To contact the committee for more information, click here.
Located at 2000 W. 116th Street, Carmel, IN 46032
The Children’s Garden at Coxhall Gardens provides an atmosphere for children of all ages to explore and play while learning how to identify different species of plants. A variety of themed gardens are designed to inspire children’s curiosity by providing an abundance of different plants that attract all kinds of wildlife.
The Hamilton County Master Gardeners (HCMG) along with the Coxhall Staff maintain, design, and implement these themed gardens. Along with the HCMG, the Hamilton County Park’s naturalist also conducts public and school tours, explaining the history and the plant selections used around the themed areas in order to help children and adults become familiar with plant identification.
History of the Grounds
In 1838, one of Hamilton County’s earliest settlers, John Williams, was born. He moved to Hamilton County in 1855 where he farmed. Ten years later, Mr. Williams built the Victorian home, which still exists today. In 1961 Jesse and Beulah Cox purchased the farm from Williams. Jesse wanted to “preserve an oasis in a sea of homes”, so he decided to donate the land to Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department. Plans for this park include a museum, conservatory, children’s garden, and a greenhouse. The park currently has the Centerpiece, a statue of Beulah and Jesse, Campbell Crossing, restroom facilities and trails.
The Children’s Garden, located on the northeast side of Coxhall Gardens (2200 W 116ᵗʰ St in Carmel) is not your ordinary playground! Void of traditional playground equipment, the Children’s Garden was developed to foster imaginative play while learning about various plant species and diverse ecosystems. The gardens were developed in 2005/2006 by the Hamilton County Parks Department (HCPD) in collaboration with the Hamilton County Master Gardeners Association (HCMGA). The Master Gardeners have maintained this area ever since, each year developing ideas for improvement and plantings, both annuals and perennials. Members of HCMGA work closely with the Parks Department which provides most of the supplies we need such as plantings (trees, shrubs, flowers), weed killer, mulch (the Parks Department staff mulches), trash bags and cleanup of our waste after we are done volunteering.
The area is composed of several small buildings, which were initially named for businesses commonly found in a village, such as a Bank, General Store, Pet Store, Coffee Shop and even a Jail which the kids love. Plantings around the buildings were coordinated with the name of the building such as a vegetable and herb garden at the General Store, Dogwood trees and Zebra Grass located at the Pet Store and plants associated with medicinal cures at the Pharmacy.
In 2021/2022 the Butterfly Village storefronts were renovated due to extensive water damage. As a result of that renovation the storefronts were given new names and purposes. This renaming gave us an opportunity to focus on educating the public about Indiana native plants and the importance of eradicating invasive species. The Jail storefront, instead of plants, has a “Wanted” sign with the names of invasive plants and their “crime” to the environment. The Wellness Center (formerly the Coffee Shop) features plants native to Indiana with signage educating the public on the importance native plants have to the “health and wellness of our environment.” The Library (formerly the Bank) was inspired by “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle and features plants that are host, pollen, and nectar plants that support caterpillars and butterflies. In addition, it has a climbable, colorful rock caterpillar perfect for pictures! We kept the concept of growing vegetable and herbs that were formerly in the General Store. These are now found in the Grocery Store (formerly the Candy Store) where we grow vegetables and edible plants and flowers in troughs; and The Restaurant (formerly the Pet Store) where we grow culinary herbs. Our Garden Center has a mix of native plants and plants commonly found in retail garden centers along with a painted 12’ Sunflower hopscotch area made out of concrete stepping stones. An Arts and Craft area was added to the Toy Store (formerly the Pharmacy) for kids to use their imagination to build things out of items typically found in nature, such as rocks, sticks, pine cones, and other natural materials.
In 2014, HCMGA members created and designed an ABC Garden and with approval for development by the HCPD, a wonderful garden with a rainbow-colored sidewalk was created. Each letter of the alphabet has corresponding plantings to that letter, such as Dahlias in the D section, Coleus in the C section and a Quince bush in the Q section.
Other areas of interest are the Pollinator garden area, Solar area with a life size sundial where you are the clock, Snake walkway, Medicine Wheel, Sensory Garden and the Sand River (currently being renovated). In 2021, a new Bird/Rain Garden was created to address ongoing drainage issues utilizing trees, shrubs, plants and sedges that support and provide habitat for birds and hummingbirds as well as improve drainage and reduce erosion.
Master Gardener Audrey Nelson introduced the Quilt Garden in 2016! This has become one of the most enjoyed and rewarding achievements for the public and the MG’s. The Quilt Garden theme changes every year. We are currently featuring designs that are nature inspired. The 2023 quilt design is a Snail encouraging you to “Explore Nature ….at a snail’s pace”. Planting of the Quilt Garden typically occurs the first part of June and anyone is welcome to assist. Lunch is usually provided by the Coxhall Guild.
Current Committee Chairs are:
Leslie Snyder: intern class of 2013
Marsha Guerriero: intern class of 2019
Debbie Klingerman: intern class of 2019
D. Grace Johnson: intern class of 2020
Susie Sams: intern class of 2021
Susan Steele: intern class of 2022
Every Thursday (weather permitting) from 9am to noon or whatever time frame works for you! Volunteers can work other days of the week or on Saturday if our regular schedule doesn’t work for you by coordinating with one of our co-chairs for projects that need to be addressed. Commitment to Thursdays is not required.
What we do:
Weeding, Planting, Fertilizing, Identifying and Removing invasive plants, oversee the Staff mulching, design development and prepping the gardens for winter, answer questions and educate the public that utilize the garden. We typically take a break mid workday to hydrate and educate. Our co-chairs take turns providing a short garden related educational topic. The best part about volunteering in the Children’s Garden is watching and listening to the children play, the camaraderie between the volunteers and listening to the wonderful sounds from the Twin
If you are interested in volunteering with us or just want to be informed about our scheduled activities please email D. Grace Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be added on our mailing list.
Hope to see you in the Gardens!
(Article submitted by HCMGA and Committee Chair, Leslie Snyder, September 2020; updated by Debbie
Klingerman June 2023)
2023 Project — “Explore Nature…at a Snail’s Pace”
2022 Project — “Color Your World – With Flowers”
This project includes 2,600 annuals in a 30′ square garden creating a flower design which features rose & white begonias, ageratums, marigolds, and lantanas.
2021 Project — “Butterflies – Flowers That Fly”
Video courtesy of Michael DeRose (Instagram #derose05)
2020 Project — “As American As Apple Pie”
2019 Project — Patriotic Pinwheel “Child’s Joy of Country”
2017 Project — Old-Fashioned School House