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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.


Filed under: Greenhouse, History


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.


Filed under: Greenhouse


Divide and conquer: Creating new queendoms

What’s a beekeeper to do when fall is around the corner, winter mortality is unnervingly high, and you’ve got just one hive? Make new queens, of course! (Right … just like that!)

I’ve been helping Chad Franer, Director of Horticulture, keep bees at the IMA for six years and every season we both learn something new. This year, we tried our hands at splitting the hive – our one and only hive that we purchased in the spring. Did we know what we were doing? Of course not!

Assistant horticulturist Gwyn Rager examines a hive to determine which frame to use when splitting the hive. Photo courtesy IMA Horticulture Department.

Assistant horticulturist Gwyn Rager examines a hive to determine which frame to use when splitting the hive. Photo courtesy IMA Horticulture Department.

Splitting the hive to force the production of queen cells felt a lot like moving from the freshmen level course to somewhere with the upperclassmen. It was one of those moments where we felt the training wheels coming off and it was time to ride or fall. After much instruction from our mentor, Brian Shattuck, we took on the challenge.

A healthy honeybee hive is composed of the queen, worker bees (female), drones (male) and brood (future bees). The queen will lay an average of 1,000 to 1,500 eggs per day, all the while producing a pheromone that communicates to the rest of the hive that she is present and thriving. The daily egg laying, referred to as the brood cycle, ensures a constant and strong colony. When a hive becomes robust, the beekeeper may have the option to split it.

Splitting the hive means moving the queen, along with a few handfuls of workers and brood, to another hive box and leaving the majority of the original hive intact and in need of a queen.

What happens next is pretty fascinating! The colony notices the absence of the queen and begins to prep several of the recently hatched eggs to potentially become the next queen. These select larvae are fed royal jelly and larger cells are constructed for them each to develop within. Then it’s a race to see who will emerge first and survive. A new queen, in her due diligence, will systematically kill off the other potential queens as they emerge. Once her position is secured, she takes her mating flight and returns to the hive to pick up where the last queen left off. Voila! The beekeeper now has two hives!

Laura Dulin, the IMA HortSoc fellow, looks for a new queen in one of the newly split hives. Photo courtesy IMA Horticulture Department.

Laura Dulin, the IMA HortSoc fellow, looks for a new queen in one of the newly split hives. Photo courtesy IMA Horticulture Department.

Brian encouraged us to also create a nuc (short for nucleus) around this time. A nuc is a mini version of an official hive. Midway through the splitting process, we opened up the original hive and removed a frame that contained a few queen cells, dropped it into a nuc box along with a starter kit, frames of honey, brood and room to start laying eggs, for the soon-to-emerge queen. We beekeepers now have three hives!

So, why go through this effort when we’ve got a strong, healthy hive? I guess I could argue that it’s part of proper beekeeping. We’re making certain that we go into winter with more bees and two new, fresh queens. Winters can be long and hard in Indiana and our honeybees need all the resources we can offer to ensure survival – survival into the next spring and for years and generations to come.

The training wheels are long gone and we’re a little bit wiser. Can we claim now that we know what we’re doing? Probably not! I’ll always be a gardener first and beekeeping is a bonus. But I couldn’t be a gardener without the bees. Each day that I work in the gardens of the IMA and I see my tiny worker friends, I thank them for their diligent pollination … and their sweet honey!

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Greenhouse, Horticulture, IMA Staff


Wine cups for your garden

Image Source: Missouri Botanical Gardens

Image Source: Missouri Botanical Gardens

Don’t go grabbing a bottle of wine just yet! These wine cups, Callirhoe involucrata, belong to the Malvaceae, or the mallow family. It is native to many of the plains states, including Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. This is a drought tolerant plant that does well especially during hot summers without much rain and in the sun. It will also tolerate some partial shade. Due to the overall tolerance of the plant, it is recommended that one does not try to transplant as it will give resistance. The resistance comes from the long taproot of the plant. The plant prefers well-drained sandy or loamy soils but will tolerate clay. It can rot if the soil is poorly drained.

Wine cups is a purple flowering perennial that is also known as the purple poppy mallow. Its low and mat-forming habit makes it a great groundcover plant that does well in Zones 4-8. Eventually, this plant will spread to about 3 feet wide and about 6 to 9 inches tall. It can easily be used for naturalized areas but can also easily fit in amongst formal areas. Palmately arranged leaves and magenta flowers help characterize the plant. Each magenta colored flower has five petals in an upward cup formation and can be found from mid-spring through fall. Each flower will close in the evening and open again in the morning. Once a flower has been pollinated, it will remain closed.

Image Source: Missouri Botanical Gardens

Image Source: Missouri Botanical Gardens

This plant is great sprawling over rock walls, in rock gardens, and elsewhere. Plant individual plants only several inches apart so that they will mat together. One can plant with a variety of plants depending on the purpose of the garden. Some suggested plants to plant with the Wine Cups are Veronica, Stachys (lamb’s ears), Hemerocallis (daylillies), and Aquilegia (columbine).


Filed under: Greenhouse, Horticulture, Oldfields


An obedient plant?

Can a plant actually be obedient? Why yes, there is one that can be and it just so happens to be commonly known as the obedient plant. The Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) gets its name from the flowers’ ability to stay in place according to how you move them. The flowers are on each side of the spike and can act like a hinge. In this way, one can push them to the right or left, up or down, and have them stay in that position. It might change its position on its own after some time has passed, but for the time being, it will stay in the position you place it in.

That is the extent of this plant being obedient, for it can be aggressive and spread to places where you don’t want it. That is the main issue with the plant. Otherwise, one can prune it in the spring to help reduce its height. It can also be divided every two to three years to help keep this clump-forming Obedient Plant under control. Each clump can get up to 2 to 3 feet wide. Overall, the plant is tall, reaching heights of 3 to 4 feet. These heights sometimes lead to floppiness in the plants, so staking helps to keep them upright.

These plants are more of a prairie type plant, being a great perennial plant for the wildflower garden, the prairie garden, native gardens, and meadows. One can also use their color in a perennial border. The nectar will also attract butterflies and hummingbirds, so it is a possible plant for a butterfly or hummingbird garden. The plant just requires a sunny to partly shady location that has moist, well-drained soils.

The leaves are sharply toothed and lance-shaped, growing up to 4 inches in length. Square, stiff stems allow flowers to be born on four different sides. This stem is typical of the Mint Family, of which this plant is a member. When the flowers bloom, they start opening at the bottom of the spike first, moving toward the top. Flowers usually bloom from June to September, providing some summer color. They are usually pink in color, but can also be white. Individual flowers resemble the flowers of snapdragons and thus the obedient plant is also called false dragonhead. One can see these pink flowers around some of the apple trees in the IMA’s orchard.

Filed under: Greenhouse, Guest Bloggers, Horticulture


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