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Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse plans for the future

Madeline F. Elder GreenhouseIf you’ve been on our campus recently, you have likely seen the magnificent display of color around the Gardens. This spring, we showcased a record number of blooming bulbs and hosted a stunning orchid exhibition in our Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse. More than ever, we are embracing the natural resources of our diverse 152-acre campus. As part of our long-planned vision to enhance the Gardens, we are now taking a major step forward to return the Elder Greenhouse to its original mission.

Beginning July 1, 2016, we will discontinue retail operations in the Elder Greenhouse and shift gardening retail to the Museum Store. This was not a decision that was taken lightly, and one that we expect will disappoint many. However, with this new initiative we will be able to expand our plant collection, honor the historical legacy of the Elder Greenhouse and educate our guests about horticulture like never before.

Here are a few things you need to know about the changes:


Historic photo of greenhouse circa 1933

We are returning the Elder Greenhouse to its original purpose
When the Landon and Lilly families lived on the property in the early 1900s, the Greenhouse supported the estate with fresh flowers, vegetables and fruit. We will return the Elder Greenhouse to its original role to honor the historical legacy of the Oldfields estate, a National Historic Landmark on the IMA campus. Two of the glasshouses will transform into production houses where you can see plants being propagated for displays in both the Elder Greenhouse and around our campus.


We still sell plants and gardening merchandise
We now offer a more convenient shopping experience with an ever-changing assortment of seasonal plants and gardening merchandise regularly available in the Museum Store. Conveniently located near the front of the IMA Welcome Center, the store is free to visit and allows for easy transportation of plants to your vehicle. In the coming weeks, you will see succulents, orchids, ferns and other flowering plants from the Elder Greenhouse decorating the store windows. In addition, we will continue to host occasional plant sales around campus, such as the popular Perennial Premiere sale each spring and the upcoming Native Tree and Pollinator Plant Sale on August 27.

You will see even more plants on display

The floral displays in the Elder Greenhouse will continue to feature plants from around the world and now be even bigger and better! Three of the glasshouses will serve as an exhibition space with changing seasonal displays.

There will be more garden programs and classes
The retail shop in the Elder Greenhouse will transform into a dedicated workshop space where you can participate in hands-on classes with horticulture experts. The space will be used for upcoming scheduled classes and allows us to offer even more of these popular programs.

This is just the beginning of a new phase for the Elder Greenhouse and one of the first steps in our efforts to create a living museum of the future.



Growing For The Future: The Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse

Exciting things are happening at The Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse as we continue on the path to making the IMA Gardens and Greenhouse a world class destination. The Elder Greenhouse, which is located on our diverse 152-acre campus is announcing a host of new plant purchase opportunities, classes and workshops, as well as exciting plans for additional displays and interpretation. In addition, seasonal plant sales will be held in vehicle-accessible locations on campus throughout the year.

Greenhouse manager, Sue Nord Peiffer, and her staff have been busy developing an extensive line-up of classes and workshops to be held throughout the year. Programs include making art from nature, holiday workshops, plant propagation, and more!  The line-up for the remainder of 2015 includes:

  • August 6 – Gardening for Pollinators (Bees, Butterflies & Hummingbirds) Talk & Walk
  • August 29 – An Herbal Lifestyle – Cooking & Crafts with herbs in daily life with Carolee Snyder
  • October 17 – Ornaments from Nature
  • November 14 – Mini treehouse workshop inspired by our upcoming Gustave Baumann exhibition
  • November 19 – Evergreen Wreath Workshop
  • December 12 – Vintage Paper Wreath Ornament workshop

This enhanced array of programs is one part of the new strategy for the Elder Greenhouse, an integral part of the IMA Gardens. Plans are underway to significantly develop the Greenhouse’s plant collections, especially the orchids for which it is so well-known. For example, we will stage an orchid exhibition in February 2016, complemented by related lectures and programming culminating with an opportunity to purchase these intriguing plants.

At key times throughout the year the IMA will continue to offer special plant sales that will feature a wide array of Indiana native plants, herbs, succulents, bonsai, and orchids.  Mark your calendar now for these IMA hosted “can’t miss” plant sales, which will be held on vehicle-accessible areas on campus. These special sales include:

  • September 19 – Autumn Equinox Native Tree and Bulb Sale (Campus-wide free Community Day)
  • December 3 – Holiday Hullabaloo (First Thursday free evening)
  • December 17 – Winter Solstice (Campus-wide free Community Day)
  • April 23 – 24, 2016 – Perennial Premiere
  • June 12, 2016 – A Garden Affair (Horticultural Society event)
  • June 18, 2016 – Summer Solstice (Campus-wide free Community Day)

The Elder Greenhouse is in the heart of the IMA Gardens, and is easily accessible for all guests.  After entering the gardens through the main Welcome Center, guests can enjoy a short walk or take our eco-friendly tram to the Greenhouse. Daily, the Elder Greenhouse is staffed with extremely knowledgeable horticultural staff and volunteers who are on-hand to share their extensive expertise in plant selection and garden design with all guests.



