The arts are blossoming again in Michiana this summer.
The Art League’s annual Arts in Bloom Garden Walk returns Wednesday for its 31st season, after being canceled last year because of the pandemic.
“We are excited to start up again,” publicity chairman Rebecca Miller says.
As the name suggests, the Garden Walk is an event in which participants are invited to view the gardens of local residents. While perusing the home gardens, they also will see local artists painting the scenery in real time.
This year’s seven gardens on display are found in the Winding Brook Park and The Forest neighborhoods in Mishawaka.
Proceeds from the event benefit ongoing projects and the children’s program at the South Bend Museum of Art.
How does the event work?
Participants meet at the Hospitality Center located at Henry Frank Park, 601 E. Day Road, Mishawaka, to pick up a guided map and purchase tickets if necessary. They will then use the brochure they receive to locate each of the gardens.
The gardens are all unique and many offer a wide variety of local flora and fauna. Additionally, they are cultivated by their residents, as opposed to a professional company.
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“It’s inspirational for would-be gardeners or (gardeners) who have been gardening for years,” Miller says.
In a typical year, she says, the Art League sees 200-300 participants for the garden walk.
To choose the gardens, a committee on the Art League visits gardens and scopes out neighborhoods in which gardens can be visited within walking distance of each other. Miller adds there also will be adequate space for parking.
Although some artists are part of the Art League, the committee reaches out to award-winning artists from around the area.
For Michael Oliva of Mishawaka, this is the first time showcasing his garden with Arts in Bloom, although he was scheduled to participate last year.
Oliva, designer at Bruno’s Lawn and Landscaping Inc., says he never tires of making gardens beautiful and enjoyable for his clients, his family and himself.
When he bought the house in the Winding Brook Park neighborhood in 1999, the landscaping was “sparse and dull.”
Since then, Oliva has cultivated and designed his garden to reflect his passion for landscaping.
“I have something that blooms here every week through the fall,” he says.
The garden wraps from the front of the house to the back, and features a wide variety of flowers currently in bloom, including roses, hydrangeas, begonias and hostas.
Oliva and his fiancée, Becky Bartlett, who designed and planted the seasonal potted plants around the garden, say they buy all of their plants at McKinley Garden Center.
Oliva also has carefully pruned and shaped a lilac tree and weeping cherry tree, which like most of the trees he has planted, are bordered by hand-placed stones. The stones match the retaining wall Oliva built that contributes to the overall natural look of the garden on the side of the property.
“All the houses and landscaping didn’t take a day or weeks,” he says about his garden and all of the gardens featured in the walk. “It took years.”
Another one of this year’s gardens, located in The Forest neighborhood, belongs to Tony and Jean Yelovich. The couple moved into their house in 1996 and Jean started work on their current garden two years later.
The most memorable feature of their garden is a small waterfall that graces their backyard by a patio.
Tony says Jean gets all of her flowers from local nurseries, and the workers at Lowe’s know her by name.
“She really enjoys bringing in the plants with an issue,” Tony says, “(the ones that) need tender love and care.”
The couple hosted the Garden Walk a few years ago. “We are looking forward to it,” Tony says.
This year will be South Bend artist Kimberly DeNolf’s third time participating in the Garden Walk.
“(Gardening is) another form of creativity,” she says.
One of DeNolf’s favorite parts of the Garden Walk is the way each artist depicts the garden in their own style.
After a year away from art festivals, DeNolf says, she is excited to take part in a live event again.
“This year, in particular, people want to get out of the house and in the outdoors,” she says.
Local artist Diane Overmyer, of Wakarusa, has been painting at the Garden Walk or serving the Garden Walk committee as artist coordinator for more than 10 years.
For her, painting a garden is a unique experience because the artists have only a day to complete the painting.
Overmyer says it’s a pleasure to see the visitors walk through each garden, because the attendees often draw inspiration from the botanical displays.
A variety of artists will work with different mediums, such as oils, pastels and watercolors, in the gardens. “It’s fun to see everyone’s different styles,” Overmyer says.
Overmyer speaks highly of the intersection of art that occurs during the event.
“It’s wonderful to go into these little slices of heaven,” she says. “Gardening is an art form. It’s like looking at sculptures of life.”
What: Arts in Bloom Garden Walk sponsored by the Art League
Where: Winding Brook and The Forest neighborhoods in Mishawaka. Meet at the Hospitality Center located at Henry Frank Park, 601 E. Day Road, Mishawaka.
When: 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. July 7, rain or shine
Cost: $15 in advance until 5 p.m. July 6; $20 at the door
For more information: Call 574-235-9102 or visit southbendart.org