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Nation’s first quilt garden tour abloom in Elkhart County

Floral cover - The Log Cabin pattern quilt at Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Middlebury, has more than 7,000 annuals, including begonias, marigolds and salvia. (Photo courtesy Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Floral cover - The Log Cabin pattern quilt at Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Middlebury, has more than 7,000 annuals, including begonias, marigolds and salvia. (Photo courtesy Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau)

With gas at a premium, chances are we’ll stick closer to home for our vacation adventures this year.

Gardeners and quilters only have to travel to Elkhart County for a self-paced tour that features 12 juried, large-scale, quilt-patterned gardens and 11 hand-painted outdoor murals.

These creations can be found throughout the county in Bristol, Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, Shipshewana and Wakarusa. The exclusive gardens and murals are viewable free of charge from late spring until first frost.

Thought to be the first of its kind in the nation, the 12 gardens’ 60,000 multi-colored annuals depict different quilt patterns, ranging from 800- to 2,400 square feet, said Jackie Hughes of the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The 11 artist-rendered quilt murals, the largest being 20 feet by 20 feet, are displayed on the exteriors of buildings in the seven communities.

The Elkhart communities have been working on the project since 2006, Hughes said. In an effort to keep the project sustainable, local nurseries grew the plants. Master Gardeners and others planted the gardens.

“I have enjoyed the glimpses without an official tour of the gardens. They are in striking, vivid colors that immediately call your attention to them,” said Janice Dean, an Elkhart resident.

“The murals are beautiful — it is kind of  cool to be driving along and suddenly a quilt appears on the side of a building,” said Mary Davis, an attorney, Elkhart County Master Gardener and beginning quilter.

For some of the quilts, the organizers either had to find a slope or create one to add visibility, depth and detail.

“They are very attractive and do a very good job of capturing quilt designs in florals. They use a lot of flowers. I think, too, that for most of us, there is a degree of amazement that someone could plot and plant so perfectly,” Davis said.

Hughes said the tour would be an annual event. For maps, garden descriptions and other information, please visit: Quilt Gardens Tour

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