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."
Artist 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.
At 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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Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
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