New quilt garden under way

NAPPANEE — Winter hasn’t stopped a group of dedicated volunteers from preparing for the unveiling of a new quilt garden at Nappanee Center.
“We’re excited about a new year and the new location,” quilt garden committee member Stephanie Topping said. “It will have greater visibility and is easier to locate than the previous one.”
Quilt gardens are a big draw, and Topping expects the new layout, design and garden to impress visitors from both near and far.
“This is something that brings people from so far away, and if they’re coming as part of the quilt gardens tour, they want to see a nice one,” Topping said. “We really feel like this is going to be nice for Nappanee.”
Nappanee has two quilt gardens. One is at Amish Acres, while the other, which has been moved to the new location, was near McCormick Creek Golf Course.
“We relocated it because it was a low area, and when it was really wet it wreaked havoc on the plants,” Topping said. “Unfortunately, you do deal with nature, so you do the best you can. That’s why it was moved, because if we deal with wet seasons, the new location will be better.”
The new pattern is titled “As American as Apple Pie,” drawing from the apple-based part of Nappanee’s history. A new permanent frame has been built, and the next step is to spread topsoil during the next good thaw or in the spring. When planting time comes, with the expertise of master gardeners Dick Conrad and Sandy Toney, the 30-foot by 30-foot garden will be filled with 4,392 individual plants in six varieties.
Even outside of the horticultural aspects, the quilt garden is not a simple endeavor. Because it is part of the Elkhart County Visitors Bureau quilt gardens tour, designs must be submitted and approved by an advisory board. Also, the viewing area must be handicapped accessible and there is a signage requirement.
Around a dozen individuals comprise the quilt garden committee, which has been involved in planning and execution.
“Each one of our committee members brings a different thing to the table,” Topping said. “We all believe in it and what it can bring to Nappanee. It is something unique.”
The committee approached the Nappanee Area Chamber of Commerce Retail and Marketing Division in August, and Retail Committee Chairman Dan Mast assumed the role of project manager.
“There are a lot of people to thank for making this happen, especially the City of Nappanee, Schrock Masonry and Country Landscaping” Mast said. “Without them, this would not have happened.”
Mast knows the quilt garden’s value. One day last summer while he happened to be at the Chamber office, four large groups came in to ask about the quilt gardens. Also last year, a bus from Texas came through to visit them, and one of the ladies bought a quilt locally for $7,000.
“There is a big trickle-down effect, where people come to see the quilt gardens and stay here,” Mast said. “I own a bicycle shop, and I get people who stop by while touring the quilt gardens and I fix their bikes. It is a huge, huge trickle-down effect.”
Anyone wanting to volunteer or donate to the quilt garden project can contact the Nappanee Area Chamber of Commerce office at 574-773-7812.