Here, you’ll find a mix of traditional species, like purple coneflower and hollyhock, as well as more modern hybrids of “old fashion” plant varieties. All of these native species, have been part of Hoosier gardens and greenspaces for generations. Also included are some truly historic specimens, including some that were transplanted from sites like the President Benjamin Harrison Home. Learn more about some of the species you’ll see in this gorgeous garden!
Blooms: early spring
Alliums are a whole family of plants that include some of your culinary favorites: onions, leeks, chives, shallots and garlic. Although the cultivation of onions is an old tradition — ancient Egyptians used a lot of them — decorative alliums like these have only been popular in gardens since the late 19th century, when Russian botanists brought examples of gorgeous alliums back from an expedition to central Asia.
Their popularity spiked after alliums were introduced to famous gardens like the Imperial Botanical Garden in St. Petersburg and London’s Kew Gardens.
Blooms: early spring
Named for its distinctive flower, this early spring bloomer is here in a flash and gone just as quickly. Its delicate, showy blooms have been stirring the imaginations of gardeners for centuries.
In its native range of Japan, different parts of the flower are used to tell a folktale about a young man trying to win the love of a maiden, ending tragically in a bleeding heart. Turned upside down, the flower is also said to resemble a lady sitting in a boat.
What does this whimsical blossom look like to you?
Native to most of the continental United States, this wild flower is an unassuming powerhouse. Native people have used its fibrous stem to make rope and weave cloth and its roots for various medicinal applications. It’s not just important for people — butterflies rely on milkweed, too.
As monarch butterflies migrate between Canada and Mexico, they depend on a steady supply of milkweed, their main source of food. Planting native milkweed in your yard can feed migrating monarchs as they pass through Indiana every spring and fall
Blooms: spring, summer, fall
Overcoming slavery and racial barriers, George Washington Carver became an unforgettable American icon. He had a lot to teach us, but his message to farmers was clear: “rotate your crops!”
Carver worked to help poor Southern farmers raise nourishing crops that could also repair soil damaged by monoculture. He is particularly famous for inventing and discovering hundreds of uses for sweet potatoes and peanuts; he focused on promoting these underutilized plants because of their ability to feed the soil exhausted by years of cotton farming.
Over the years, goldenrod has gotten a bad rap. These hardy, attractive flowers are native to the eastern half of the continental United States. Their blooms feed bees and butterflies, and their seeds are snapped up by small birds like finches and sparrows. So what’s not to like? It’s a case of mistaken identity.
Sufferers of hay fever often blame goldenrod for their symptoms, but the real culprit is ragweed. Ragweed produces huge amounts of pollen in the fall when goldenrod is blooming. The two plants are often mistaken for each other, despite goldenrod’s innocence.
Tucked into their luggage, the Ott family brought seeds of this flower with them when they made the long journey from Bavaria to Iowa in the 1870s. Their son Baptist John Ott carefully tended the plant and passed down seeds to his granddaughter Diane in 1972, 100 years later. This inspired Diane to start Seed Savers Exchange, an organization that saves and shares heirloom seeds in order to preserve America’s diverse plant heritage.
You might be surprised to discover that this complex, beautiful flower is around you all the time. The fleur de lis is a stylized image of an iris dating back to early French history. This icon has made its way into many corners of popular culture, from the Boy Scouts of America to the city of New Orleans.
Take a look around — you could discover plants like the iris in other unexpected places.
Above the ground, this might look like your run-of-the-mill sunflower, but what’s hiding underneath might surprise you. At its base is a clump of starchy tubers with a delicate flavor that has recently gained some popularity among chefs. But not everyone is a fan of the Jerusalem artichoke.
In the 1600s, English planter John Goodyer said of Jerusalem artichokes: “Which way so ever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented.” So enjoy this native plant’s tasty tubers — but maybe in moderation.
The peony’s path to becoming Indiana’s state flower wasn’t easy. The first state flower, the carnation, was selected in 1913, but it was widely criticized for not being a native species. In 1923, the General Assembly selected the flower of the native tulip poplar to represent the state, but its short reign ended in 1931. The zinnia was the next to be selected, but rumors spread that a certain seed grower of zinnias was behind the legislation.
Finally in 1957, Indiana chose the peony. Although still not a native species, the peony has managed to keep its title for nearly 50 years.
Often called “queen of the garden,” there’s no flower more iconic than the rose. Gardeners have cultivated roses since around 5,000 years ago in China. A rose variety can have a lot of sticking power — in the Heritage Garden, we feature roses named for Anne Hathaway, William Shakespeare’s wife, and the Duchess of Montebello, an 18th century French noble woman.New hybrid rose varieties are being named all the time, so today’s Whoopi Goldberg rose may be planted as a classic in gardens 300 years from now.
Admission to Indiana Garden Club Heritage Garden is included with Zoo admission.