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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette A fountain is the centerpiece of the conservatory's “stadtplatz,” or town square in “Blumengarten: A German Story,” celebrating Fort Wayne's sister city Gera, Germany.

  • Corey McMaken | The Journal Gazette A dahlia garden is part of the exhibit at Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory.

  • Corey McMaken | The Journal Gazette Artifacts of German life are on display at Foellinger-Freimann.@cutline:Botanical Conservatory.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Kim Weldon waters plants near a shack representing allotment gardens.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Colorful awnings stretch over the tables and flowers of the beer garden in "Blumengarten: A German Story" a celebration of sister city Gera, Germany, on display at the Botanical Conservatory. VIDEO

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette A fountain is the centerpiece of the stadtplatz, or town square in "Blumengarten: A German Story" a celebration of sister city Gera, Germany, on display at the Botanical Conservatory. The colorful awnings call to mind the small shops lining the plaza. VIDEO

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette A collection of artifacts native to the Gera area are on display for "Blumengarten: A German Story" a celebration of sister city Gera, Germany, on display at the Botanical Conservatory. VIDEO

  • Corey McMaken | The Journal Gazette A replica beer cave is on display in the gallery.

Friday, July 14, 2017 1:00 am

Conservatory celebrates sister city Gera in new exhibit

If you go

What: “Blumengarten: A German Story”

Where: Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, 1100 S. Calhoun St.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; noon to 4 p.m. Sundays; runs through Nov. 12

Admission: $5 adults, $3 ages 3 to 17, free ages 2 and younger

More information: 427-6440 or www.fortwayneparks.org

What: Biergarten Games

When: 6 p.m. Sept. 22

Where: Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, 1100 S. Calhoun St.

Admission: Registration begins Aug. 2, register by Sept. 8; $40 individual, $35 per person in a couple; 427-6000 or www.fortwayneparks.org. Groups of three or more are $30 per person and must register by phone.

By the numbers

25

Years Fort Wayne has been a sister city to Gera, Germany

51/2

Miles of beer caves under Gera's city center

1

Week to construct the display in the conservatory

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory is honoring Fort Wayne's German sister city, Gera, with “Blumengarten: A German Story” through Nov. 12.

The conservatory's showcase garden highlights five aspects of German culture, including elements that connect directly to Gera, says Rebecca Canales, supervisor of programming and volunteer development for the conservatory. Signs give lessons on the history and traditions of the Gera area as you make your way around the garden.

At the center of the garden is a fountain representing Gera's 800-year-old town square with awnings to remind people of small shops that line the “stadtplatz.” Hop plants climb the tall structure bordering the paving-stone square.

Beyond the fountain is a small beer garden (“biergarten”) complete with several picnic tables under shade trees. In Germany in the 1500s, beer was stored underground in man-made caves with trees planted above to keep the area shaded and provide a cool spot to drink and have picnics in warm months. The “höhler” still exist, and a replica beer cave is on display in the conservatory's gallery.

A small shack and planting of vegetables represents a German allotment garden, or “kleingarten.” In the 1800s, land was set aside near German towns for the urban poor to raise fruits and vegetables.

“That's your getaway,” Canales says of families escaping their small city apartments to spend time in open spaces tending crops. There are waiting lists in Germany for space in allotment gardens, some of which are passed down through families.

A corner of the display honors the New German Garden Style (not named by Germans, by the way), which is a landscaping movement emphasizing research to create garden spaces pairing plants that occurred together in nature.

“It's very researched, very precise,” Canales says. “To me, that's very German.”

If someone asked you what flowers you would find in the Netherlands, your mind would probably go to tulips in Holland. For Germany's Gera, you should picture rows of colorful dahlias, she says. A variety of the flowers are displayed on the edge of the showcase area in the “dahliengarten.”

“As a plant group, this would be their identifier,” Canales says of the flowers, which are originally from Mexico. In the 1800s, the flowers arrived in England and spread across Europe. Gera established the world's first dahlia garden in 1928, according to the conservatory.

The “Blumengarten” display took a year of planning, Conservatory manager Chad Shaw says. Local residents and organizations with ties to Germany, such as Fort Wayne Sister Cities International Inc., provided input.

“I really like the diversity of color and texture of the plants going on,” he says.

Canales says the conservatory's hope is to represent Gera authentically, not just in the garden, but also with artifacts and art on display in the gallery, which visitors pass through on their way to the flowers.

It features a look at Thuringia, the German state in which Gera lies.

A 21-and-older Biergarten Games event in September will feature a German meal with beer, music and games. In the meantime, visitors are welcome to bring food to eat at the picnic tables in the beer garden, Canales says.

– Corey McMaken, The Journal Gazette