Indianapolis Museum of Art Bike Access Route

Bikers on Canal Towpath heading to IMA

Bikers on Canal Towpath heading to IMA

Recently, there has been much concern expressed over the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s accessibility to bikers who commute to our campus. We appreciate hearing feedback from our guests, especially those who have been visiting us for many years. We fully understand the sense of loss of not being able to use the IMA campus as it has been used in the past. Major changes like this are always difficult. We would like to take this opportunity to address these concerns directly.

The commentary stating the IMA has banned bicycles from our property is untrue. The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park: 100 Acres, which comprises two-thirds of our 152-acre campus, is available to cyclists just as it was before our new policies went into effect this April. The most significant change is restricting vehicle traffic in our gardens. Following the model of many public, botanical gardens around the nation, we have reserved our gardens for pedestrians in order to enhance the safety and experience for our guests. We have also added considerable amounts of new sidewalks, benches, trashcans and bike racks, as well as opened our pedestrian gates on both Michigan Road and 38th Street.

We welcome bikes at the IMA, and we suggest that bikers arrive via the Canal Towpath, to ensure that our guests arrive safely. Bikers who are commuting to the IMA can enter via the Canal Towpath, cross the Waller Bridge (the red bridge that connects the Museum and formal gardens with the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres), can park their bike at the bike rack and walk up to our Upper Campus.

At that point, guests can check in at one of our Guest Services desks. Our main Guest Services desk is located in the Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion. For the convenience of our guests arriving by bike or on foot via the Towpath, we have added two additional Guest Services desks located at the end of the Garden Path (just inside of Deer Zink Events Pavilion) and inside the Lilly House. Guests should check in upon arrival.

waller-bridge-bike-rackBike racks are located in the following areas:

  • On the north (Museum & Gardens) and south (The Park) side of Waller Bridge
  • In the parking garage, just outside of the entrance to the Catherine and Robert Lictenauer Passageway Gallery
  • Next to The Dudley and Mary Louise Sutphin Mall
  • Outside of Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion (38th Street entrance)

Adding bike lanes outside of the IMA property to aid bikers in accessing our campus is a decision that must be made by the City of Indianapolis. We have met with the City to discuss adding additional sections of sidewalks at 38th Street and Michigan Road that would connect with our sidewalks. City Officials felt that was a reasonable request and assured us that they will try to work with us on this initiative. We asked that consideration be given to restriping the crosswalks at 38th Street and 40th Street. We also discussed the possibility of adding a bike path from 42nd Street to the IMA’s 40th Street entrance on Michigan Rd. That request was heard, but no commitment was made. We continue to work closely with neighboring institutions to convince the City to improve walkability and bikeability along Michigan Rd. and 38th St. While it may take some time to accomplish all that our anchor coalition wants, we are confident much can be achieved.

To provide you with some context for the new policies, we want you to know that our Senior Staff and Board of Governors spent an enormous amount of time and effort exploring options before taking unanimous action last December. After studying the situation for two years, we came to the conclusion that if we want to achieve our vision of advancing our gardens to the level of a major public garden and to make them safe for all visitors, part of our campus needed to be reserved for pedestrians.

Canal Towpath leading to IMA

Canal Towpath leading to IMA

Although we have many things to improve on as we implement the Board’s directives during the coming months, we hope that you and other friends of the IMA will understand the need to do things differently going forward. If you are interested in learning more about the reasons behind the transition, we hope that you will take the time to view the video of our Board Chairman, Thomas Hiatt, and CEO, Charles L. Venable, addressing guests at our Annual Membership meeting on May 20, 2015. Their presentation answers a number of the questions that many have posed about the IMA’s finances and changes to our admission policy and entrance to the campus. We also welcome questions or comments at

We will continue to seek outlets for connecting with the community in order to arrive at solutions that both further the IMA’s mission and keep all of our guests safe while traveling to and visiting the IMA.


More details about the Central Canal Towpath, including a comprehensive, can be found on the City of Indianapolis website.


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