A Taste of Taltree History

Taltree Arboretum & Gardens is a remarkable asset to the South Lake Michigan region. Sitting on top of the Valparaiso moraine, Taltree boasts 360 acres of woody plant collections, formal gardens, wetlands, woodlands, and prairies.

In 1997, Damien and Rita Gabis, founders of Taltree Arboretum & Gardens, realized that one of the problems of population growth was the loss of green space with its corresponding detrimental effect on people. Making plans to offer a solution, they envisioned a place where people would come to be refreshed and restored, find inspiration and creativity in nature, and learn about horticulture and ecology.

During the spring of 1998 Taltree staff and volunteers planted 35 acres of warm season prairie and more than 7000 oaks and hickories. Soon thereafter a large wetland that had been drained for agriculture was restored. Trails connecting each area were constructed enabling people to easily explore Taltree. Since that time numerous species of mammals, birds, insects, invertebrates, and amphibians have come to call Taltree home.

Taltree Time Line

1998: Taltree becomes not-for-profit foundation. Reforestation efforts began by the planting of 7,000 trees on 16 acres. Warm season prairie was planted on 30 acres and the first trails were created. Acorns received from the International Oak Society were planted.
1999: Savanna Wetlands reclamation project begins
2000: First adult education classes offered; Interpretive hikes begin; savanna wetland plants installed along shoreline; five acres warm season prairie planted; first plant collections policy drafted; volunteer program begins
2001: Joseph E. Meyer Memorial Pavilion construction begins; Taltree grounds opened to public in October
2002: Joseph E. Meyer Memorial Pavilion completed; First wedding at Taltree; Outstanding Civic Organization Award received from Indiana Urban Forest Council; Membership program begins; First TAG Along newsletter published
2003: Music in Nature concerts begin; Meyer Memorial Pavilion gardens planted; first master plan created; received Newcomer of the Year award from Porter County Convention & Visitor Commission; first Taltree Ten race; summer youth programs with Boys & Girls Clubs and Hilltop House begin
2004: Welcome and Entry Gardens planted; Native Plant Garden begins; Opportunity Enterprises and Arc Bridges begin volunteering at Taltree; received Environmental Quality of Life award from the Quality of Life Council
2005: Taltree receives Quality of Life Award from Arc Bridges of Gary IN
2006: Taltree plants trees at Ivanhoe Elementary, Gary and along bicycle path in Hammond; Taltree recognized by Arc Bridges for “outstanding contributions and inclusion of people with disabilities” during Disability Awareness Month
2007: Hitz Family Rose Garden completed; Taltree received the Phillip Antommaria Memorial Award for Environmental Excellence from Rotary of Valparaiso; First Cathy Hodges Memorial Concert for Performing Arts; First Gala Dinner-Midsummer Nights Dream
2008: Taltree receives Community Improvement Award from Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce; Railway Garden Depot groundbreaking; Ten Years of Taltree summer celebration
2009: Thanks to support from Valparaiso Rotary Club, Taltree constructs Window on the Wetland, a spot for visitors to view the wide variety of wildlife that live in or pass through the wetland. The entry gatehouse is built, allowing Taltree to disburse information to visitors. Taltree’s Native Plant Garden adds a Monarch Waystation that includes host and nectar plants for Monarch butterflies. The Railway Garden Depot is completed.
2010: Taltree’s premier Oak Collection is awarded provisional status by the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC).  NAPCC, a program of the American Public Gardens Association, is a network of botanical gardens which take official responsibility for collecting and preserving specific plant groups and the genetic resources they represent.
2011: The Taltree Railway Garden opens and receives several awards for design, including the GreenSite Award for its pervious concrete path. The Cardinal Trail is completed, adding .6-mile to Taltree’s three miles of trals. Taltree’s Native Plant Garden receives the Bringing Nature Home Award from the Shirley Heinze Land Trust.