has traveled with me; it seems that everywhere I have gone it has been raining. It poured for days when I was in California and it was cold and grey from Santa Cruz down to San Diego. I came home and it was the same weather here even though it was 3,000 miles away and much farther north. I wanted to get into the garden, however it was too wet. Since I was home for about a week before heading off to Indiana, I waited impatiently for some dry days. I did manage to turn over a small area of the garden with my potato fork so that I was able to plant some salad greens the day before I departed for Indianapolis.

I went there to do a few presentations. The first one was at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and my topic was “Kitchen Garden Renaissance”. Let me tell you that the IMA is not just a museum with a great collection of art… they have over 150 acres of gardens and numerous historic buildings! I arrived in time to have lunch in their café Nourish and get a tour of some of the garden highlights with Mark Zelonis, who is the Ruth Lilly Deputy Director of Environmental & Historic Preservation.  We visited the greenhouses, gardens, the library, walked a bit on some trails, and parked in the underground parking area that has a green roof complete with gardens, trees and walkways above.

I enjoyed the kitchen garden which has been refurbished and is still a work in progress and was able to mention it in my program. We had a good turnout with members of the Horticulture Society, Master Gardeners, Herb Society members, as well as other gardeners from amateur to experienced; all came to hear about Kitchen Gardens. Allow a whole day if you are planning a trip to the IMA since there is so much to see and do.

The next day I was picked up by Diane Quinn, a member of the Herb Society of Central Indiana, who was my chauffeur, guide and companion for the day. We headed for the Indiana Medical History Museum, which is off the beaten track, yet well worth the effort to find. We were greeted by Dr. Kathleen Hull, who gave us an in-depth tour of the gardens and building.The historic museum is housed in the Old Pathology Building of Central State Hospital, dedicated in 1896 and is listed as an official project of “Save America’s Treasures” by the national Trust for Historic Preservation. The museum was absolutely fascinating with a teaching classroom, laboratories, library, morgue, and more, with original furniture, equipment, tools, microscopes, shelves of bottles and jars of medicines and skeletons in the closet. 

The Medicinal Plant Garden was added to the grounds in 2003 and was designed, installed and maintained by Purdue Master Gardeners of Marion County. There are numerous beds spreading around the building with medicinal plants from perennials, bulbs, rhizomes to shrubs, vines and trees. There is informative signage describing the plants and how they have been used medicinally. Although it was early spring in their zone 5 garden, many plants had emerged and were green and growing. Dr. Hull gave me copy of Guide to the Medicinal Plant Garden, which is an informative, well-researched reference manual with color photos of the plant specimens. This is another garden in the Indianapolis region not to be missed.

Our garden visit ended before the rain started and we headed for lunch to R bistro, where Regina Mehallick is executive chef and owner of this neighborhood restaurant. She is a member of the slow food movement and is committed to using local and sustainable foodstuffs and has an herb garden outside the restaurant. Though the menu was limited, she featured seasonal foods and I had a warming winter soup of parsnips and apples followed by a tasty beet and feta salad garnished with walnuts on a bed of greens with an herb vinaigrette. My companions also enjoyed their lunch choices.

We headed out in the rain to our afternoon destination, Ritz Charles, where we joined a huge group of herbies who were setting up for the next day’s annual herb event. Vendors and members were unloading trucks and cars and setting up tables full of fresh herb plants and herbal products and wares of every description. I have worked with this group before and the members of the Central Indiana Unit of the Herb Society of America are quite an industrious and enthusiastic group of herb lovers and serious gardeners. They shopped and prepped and cooked in order to help me get ready for my programs.

The next day, I arrived early with Janell Foust, a new acquaintance and the other speaker, and there was already much hustle and bustle attending to last minute details and set up. This group pays attention to detail from wonderful herbal party favors, bags to take our herbal booty home, silent auction items, door prizes, and they even publish their own herb of the year booklet. They attract a great group—this year they had 175 participants. I showed my Horseradish, Herb of the Year 2011 power point first and then I did a cooking demonstration featuring this pungent root in four recipes. Thanks to the help of many members, there were samples of all the recipes for the audience to taste. It was a great day had by all—and I left feeling like I had a whole passle of new friends—those Indy herbies sure are a fun, hardworking bunch! Be sure to check out their Web site for future events

It is the plants and the gardening that connect us.            

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