Sometimes, places become known for a certain something through careful planning and sheer force of will; other times, it occurs simply by accident or luck. The Herb Ladies of Gahanna, Ohio, wanted the city to have something to call its own. In northern Indiana, six different communities, 36 businesses and 200 volunteers work to make the quilt gardens grow every year. Victoria, British Columbia, has such a perfect climate for year-round gardening that the city almost couldn’t help but become known as the City of Gardens. And Franconia Notch in New Hampshire blooms in a tsunami of wild lupine every June.
These five cities have become known far and wide for their fabulous gardens.
Franconia Notch, New Hampshire
Every June, the Franconia Notch region of New Hampshire becomes a garden planted only by Mother Nature as purple lupines flood the fields. Lupine buds whirl up the stalk, forming a sort of wildflower spike. Although they come in a rainbow of hues, the vast majority in Franconia and Sugar Hill are a deep, royal purple.
Lupines are in full bloom throughout June, the month that marks Franconia Notch’s annual Celebration of Lupines festival, which will mark its 24th year in 2017. By nature, the wildflowers are wild and sprout up along highways and byways, back roads and off roads, so one of the best ways to take them in is during a scenic drive. The Franconia Notch Regional Chamber of Commerce offers a lupine map showing where to find fields of the long-lasting blooms. Two of the largest are in Sugar Hill, where visitors can also stop by Polly’s Pancake Parlor — a restaurant, gift shop and bakery in an 1830 carriage house. Another is next to Sugar Hill Sampler, a sprawling gift shop and museum housed in a 200-year-old barn where visitors can buy handmade jewelry, candles, soaps and carved wood bowls.
Guests can enjoy a free Inspirational Walk on a mowed path through the lupine fields with poetry readings along the way or take in the lupines during a wagon ride. One weekend features an open-air market and festival with vendors, artisans, businesses, live music, demonstrations and more.
Northern Indiana Amish Country
The quilt gardens of northern Indiana’s Amish Country will celebrate their 10th anniversary next year, and the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau will celebrate with special activities, such as photo scavenger hunts and artwork at each garden, said Sonya Nash, director of group and experiential sales.
Since planting the first two quilt gardens in 2007, the project has grown to include 19 gardens at sites along the 90-mile Heritage Trail, a scenic loop that winds through six cities and towns in the heart of northern Indiana’s Amish Country.
The gardens are no small undertaking. Sites must apply to participate and agree to plant the gardens by May 30 and maintain them until October 1. Every year, a review group identifies about 70 patterns from a database of 2,000, some dating back to the 1800s, for the sites to choose from, said Nash, who recently placed an order for 150,000 plants for next year’s gardens.
The CVB offers step-on guides for groups that want to see the gardens as well as other sites, such as the Amish farmer who raises camels or the Amish coffin-maker. Das Dutchman Essenhaus, home to the largest quilt garden, has eight shops, Indiana’s largest restaurant and a hotel that features Amish-made furniture and quilts. Amish Acres in Nappanee is a heritage resort with a historic 1800s farmstead, a round-barn theater and a restaurant.