Spring means daffodils and primroses. Summer means herbs and butterflies. Fall means richly colored leaves and ornamental grasses. Throughout the year, Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve's 105 acres of protected landscapes burst with vibrant plant life. By inviting visitors to explore these rich environments, Fernwood hopes to foster greater appreciation for the wonders of the natural world.
Exhibits and Culture * At the Railway Garden, model trains circle around life-like replicas of local buildings and landmarks created from natural materials. * A five-room stick sculpture called Take Five that was designed by Patrick Dougherty stands on display. * Sculpture Fernwood showcases pieces created by local artists that will be featured until September 2015.
Rockie Rick left behind the apples, peaches, and cherries of the farm he grew up on to pursue a business degree. But as he worked at different jobs, he realized that he missed working outside and yearned to be his own boss. Seeing southwest Michigan’s wine industry flourish, he bought land and began growing grapes to sell to a winery. Next, he organized bus tours of area wineries, the success of which enabled Rockie to buy more land for a total of 30 acres. In 2011, he and his staff began making wine from their own grapes, crafting the small batches in oak barrels and stainless-steel tanks.
Rockie’s independent streak flourishes at Gravity Winery, from the modern indoor seating area with deep blues, crisp whites, and an industrial steel bar to a wine named after Rockie’s dog, Oliver, who’s known for greeting guests. “We tried to break the mold of what people think of when they go to a winery,” he says. “We figured … let’s be really different.”
Rockie’s favorite wine is an “awesome peppery cabernet France” called The Theory, which sports an image of Sir Isaac Newton on the bottle. During wine flights—Gravity Vineyard’s version of a tasting and the best way for guests to sample a variety of glasses—he pairs it with dark chocolate laden with almonds and sea salt that is made locally by Vineyards Gourmet. The flights feature four wines paired with cheese or chocolate, and guests can savor their chosen flavors inside or on the patios for hilltop views of the nearby lake or vineyard.
Though the knowledgeable staff can expertly pair each wine and easily converse with the staunchest of wine-lovers, Rockie and his staff eschew snobbery. “If you want to drink a big bowl of red cabernet with your fish, great. If that’s what you enjoy, that’s what you should do,” he says. “We don’t want anyone to be intimidated because they like a certain wine over another, or they don’t know the right word to describe it.”:m]]
The floor-to-ceiling windows that frame Sentiments Bridal & Special Occasion display fashionable formal attire for men and women. Owner Marie Brown stays abreast of the trends, updating the displays regularly so the colors, textiles, and styles suit the season. Brown coordinates dresses for bridal parties, rents tuxes to groomsmen, and designs custom fashions for mothers. Accessories, including hats, shoes, and jewels, complete outfits. Brown's shop also outfits children with miniature garments for special occasions, such as christenings or space-camp graduations.
The potted professionals at Yellow Rose Florist pride themselves in personalized petal creations, crafting signature arrangements from a fresh flower inventory on a daily basis. Personalized bouquets ($50–$196) express affection for loved ones, while wedding and special-event arrangements ($199+) make ideal gifts for the happy couple or the unhappy barbershop quartet. Clients can custom-order arrangements or reference one of the florists' past creations, such as the exotic Bamboo Mojave ($50) or the plucky Yellow Roses ($60). Yellow Rose Florist's selection of potted greenhouse plants in varying sizes makes attentive, polite houseguests.
Northern Indiana may seem an unexpected destination for cold-pressed Spanish olive oils and 18-year-old Italian balsamic vinegars, but the owners of The Olive Branch are working to change that. At each of their boutiques, they line the shelves with extra-virgin olive oils from famous olive-producing regions, such as Italy, Tunisia, and California. They champion these first-press, extra-virgin oils for their reported health benefits, deeper dimensions of flavor, and ability to make any icy walkway that much more comical.
Besides the oils, they stock an international selection of balsamic vinegars, ranging from traditional varieties to blends infused with ingredients such as blackberries, dark chocolate, and pomegranate. The staff invites visitors to sample anything in the store, dispensing samples of both the oils and vinegars from stainless-steel fustis.
The Olive Branch's team members further expand guests' palates and kitchens with premium items such as Wind & Willow dessert and cheese-ball mixes and a selection of cruets and kitchenware. They can even compile these into gift baskets to celebrate special occasions such as holidays, birthdays, or the end of a Rocky film marathon.
Just Add H2O's diving experts have guided students of all levels of experience safely through waters for more than 34 years. Providing diving certifications through PADI and NAUI, instructors chart progression from introductory diving lessons all the way up to instructor certification, which comes with a license to ride giant seahorses. Just Add H2O's staff also hosts local and regional dives and leads trips to Lake Michigan shipwrecks, the cool depths of Gilboa Quarry, and tropical destinations such as Truk Lagoon in the Eastern Caroline Islands. To ensure that dives proceed without a hitch, the facility lets guests rent or purchase gear and can help to maintain used equipment.