The great garden getaway 

By Miranda Miller 

IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN THE ENVY OF YOUR workplace because you received a big, bright bouquet of roses, daisies or lilies, you know flowers have the power to cheer us up, provide comfort and relieve anxiety. From serene scenery to plant sales and horticultural tips, your region’s botanical garden can keep you in constant supply this spring. Here are three that are worth the drive wherever you live.    

Wellfield Botanic Gardens 

Elkhart 

Half an hour from Goshen and South Bend, you’ll find an English cottage garden and, beginning in May, a Japanese-inspired island garden among 36 acres of annuals, perennials, pollinators and ponds. After winding your way around Wellfield’s map, you might think its name stems from the fact botanist Luther Burbank once said flowers “are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” In actuality, the garden, founded in 2005, camouflages wells that have provided most of Elkhart’s drinking water since the mid-1800s. 

The garden offers free admission to Elkhart residents every Tuesday from April through October. Other visitors, nearly 9,000 of whom have followed Wellfield on Facebook, get in for $8 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Children ages 3-12 are $4; children under 3 are free. 

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory 

Fort Wayne

With over 8,000 Facebook likes and a 4.7 rating out of 1,132 Google reviews, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory has become one of the most popular gardens in Indiana due to its tropical, desert and seasonal greenhouses, outdoor gardens, koi pond, butterfly tent (open April 18 to July 5) and Italian honeybee exhibit, where visitors can watch bees clean the hive, feed the children and cater to the queen.  

The first Thursday of every month, admission drops from $5 to $1 between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., giving the 9-to-5 crowd an inexpensive place to unwind after work, take a class and make a craft. Mother’s Day weekend, the conservatory will host a plant sale featuring over 700 kinds of plants at McMillen Community Center, and moms get free admission to the garden on Sunday. 

Hilltop Garden and Nature Center at IU 

Bloomington

An article about gardens would be remiss without sending you to Bloomington, where Indiana University biology professor Barbara Shalucha started Hilltop Garden and Nature Center on campus in 1948. Not surprisingly, the garden aims to teach. For example, the pollinator garden displays plants that attract animals, birds, bees and other insects that will transfer pollen from one part of a plant to another or one plant to another. The shade garden exhibits plants that can thrive in shady areas. The urban garden, sown by a Bloomington High School student in 2012, teaches visitors how to grow plants in containers and raised beds if they have poor soil or lack space.   

For 11 years, Hilltop volunteers have distributed free plant-growing kits containing a growing tray, soil, instructions, and seeds to grow lettuce, kale and peas to local teachers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, hoping they’ll teach students about plants, biology and nutrition. In 2019, Hilltop reached 145 classrooms in 37 schools. The garden chose Martin Luther King Day because he was dedicated to service, Indiana Daily Student reported. 

Hilltop is only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, but it does offer occasional evening classes such as “Composting: Recycling and Reusing in Your Garden.” Classes are generally $15 for Bloomington residents and $17 for non-residents.