Stop and smell the roses at Friendship Botanic Gardens

Stop and smell the roses at Friendship Botanic Gardens

The Friendship Botanic Gardens have a rich and storied history. The garden first began in 1934, originally known as the International Friendship Botanic Gardens. It was given by Dr. Frank Warren from Michigan City, Ind. to the Stauffer brothers, who turned the gardens into the beginning of what it is today. The gardens were debuted in time for Chicago’s World Fair, also known as the Century of Progress Exposition, where the Stauffer brothers displayed the idea of having an international friendship garden. Their display in the world fair involved a 32 page booklet listing “favorite flowers” from other countries. This was the result of reaching out to many prominent world leaders, including kings and queens, sultans, etc. In the infancy of the Friendship Botanic Gardens, these prominent world leaders would send over personal gardeners to cultivate their individual gardens. This was meant to symbolize friendship and peace. Among these individuals are King George VI of Britain, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini, who sent delegates to tend the Italian and German gardens. Many of these gardens can still be seen today. Another must see is the Persian Rose Garden sent from what is now Iran. 

Friendship Botanic Gardens

Friendship Botanic Gardens 26 Photos
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New additions to the ethnic gardens can also be found, such as the African American Garden and the Lithuanian Garden. There is an exciting possibility to add a new Japanese garden as well, which will feature a water component and incorporate raked pebbles, a common practice in Japan. Today, the Friendship Gardens have expanded past having ethnic gardens alone, and now visitors can enjoy the Cancer Survivor Garden, the Children’s Garden, the Health and Wellness Garden, and the Junior Diabetes Garden. These are perfect places for prayer, reflection, exercise, or simply enjoying your surroundings.

Outside of the horticultural aspect of the Friendship Botanic Gardens, there is something for everyone. They have a beautiful pavilion that hosts a myriad of events including receptions, concerts, and much more. Weddings are also typically held in the Symphony Gardens, which features an elegant reflection pool with fountains making it the perfect place to have your ceremony. There is so much to do on this incredible piece of property. Some amenities of the Gardens include four miles of scenic walking trails that go around the entire park, and be sure to check out Trail Creek where those who enjoy fishing can catch salmon, steelhead, and trout. There is also an outdoor workout area donated by the Health Care Foundation of La Porte. In addition, the ArcelorMittal Children’s Garden is an excellent place to bring your little one. The state of the art playground is one of the most popular attractions. Children can enjoy the slides, climbing up the towers, or trekking over the bridge. The Children’s Garden is the perfect resource for teaching young people to appreciate nature while also helping with personal development and happiness. 

“This is a garden of smiles," President of the Friendship Botanic Gardens John Leinweber said. “Everyone's happy here. You can be here for an hour for two hours. Get away from all the stuff that we're doing. It's peaceful. It's beautiful. It's somewhere that you can sit down and think for a while and get to leave your phone at home.”

Much of what the Friendship Botanic Gardens is today has been restored since the Stouffer brothers passed away. The Gardens have seen an exponential increase in traffic, going from 3,000 to nearly 80,000 people visiting this year. Through generous donations and the incredible work of the staff, people who visit the Gardens can enjoy the Trail of Lights, which is a scenic trail that has golden globe-style light posts along the sides, inspired by the streets of Vienna. The trail is also asphalted so the parks are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, meaning everyone can appreciate what the Gardens have to offer. Another exciting renovation in the works includes building a larger visitor center.

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