I wanted to let everyone in the blogosphere know that the Indianapolis Museum of Art would like to celebrate the accomplishments of Irvin Etienne. He has been a part of this organization’s growing identity as a top notch public garden for the past 20 years. He hasn’t just been pulling weeds all this time, but is a major reason why the museum’s gardens look the way they do. I would like to thank him for his innovative ideas during the numerous garden renovations and museum expansions. He was pivotal in looking at each area and thinking through the various exposures and design requirements. He helps all the horticulture staff with plant selections, from the best shrub that is period-appropriate in Oldfields to the brightest tropical that will practically blind you. Imagine planting a landscape and watching it grow for 20 years. I know that it gives him a sense of pride knowing how much of his work will provide visitors with beautiful surroundings for years and years to come. Many people just look at the plantings as a green mass and take them for granted because they seem to have always been there. I encourage you to look deeper into what you see. Can you pull out the intricacies of what has been planned? Do the colors work together; does it last and evolve throughout the season? How do the plants textures play off of each other?
As a self described country boy who likes shiny sparkly things, he was at the forefront of the tropical plant movement in gardens and has influenced all of our home gardens. He has made it an acceptable practice to kill a plant and not be afraid to kill it again before you have success in growing it. I can’t decide if he is more like a brightly colored Celosia that seeds everywhere and keeps coming back, or if he is like an old oak tree that remains constant and provides shelters for an entire garden. He has sparked the fire for gardening in many people and still has passion for trying new plants.
I find it amazing as I travel around the country experiencing other gardens that Irvin seems to have some connection with a person that works at that garden or maybe even interned with them years ago. He is one of the best in the country at what he does. It is shocking how often we change jobs these days; it really makes you appreciate his commitment through all of the various directors and staff changes. I’m sure Irvin has a story about every person. I feel lucky to have worked with him for the past 14 years. He has not only taught me many things about plants and design concepts, but has been a trusted friend that can always make me laugh. If you get the chance to work with him, plan on gaining five pounds the first year. He is constantly bringing baked goods to the office and has a special relationship with butter, sugar, and salt.