PINE TOWNSHIP | There's a piece of property in northeast Porter County that is its own microclimate, meaning things grow there that don't grow anywhere else around.
The Brincka-Cross House & Gardens, which was a private residence, now is owned by the Porter County Parks and Recreation Department. It opened to a delighted public in April.
The 25-acre site, which features about 4 acres of gardens, is home to 10,000 daffodils, 400 varieties of hostas, 20 varieties of grasses, 40 varieties of crab apple trees and 25 varieties of forsythia, fringe trees and dogwoods. There also are bald cypress and tulip trees.
A Frank Lloyd Wright style of house (although it wasn't designed by the famed architect) sits perfectly in the artful setting.
"I've had many, many visitors," said Paula Ramos, supervisor of the site.
Bill Brincka, a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Basil Cross, an antique and silver buyer for Marshall Fields, started their artistic gardening efforts in 1961 and finished the dune-style home in the late 1960s. After the deaths of Brincka and Cross, the process began to make the site a park.
"Their desire was to open it up to the public," Ramos said. "They didn't want it to be developed into home sites."
Ramos regales visitors with stories about the site and its original owners and offers anecdotes about the preservation efforts and interesting things she's discovered inside and outside the house. She also lets visitors know the best times to see various flowers, trees and plants.
"I certainly appreciate the history of Bill Brincka and Basil Cross. This is a very historic property," Ramos said.
"This is important (as a park) because this is another facet in the jewel-like quality of the park system. ... (People can) come and just get in touch with nature."
Guests can call (219) 879-5664 and schedule a visit of the home and gardens. Ramos generally is available 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Visitors should bring mosquito spray and should wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes.