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Creating an Autoportrait: Lynne Habig

Obscured beneath the simple words, numbers, shapes, and colors found in much of Robert Indiana’s work are essential memories and symbols of the artist’s life. Indiana’s visual vocabulary is encrypted with personal symbolism. This is particularly evident in his long series of Autoportraits.

To complement The Essential Robert Indiana, on view through May 4, the IMA invites visitors both on-site and online to Create Your Autoportrait using some of the same elements that Robert Indiana incorporates in to his. During the run of the exhibition, IMA staff members will be creating their own Autoportraits and blogging about it.

This ninth post in this series features Lynne Habig, the IMA’s Greenhouse Shop Coordinator. Lynne is looking forward to this weekend’s Perennial Premiere.


Red, white & blue: I was born into a military family and, for many years, was fortunate enough to live abroad. I learned as a young child that America, warts and all, is still WAY ahead of whatever is in second place. I still love to travel overseas; but I never fail to get ‘goose bumps’ when I return home and see Old Glory flying!

autoportrait_lh_042114_016: The number 6 is significant to me for a number of reasons. 6 appears in the day, month and year I was born – I was 60 in ’06 thus beginning my 6th decade, there are 6 Brandenburg  concerti (my favorites) – and there are 6 strong women in my immediate family!

Faith, family & flowers: My life has been defined by faith, family and flowers. Our world seems to be in a perpetual state of (at best) organized chaos. My parents’ mantra was, “With a solid faith in one hand, and a sense of humor in the other, one can handle anything.” They were right!

Family has always been the bedrock of my security, even when said ground was really rocky. After one particularly disastrous foray into teenage rebellion, I can still hear my mother saying, “I really hate what you’ve done, but nothing can change the fact that I love you.” Whew, lucky me!

autoportrait_lh_042114_02And finally, flowers … Gardening has kept me truly grounded (pun intended) all my life. Season after season, I have watched the interaction of plants with weather, animal life, insects, etc. and have concluded that there is indeed order in our universe. And I travel with hope that eventually there will be a happy ending.

39.8 & 86.1: These are the latitude (degrees north) and longitude (degrees west) of Indianapolis. Rudyard Kipling said it best, “God gave all men all earth to love, but since our hearts are small, ordained for each one spot should prove beloved over all.” And in Dorothy’s words, “There’s no place like home!”

Filed under: Art, Audience Engagement, Exhibitions, Greenhouse, IMA Staff


Plant buying time!

Despite some snow early in the week spring seems to be here. On Saturday it was 77 and sunny. As sunny as the blooms on my Magnolia ‘Butterflies’.

On Tuesday it was 26 and snowy. Even my blue balls were covered with it.


Yup. That’s pretty much April around these parts. Wednesday morning brought upper 20s again and I think some frozen tender young foliage.

But by the end of the week we returned to pretty nice spring weather. Just as the last month or so of winter tends to take out the plants tucked away in the basement you have been trying to save, April takes out the gardeners that just don’t have the muster. Those of us that have gardened awhile know April can be kind or cruel depending on its whims. We relish when it is perfection. We steel ourselves against its hatefulness when it is less than perfect. And we are always ready to start the new season regardless of which April we are dealing with.

Of course, working at the IMA means one of my favorite parts of each new season is Perennial Premiere. It is next Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27. Back when it was 14 below and there was a foot of snow on the ground, I thought this celebration of spring would never appear. While the Greenhouse carries plants year round, this is when the perennials become available along with some woody plants and certainly the colorful tender plants. A list of many of them is available here.

This week, I am going to cover a few I am especially smitten with, some I have grown and some that are tempting me.


Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst Dream’

Now, everyone pretty much knows I like gaudy plants and good-gawd-almighty! plants. Those are nearly always my first choice. Go gaudy or go home. But once in awhile I Iike something a little simpler or something that actually looks like its catalogue description. Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst Dream’ is such a plant.

Regular Centaurea montana (mountain bluet) is a delightful spring bloomer with gorgeous true blue flowers. It self sows but not invasively and seedlings are easy to remove. ‘Amethyst Dream’ really is amethyst colored. I was sure it would not be. Other than color it is like the straight species, except I’ve only had one or two seedings. Amazingly they were identical to the mother plant.

