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Column #19

Quilt Gardens

Kate Based on a Flower Basket quilt in the Ruthmere Museum's collection, the quilt garden on the museum grounds “is filled with sweet-scented, colorful flowers."


AwawaArtist Jeff Stillson has created a 15-foot by15-foot “Trapunto and Appliqué” mural that adorns the front of the museum building. The painting is based on an original quilt that is part of the museum's collection.


AwawaAt Meadow Brook Farm in Goshen, the Quilt Tour's only crop garden recreates the Grandmother’s Fan pattern.

A few years ago, the staff of the Elkhart (Indiana) County Convention & Visitors Bureau (ECCVB) was thinking about ways to increase tourism. Elkhart County is in the heart of what has come to be known as “Amish Country.” It practically goes without saying that the area is home to many fine quilters, as well as folks who know their way around a garden.

In one of those “ah ha!” moments, someone came up with the happy idea to combine the two activities and feature both quilting and gardens as a selling point for the area. With that, the now-annual “Quilt Gardens Tour” was born.

Following a successful pilot phase in 2007, the tour officially began on Memorial Day 2008. The first tour featured 12 juried, large-scale quilt-patterned gardens and eleven outdoor murals on display in the communities of Bristol, Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, Shipshewana, and Wakarusa, Indiana.

The gardens ranged in size from 800 to 2,400 square feet, and each depicted different quilt patterns using nearly 60,000 multicolored annual flowers. The original quilt murals—the largest being 20 feet by 20 feet—were painted on the exteriors of buildings by local artists in all seven communities.

The inaugural effort was so well received that in 2009, the program was expanded to include 27 local business partners, 16 official gardens with 80,000 annuals, and 16 hand-painted quilt art murals at 26 sites throughout the county. Plans are already underway for the 2010 tour, which promises a different array of garden patterns and murals.

The tour always runs from Memorial Day through October 1, and its suggested starting point is the Elkhart County Visitors Center in Elkhart. The Visitors Center features a quilt mural as well as a beautiful collection of 30 contemporary quilts made by local artists and displayed throughout the building.

Marketing for the program includes wonderful descriptions of the quilt patterns featured and the plants used to render the designs. For example, the Grandmother’s Fan Agri-garden (the tour’s only crop garden) at Meadow Brook Farm in Goshen “features alfalfa, buckwheat, corn, soybeans and sunflowers, each representing the blades of a fan. It relies heavily on texture to convey the quilt pattern. Varying heights and habits of the crops make it an interesting ‘test’ garden. ‘Forever Red’ geraniums make up the handle of the fan and are planted along the fence to add color and interest. The Grandmother’s Fan was among the favorite quilt patterns used by the owner’s great-grandmother.”

The Ruthmere Museum in Elkhart is housed in a mansion built by Albert and Elizabeth Beardsley in the early 1900s. Based on a Flower Basket quilt in the Ruthmere collection, the quilt garden there “is filled with sweet-scented, colorful flowers. The basket of the pattern is made up of White Easter Bonnet Sweet Alyssum. This honey-scented annual begins in early spring, continuing through early fall. It’s an ideal border, staying tidy throughout the growing season. The ‘flowers’ that make up the pattern—Blue Danube Ageratum, Telstar Crimson Dianthus, and Safari Yellow Marigolds—display a spectacular show of color. New Look Dusty Miller beautifully sets a perfect stage for this basket of beauties.”

The murals are no less intriguing. At the Elkhart County Historical Museum in Bristol, for instance, artist Jeff Stillson has created a 15-foot by 15-foot “Trapunto and Appliqué” mural that adorns the front of the museum building. The painting is based on an original quilt, designed between 1850 and 1870 by an unknown quilter, which is part of the museum’s permanent collection.

The ECCVB touts the garden tour with the tagline: “It’s Free. It’s Fun. It’s Fantastic. It’s the only one of its kind in the country!” It certainly seems as though the group has come up with a winning combination. The ECCVB’s idea for luring more visitors should appeal to anyone who loves both quilts and gardening.

More information can be found at http://www.amishcountry.org/quiltgardens

All photos from the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau.


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Archived blogs:

Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here


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