It’s Only Natural

Wellfield Botanic Gardens Gives Visitors an Immersive Experience

Writer / Lois Tomaszewski
Photography Provided

Imagine taking a former brownfield toxic site and transforming it into a tranquil, fertile and serene place for people of all ages to enjoy. Wellfield Botanic Gardens in Elkhart is that special place – one that nurtures the earth as well as the soul. Wellfield Botanic Gardens

“Our mission is to create that perfect situation where we are connecting people to their environment,” says Eric Garton, the Robert and Peggy Weed executive director for Wellfield.

The fourfold mission of Wellfield is illustrating the relationship of water to life, celebrating artistic creation and education, fostering stewardship of the earth’s resources and growing community engagement. All these components build a better community and quality of life, Garton says.

Wellfield Botanic Gardens was formerly the location of the city’s public water supply. It is owned by the City of Elkhart and leased to the Wellfield nonprofit organization. It is still an active well site that supplies 70% of the city’s water supply. The air towers on-site are still operational in filtering much of the water for the city – a task that is done naturally by the gardens for the water that comes from there.

The gardens are changing and their footprint on Elkhart continues to grow. Garton has seen the annual budget triple in the eight years he has led the organization, and he is looking ahead, planning a future expansion.

Wellfield Botanic Gardens

Even if Wellfield did not expand or improve, it would still be the kind of place that draws people in. Paved pathways provide a safe, pedestrian-only experience on trails that circle a pond, meander along Christiana Creek, and introduce visitors to a variety of plants and gardens.

A native plant garden is one of the newer areas yet to be developed. This area of the gardens will showcase the types of plants that are native to the area, and how they can be used in landscaping. The information has become exceedingly popular, Garton says.

One of the most rewarding activities that comes from the community’s interaction with Wellfield is the experience of learning about the earth and gardening.  By using native plants and associated techniques, gardening becomes more enjoyable, he says.

“We strive to teach people you don’t have to work so hard in the garden if you place the right plant in the right place,” Garton says.

Wellfield is also taking part in the protection of endangered wetlands plants. Five endangered species are grown in Wellfield’s greenhouses and included in the park landscaping. Garton says these plants are not identified, to protect the plants and preserve them for the future.

From the Japanese-inspired Island Garden to the whimsical children’s play area, Wellfield is all about bringing people together. Last year 75,000 visits to the gardens were logged, including guests who attended some of the annual events like Taste of the Gardens, the summer concert series, and the holiday lights display.

“People come here for many different reasons,” Garton says.Wellfield Botanic Gardens

Frequent visitors include families with young children who want to let their kids explore the outdoors. Visitors can include people who are interested in plants, whether for their own landscaping or to simply learn the scientific names and characteristics. Yoga is a common activity on the grounds, as are experiences in art, food and music.

When it comes to activities, Garton hopes the community considers Wellfield a place that embraces everyone. There are story times designated every Tuesday beginning in May, and a Saturday program for preschoolers every Saturday in June. Lectures, concerts and educational programs fill up Wellfield’s calendar every month.

Wellfield Botanic Gardens is located at 1011 North Main Street in Elkhart. For additional details including hours and admission info, visit, call 574-266-2006, or email

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