And now back to the more gaudy side of the garden. Aralia ‘Sun King’ is bright and bold. The chartreuse/yellow foliage has dramatic texture as well with the leaves large and divided.


Aralia ‘Sun King’. Courtesy

Aralia ‘Sun King’

Normally it grows to about 4’ x 4’ but if you have ideal conditions it might reach 6’. There are some white flowers in summer but you are growing this for the foliage, folks. It likes a good soil that does not dry out too much. On the other hand do not leave your plant sitting in a bowl of water for a week or more because it will drown. Trust me on this one, okay? ‘Sun King’ prefers part to full shade but I think best growth will be in less dense shade. The foliage color could be an echo for some hostas (yellow or yellow variegated) while the texture would provide a nice contrast to the same hostas’ foliage. If you do not feel you have room for Aralia ‘Sun King’, then kill one of your hostas. It’s alright. I give you permission. Okay. Okay. Don’t kill it. Give it to your cousin Muffy. Just get rid of the damn thing so you can plant something new.

Heuchera villosa ‘Brioche’ Courtesy

Heuchera villosa ‘Brioche’

I love Heuchera villosa. It has proven itself time and again as not only beautiful but super tough as well. ‘Caramel’ with its gorgeous amber and copper foliage remains my favorite heuchera. We’ve used the cultivar Autumn Bride multiple times in the landscape here as well as the purple forms a couple times. ‘Bronze Wave’ can be found outside the Deer Zink Special Events Pavilion. This year, ‘Binoche’ will make its first appearance at Perennial Premiere. I am thinking seriously of adding this to my home garden. It is a seedling of the beautiful and strong ‘Frosted Violet’ which is a villosa hybrid. ‘Brioche’ is a smoky chocolate color with very nice ruffling to the leaves. I have only seen it in pictures but they are tempting enough to make me buy it.

A bit of a trend showing up in perennials is selections that are first-year flowering from seed. Meaning you can plant the seed and get flowers in the same year. Two salvias in this group are ‘New Dimension Blue’ and ‘New Dimension Rose’. To be honest, pink salvias have never gotten me too excited because they are always more lavender-pink. Not my favorite color. But really, I tend to be the minority in that. And ‘New Dimension Pink’ seems to have pretty good pink color.

‘New Dimension Blue’ is a rich blue-violet.

Salvia ‘New Dimension Pink’ (left) and ‘New Dimension Blue’ (right) Courtesy

Salvia ‘New Dimension Pink’ (left) and ‘New Dimension Blue’ (right)

The advantage both of these have is the stems and calyces are darker versions of the flower color making the flower color richer and giving color after the actual flowers fade. Plus both rebloom in fall if cut back after the first bloom. These will probably be under a foot when purchased but in their second year of growth will get to be around 15 inches.

I am a firm believer in using non-hardy plants in the garden. You may know about that as much as you know I love gaudy. They add a great deal to the landscape whether you use tons, like I do at home, or you just add a few for a touch of color. The Greenhouse is carrying two of my favorites, Canna ‘Stuttgart’ and Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’. You may choose to dig these in the fall and save or you may choose to leave them in the ground to more than likely die. Plants like these are not so expensive that you MUST DIG them. You get six months of wonder and delight for your dollars and that is a hell of a good deal. If you feel like digging them — dig them. If you do not feel like digging them — don’t.

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’ is part of the Karma Series, all of which make excellent cut flowers in addition to being beautiful in the garden. I do not understand why they did not call this one Chocolate instead of Choc. It is a rich sultry shade of chocolate-burgundy. I love the color. ‘Karma Choc’ can go with most any color including gray and blue foliaged plants. A handful of these in a bouquet with green zinnias or gladioli would be HOT! Plants grow to around 4’ tall and the long stems do make great cuts. Flowers should come from early summer through fall. Once the plants are hit by frost you can make your decision on digging them.

