Karin Crane, president of the Miller Garden Club, believes her group's annual garden walk helps spread the right message of just how much her community has to be proud about to share with others.
"Most people don't even know about Miller Beach, and certainly don't realize that it's a thriving community filled with beautiful homes and gardens right on Lake Michigan and next to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore," Crane said.
"Many people think steel mills and Gotham City when they think of Gary. But unique Miller Beach gardens and homes showcase a different side. The Miller Garden Club works tirelessly to beautify the community, tending to gardens along the Lake Street business district and the South Shore train station."
She said the group's annual garden walk draws visitors who discover the area "boasts unique topography" with savannahs, dunes, oaks and marram grass.
"These are landscapes that also present some unusual gardening challenges," she said.
"Local gardeners meet the challenge in a variety of different ways by transforming their space into sprawling native plant landscapes or clean-cut formal gardens."
Diana Cook, of Purdue Cooperative Education Extension of Lake County, said she is impressed with the growing number of garden walks offered each season in Northwest Indiana and the Region.
"I've been with this office for 21 years and I know there weren't nearly as many garden walk options when I started two decades ago," Cook said.
"But what I especially like about the walks hosted by the master gardeners throughout the area is the added emphasis on education, the labeled plant markers and the opportunity for guests to ask questions from these gardeners who have completed all of their hours of training."
Last year, more than 500 flower footstep fans participated in the ninth annual Porter County Garden Walk in Valparaiso.
"It was my second year serving as one of the chairs for this event, and every year it continues to grow while raising money for a good cause," said Charlotte Friedlund of Valparaiso, who is a bronze advanced master gardener.
The event, sponsored by Purdue University Cooperative Extension and the Porter County Master Gardeners Association, is the result of the hard work of the nonprofit gardening group, which has more than 125 members from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
The money raised from each year's walk is used for community educational programs and college scholarships for students studying horticulture.
Last year's walk included six private residence gardens around Valparaiso and also showcased the grounds and gardens of Hayes Leonard Elementary School, where students worked with the garden club to create a landscape tribute of flowers, rocks and foliage to commemorate the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Friedlund worked with her daughter Morgan Casteel, who is PTO president at Hayes Leonard Elementary, and granddaughter Sadie Casteel, 11, to create a junior master gardening program. Sadie, who helped with tours along with fellow student Wynne Aldrich, of Valparaiso, explained the symbolism used for the school's garden landscaping.
Here's a selection of just a few of the 2012 summer season's garden walk opportunities in the Region:
• Whiting in Bloom Garden Walk hosted by the Arts Alive! group in Whiting 1 to 4 p.m. June 23. The tour includes six residential gardens along with two public gardens. Tickets are $10, which includes the Garden Tea at the completion of the walk at the Veteran’s Memorial on 119th St., and are available at Full Circle Art, Suncatchers, Whiting Flower Shop, Pami Petunia's, Chrislove Collectibles or the Whiting/Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce office. FYI: (219) 659-0292 or whitingindiana.com.
• Crete Woman's Club Annual Garden Walk and Garden Faire with Luncheon at the Lincolnshire Country Club, 390 E. Richton Rd., Crete, from June 26-28. The theme for this 22nd annual event is "A Day in the Country — Then and Now" and the tour includes seven gardens, along with boutiques and vendor area. Tickets range from $15 for just the walk preview up to $30 for the walk and lunch option and $40 for the walk and dinner event. Discount for advance ticket purchases, with "day of" tickets also available. Walk and dining times vary each day. FYI: (708) 672-4820 or cretewomansclub.org.
• Munster Garden Club's Sixth Annual Garden Walk from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 29, and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 30. Tickets are $10 and admit walkers to nine gardens, with themes like wildlife attractions, fountains, garden art, vegetable gardens, privacy, mature gardens evolving, and peace and tranquility. Children 12 and under are free. There will be a drawing for door prizes donated by area garden, hardware and landscaping enterprises. Proceeds from the Garden Walk benefit local nonprofit and gardening organizations. Tickets are available from members or at Dixon's Florist, 919 Ridge Rd., Munster; Dean's Landscaping Center, 238 Kennedy Ave., Schererville; and Water's Edge Aquascaping, 18418 Wentworth, Lansing. FYI: Call Betsy, (219) 924-0022.
• Lake County Master Gardeners Association Garden Walk, featuring 11 gardens in Hobart from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 23. Tickets are $6 in Hobart at Café 339, Centier Bank in Hobart, and Karp's Garden and Feed Center. In Crown Point, the Artful Garden and Purdue Cooperative Extension also sell tickets. Maps for each garden appear on the ticket brochure designed by Lisa Gossler and printed courtesy of Centier Bank. Two master gardeners will assist at each location to take tickets, answer plant questions, and guide visitors along landscaped pathways. This year's theme is "June Is Bustin' Out All Over." Master gardeners and their guests, along with homeowners, can attend a picnic at Krull Tower, 206 Main St., Hobart, following the walk. Every master gardener will bring a dish to share. Chicken and paperware for the meal will cost $4 each for master gardeners and guests. FYI: Diana Cook at (219) 755-3240.
• Miller Beach Garden Club's 13th Annual Secret Gardens Tour 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 14-15, featuring elaborate and unique home gardens, filled with native plants, perennials and annuals. This year's theme is "Flower Beds, Bird Baths and Beyond." The tour starts at the historic Aquatorium Bath House in Miller Beach's Marquette Park, with a view of the Chicago skyline. The Aquatorium is also part of the current $28-million renovation of Marquette Park. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased at the Aquatorium, where shuttle buses will depart regularly until 2:30 p.m. and return to the Aquatorium. A bicycle tour will start 10:30 a.m. Sat., July 14. The Aquatorium is located at 6918 Oak Ave. in Gary. Box lunches will be available for purchase at the Aquatorium. Vendors will also be selling garden-related goods. FYI: millergardenclub.com.
• Porter County Master Gardeners Garden Walk 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 30, starting at Hayes Leonard School, 653 Hayes Leonard Rd., Valparaiso. Advance tickets are $6 or $8 the day of the walk. Children under 12 are free. The 2012 walk showcases six home gardens and one public garden in and around Valparaiso and Porter County. One large featured garden covers nearly 50 acres, with three of the gardens having been featured on previous walks and profiled in regional gardening magazines. Master gardeners will answer questions and explain plantings at each garden and there will be door-prize drawings at every garden. FYI: PCGarden.info or (219) 465-3555.
• The Lowell Garden Club 16th Annual Garden Walk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 7th, and Sunday, July 8. Tickets are $10 at Gardens on the Prairie, 3242 W. 169th Ave., Lowell; Leo's Feed & Garden Center, 13406 Wicker Ave. (Hwy. 41), Cedar Lake; Martin's Landscape, 9961 W. 109th Ave. (Rt. 231), Cedar Lake; and The Artful Garden, 611 N. Indiana Ave., Crown Point. A garden luncheon will be available both days at Gardens on the Prairie for an additional fee. FYI: lowellgardenclub.com or call (219) 696-8282.