Monday, August 11, 2014

Defries Gardens

Defries Gardens is located just south of Goshen in New Paris. It is part River Preserve Park of Elkhart County Parks, being donated by the late Mrs. Defries. It has made quite a transformation since the donation time. Check out the before and after pictures here! We visited River Preserve Park, but had not visited Defries. We were in for a treat indeed! This Flicker page by Jon Cutrell, the landscape designer for Defries Gardens, shows the plans for the garden and pictures of the area throughout the seasons. Breathtaking! 

We had a beautiful walk in the gardens with the boys. I'm always a little worried when I take the kids to a garden area, as they are used to more wild areas and being a little more wild. However, it's good for them to be exposed to this more sculpted gardens with different rules than walking out on the trails. We talk about proper etiquette and to be mindful of other visitors in the area. There is a circular path that goes around the center of the calendar garden, with plenty of places to just sit and enjoy the beauty! 

As we entered, there was a small building where you could climb the stairs to have a view from up above. You can see the homestead garden easily to the left and then the beautiful calendar garden to the right, complete with a dedicated horticulturist taking care of the garden. I'm sure it takes hours and hours of work daily! Thanks for keeping it pretty. 

We visited near the end of July. The summer garden was in full bloom and gorgeous! The boys enjoyed spying from up high!

This gives a nice overview of the whole circular concept of the calendar garden with the pond in the middle. Just outside of this, the dates are inscribed on bricks as part of the path. 

As I mentioned the summer section was beautiful and smelled great, too! It was a lovely sensory walk!

Tip, try finding the day you visit on the calendar and snap a picture while you're there to commemorate your visit! There are GREAT places to take pictures throughout the gardens. There is contact information for special events, like weddings, here. Any commercial photography needs a special permit, yet normal family and hobby pictures are fine. Snap away in this beautiful place!  

It's nice to see a blend of flowers native to the area, plus others that make for a stunning background. There are statues at various spots in the garden, too, adding more areas for discovery.

It's also fun to find one's birthday on the calendar for a picture. This is a great space to look at the concept of time as it passes through a year. Month markers are up along the path, reinforcing literacy and calendar learning. 

At every quarter of the gardens there is some type of small building, like this cute little library! 

I appreciated there were unique things to find in the garden and plenty of places to sit! 

Remember the places to sit? Plenty! This is a little less formal, yet still cozy and a great place to explore.  Spent blooms are composted off the beaten path.

The kids even found a boat! I liked that there were several snags, or dead trees that were left standing to allow more habitat for animals in the area. 

Even some old stumps were left as part of the landscape. What a great little spot for toads to hide!

Other sculptures are found throughout the gardens. This snake grass (as I called it as a little girl) grew in the fall or winter garden as it may hold its color longer. We loved snapping the sections off to make "beads", but refrained since we were in a protected garden.

The look and feel of the winter garden is quite different than the rest of the garden, with many evergreens. I liked the addition of different pieces of wood, making it feel a little more rustic. 

Someone found a little toad and found success in catching him. He left him back where he found him. 

There is a green house as one of the small buildings along the quarters of the calendar garden. There are many plants growing both inside and out. 

The gardener offered us some of the tomatoes that a neighbor had grown. As soon as we got home, the boys asked if we could slice up the tomatoes for dinner. They'd had their fill of cherry tomatoes while there and still wanted good, fresh local produce! As a side note, the deer ate off most of the tops of our tomato plants, resulting in a much lower yield than normal. 

After our hike through the gardens, we checked to see if there was a geocache in the area. There is a HUGE container there--I think the largest I've ever seen. There is plenty of SWAG to trade, so bring a few toys or other small items if you want to trade. 

The pond was beautiful in the middle of summer! I look forward to exploring the gardens in different seasons! 

After our stroll through the garden, we looked near the homestead garden, checking out the trees and holes in the trees. We thought this might be a great spot for a geocache!

We checked on the plants, seeing the tomatoes, peppers, and squash ripening in the sun. As we headed back to the car, we explored the trail, going down near the river. Note, watch for poison ivy! ;-)

As we headed back to the car, we explored the trail, going down near the river. Note, watch for poison ivy! ;-) The boys enjoyed exploring the water's edge, looking at the trees, and catching crickets and grasshoppers. I'm finding the older ones want just a little more adventure. 

The oldest is still talking about this magical space 2 weeks after our visit! We stopped at Shanklin Park on our way home. It's always a hit as well. We love exploring along the river there, too!