I once paid $100 for a pot of Canna ‘Stuttgart’. And killed it the first winter. So obviously do not cry to me about how a tender plant costing $XX is too expensive. You’d be too beneath me on this one. Only a year or two later it was available wholesale for $14. ‘Stuttgart’ has a stunning grey-green and white color pattern. The degree of variegation is a bit different on each leaf. Do not plant it in full sun like one usually does with cannas. That white will brown and crisp like bacon in a cast iron skillet. Morning sun is fine. Excellent soil, nice and rich and moist, will allow you to push the sun exposure somewhat. I’ve had this plant happy enough to grow to close to 8’ tall with the bloom even higher. A sport of ‘Omega’, ‘Stuttgart’ has small peachy flowers that are quite lovely. I had it to survive in the ground during one of our recent zone 7/8 winters, but I dug some of it too that year. This one I potted up in some barely moist potting mix. I think its rhizomes tend to dry out over winter and I don’t want to risk losing it. It is a vigorous grower once in the ground. ‘Stuttgart’ remains one of my favorite cannas even though out first experience together wasn’t exactly positive. I wonder how many other people gave Tony Avent a hundred dollars for that plant? You want to see one? Buy one.

Take a look at plant list online but remember, NOT ALL of the plants available at this year’s Perennial Premiere are included. And perhaps most importantly, new stuff will be coming in almost weekly. But you would be a fool to miss that opening weekend. Don’t be a fool. I will point at you and say nasty things about you. Really. I will. Especially when you complain that something you wanted is out of stock.

Filed under: Greenhouse, Horticulture, IMA Staff, Oldfields


Creating an Autoportrait: Marc Anderson

Obscured beneath the simple words, numbers, shapes, and colors found in much of Robert Indiana’s work are essential memories and symbols of the artist’s life. Indiana’s visual vocabulary is encrypted with personal symbolism. This is particularly evident in his long series of Autoportraits.

To complement The Essential Robert Indiana, on view through May 4, the IMA invites visitors both on-site and online to Create Your Autoportrait using some of the same elements that Robert Indiana incorporates in to his. During the run of the exhibition, IMA staff members will be creating their own Autoportraits and blogging about it.

The eighth post in this series features Marc Anderson, the IMA’s preparator. For those not familiar with the term “preparator,” that means Marc is part of the team that builds and installs exhibits and displays.


Here are a few things about me: I really like working here installing art, and I also enjoy eating/making food, groovin’ to music, petting cats, doing math in my head, recording sound effects, and taking pictures.

"Art Hero" Josh at work on Julianne Swartz's "How Deep Is Your."

“Art Hero” Josh at work on Julianne Swartz’s “How Deep Is Your.”

As an installer of art, I have the privilege of working behind-the-scenes with the rest of the collection support staff/art heroes. The amount of effort and energy that goes into preserving and displaying artwork is pretty incredible! Most of it goes sight unseen, and much of it is not very glamorous, or all that interesting to most people. Though sometimes we face unique challenges that are REALLY far removed from our normal duties. They are opportunities only made possible in the name of art. I like to capture those ridiculous moments; included here is one of Josh going above and beyond.

So, on to my Autoportrait:

  • 8: musical notes on my tiny xylophone and the best visual shape.
  • 617 & 314: Boston and St. Louis are places I once called home.
  • Resonance:  The physics of how sound is made fascinates me to no end!
  • Sugar: My favorite food group and Stevie Wonder song.
  • I used these colors because navy blue was not a choice. They also look really good together.

Filed under: Art, Conservation, Exhibitions, IMA Staff, Installation


Creating an Autoportrait: Caitlyn Phipps

Obscured beneath the simple words, numbers, shapes, and colors found in much of Robert Indiana’s work are essential memories and symbols of the artist’s life. Indiana’s visual vocabulary is encrypted with personal symbolism. This is particularly evident in his long series of Autoportraits.

To complement The Essential Robert Indiana, on view through May 4, the IMA invites visitors both on-site and online to Create Your Autoportrait using some of the same elements that Robert Indiana incorporates in to his. During the run of the exhibition, IMA staff members will be creating their own Autoportraits and blogging about it.

The seventh in this series features intern Caitlyn Phipps, the IMA Scholar in  the Conservation Science Lab since January, shares her Autoportrait.


I decided to do a mix-up of things that have made impacts on my life during college. 3 stands for the number of times I switched my major to something other than chemistry, but now I can’t imagine not studying chemistry! 512 stands for May 2012, the year I graduated Wingate University with my bachelor’s in Chemistry and also the month that my mom finished her chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. All which happened in a matter of 3 days, so May 2012 really means a lot to me. 262 stands for the 2 colleges I have studied at (Wingate University and Western Carolina University), 6 years I have been in college , and 2 degrees in total. JHSWGS are the advisors that I have had over the last six years, all have helped me along the way and I truly don’t know where I would be without them. NCSWDRIN are the places I have been in the last six years: North Carolina, Switzerland, Dominican Republic and Indiana. Lastly, there is a question mark. Currently, my plans are up in the air, so not knowing where I will be next is at times scary but also exciting!

Filed under: Art, Exhibitions, IMA Staff


April Showers

It’s raining. A lot. I am severely tempted to complain. A lot. Then I remember the last three summers when it did NOT rain. A lot. Then I push aside that temptation and think of all that rain as water in the bank to be spent when moisture funds run low. The bareroot perennials in the root cellar can wait another week or two and they will be fine. The spring clean-up of garden beds can wait. The pansies don’t arrive until next week so I don’t have them to addle my brain over the rain. Rather, the rain is a chance to get paperwork wrapped up that soon there will be no time to deal with. Volunteers have returned and time for indoor activities disappears rapidly now.

From my office window I can see green buds swelling on woody plants. Some maple trees are blooming. The male goldfinches are again gold. Spring has arrived and there is no turning back. I realize that does not mean Mother Nature will let us move smoothly on through April and May. She may well have a couple bitch slaps planned for us. But … not a damn thing I can do about that. Enjoy the moment and hope for the best.

Digitalis ‘Polkadot Princess’

Digitalis ‘Polkadot Princess’

Lots of blooming plants appearing now. Well, maybe not lots but a good many. I would show you some pictures but it is raining too hard right now to do that. So I will cover a few more of the new plants we are adding to the gardens this year.

In an earlier post I mentioned a foxglove we are adding this year, but we are actually adding second this year. Another sterile hybrid, Digitalis ‘Polkadot Princess’ (part of the Polkadot series) looks more like a traditional foxglove.

Bred by the folks at Thompson & Morgan it gets 2 to 3 feet tall and blooms from early summer to early fall thanks to its lack of seed production. If it does well I will consider adding ‘Polkadot Polly,’ the peachy colored sister.

This next plant we are taking a bit of a chance with and pushing it to the limit of its hardiness zone. Euphobia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is a zone 6 plant, maybe 5b. And technically we are a zone 6 region. Except when we are not. But what the hey? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Euphobia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow’

Euphobia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow’. Photo courtesy of

‘Ascot Rainbow’ grows about 20” x 20”, wants full sun, and should have good drainage in winter. It does bloom in late spring but this is one you grow for the foliage. The green and yellow variegation takes on deep pink and burgundy when weather cools down in fall. The new growth always has a touch of this but it intensifies with the cooler temperatures. Interestingly, the showy bracts (structures that surround the real flowers) are variegated as well. ‘Ascot Rainbow’ makes a great container plant also.

Ipomoea lobata (aka Mina lobata or Quamaclit lobata)

Ipomoea lobata (aka Mina lobata or Quamaclit lobata)

One of the finest annual flowering vines will put on its show on the fence outside the Greenhouse sales area. Ipomoea lobata, or Mina lobata, or Quamaclit lobata is gorgeous. I mean GORGEOUS! And the only things more intriguing than the flowers are the common names. Spanish flag. Firecracker vine. And my absolute favorite, Exotic love vine.

Oh hell yeah! That is exotic love and I’m feeling that love all the way to my very soul. Exotic love vine grows to several feet and blooms start appearing in mid-summer. The flowering continues up ‘til frost. Jim grows these from seed. You can too.

The rain has let up but I know the minute I go outside with the camera it will return. Just thinking about it made the thunder start again. Over the next several days I expect plants to simply explode out of the ground. A little sun and a little warmth and everything is going to want to express its joy of surviving the winter. Check you gardens frequently so you don’t miss a thing. And if you are missing anything then you don’t want to miss Perennial Premiere April 26 and 27. We will have just what you’ve been missing.

In the meantime, how high’s the water, Mama?


Filed under: Greenhouse, Horticulture, IMA Staff, Oldfields


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