Irvin Etienne

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Indianapolis, Indiana 46203

Always looking for a good time with an audience. If we aren't having fun why be there?

e: view email irvin.etienne@gmail.com


Irvin is the Horticultural Display Coordinator for the Garden at Newfields (Indianapolis Museum of Art) where he has worked over 25 years. In that position he helps the Horticulturists with their plant selection and garden design as well as designing and maintaining his own areas. While working in the 152 acres of the Garden and grounds requires knowledge and skill with all manner of woody and herbaceous plants, Irvin lusts for and loves the tropical species most of all. He is the recipient of Gold and Silver awards in Electronic Media Writing from the Garden Writers Association for his blogging at the IMA. In his own garden everything from cannas to eggplants to Magnolias coexist in a lush jungle fed by manure from his own rabbits and chickens. Obviously a product of the midwest, Irvin could be considered, well, a simple farm boy that likes shiny sparkly things. And is easily distracted.


In addition to speaking I write for Fine Gardening and have a regular column in Indiana Gardening magazine. My blog at Newfields is no longer active but you can still go to the website and read them. I hope to produce more regularly on my personal blogsite in the coming year. I have written a couple guest blogs at Garden Rant as well. 


I am happy to speak on a variety of topics. Most often I cover tropicals, annuals, perennials, and woodies - both in the ground and in containers. I am a horticulturist that gardens full time as both career and hobby. I visit other gardens regularly for inspration, education, and fun. I have listed some of my current talks below but am happy to develop what is needed for your program - so long as I have the knowledge to do it properly. For example, I am currently creating two new talks for upcoming events. I am not the kind that will tell you I know a subject when I do not.  

Joy of Containers

Containers allow incredible diversity in the garden. You can grow edibles, trees, or perennials in addition to the more traditional ornamental plant selections. You can even grow them all together in one container. Whether you have five acres or five square feet you can do something with containers. It’s a great way to experiment with new plants and new ways to grow plants. As with other gardening adventures you need to pay attention to the old adage “right plant, right place”, know your soil, and know your limits. This time you also have to know your container. And just what is a container? We will explore all this and some more. And have a good time doing it.


Carmen Miranda in the Midwest

Now you may be asking what on earth is this all about. Let me explain. A garden requires many elements to be successful but one of the most important is eye-popping attention-getting color and texture. And the only plants that can give you that in the extravagance that makes gardening worthwhile are tropicals and annuals. Now, everyone does containers and that is fabulous. But when you go Carmen Miranda those plants jump right out of the containers and into your garden beds. They may combine with hardy plants or they may create beds of pure tropicalissmo. Either way the result is true garden ecstasy.



When Pretty Ain’t Enough

We all want perennials that will give us constant beauty from earliest Spring until the last evil frost before snow in Winter. But sometimes those beauties don’t have enough strength to even make it through a full year. In this program we will take a look at some of the best tough perennials for midwest gardens. Shade or sun, wet or dry, there is something out there to make you a gardening success. These won’t necessarily be the newest plants because very rarely will the most current plants be truly tested. Don’t believe everything the internet tells you. We will do our best to stay on the positive though. 


Thug-a-licious (When Bad Plants go Good)

Some plants just are not the shy demure sort. They may be told they are the secondary to the prima-donnas in the front of the border but they will not let their presence go unnoticed. Soon they will be sidled right up next to that precious little darling you so carefully placed next to that stone with the touch of sparkly pink quartz. No staying in place for these vigorous growers. But also no crying over soggy wet soil, or dried out hard clay under the baking sun, or the heavy competition of roots from mature trees. There are times when we need a garden thug. 


Nativars - Strangers in a Strange Land 

While many native plant species make good garden plants, certainly not all are ideal. Breeders and plant hunters have come up with many cultivars of natives (nativars) that do make excellent garden plants. Sometimes these are simply selections found out in nature and other times they are planned hybrids. Since these plants are going into ornamental gardens rather than natural areas, their aesthetic qualities become equal to their native heritage. Indeed, sometimes they become strangers in a strange land. In this talk we will look at some of the better selections for the Midwest.


The Greatest Most Fantastical New Plants Ever (Maybe) 

Every year new plants come on the market. Each one is the greatest most fantastical plant ever! Really? Only time will tell so we will look at some NEW plants that may meet their full potential and some newer plants that have met their full potential. I may mention a few duds but mostly this will stay on the positive. We will cover newer versions of perennials, annuals, tropicals, and woody plants.


Getting Beyond the Bloom

We all have a strong tendency to select plants for our gardens based on their flower power. And there is nothing wrong with that, but it becomes so limiting of the possibilities available to us. With most plants the flowering time is very short, maybe only a couple weeks, a month or two with the best. That same plant’s foliage on the other hand can be on display six months or longer. Why don’t we choose more plants based on their foliage power? Plants with gorgeous foliage range from the most tender tropicals to the hardiest perennials and woodies. Colors range from brightest yellow to darkest black, plus all the variegated options. You just may forget all about the flowers. We’ll be getting beyond the bloom.


Museum Quality Plants

People are always shocked that there is a Horticulture component to a museum. Then they discover that Newfields (Indianapolis Museum of Art) has a 152 acre campus consisting of a 26 acre historic estate, 26 acres of contemporary landscapes, and a 100 acre art and nature park. The Horticulturists for the Garden at Newfields must know, design with, and maintain all types of plants from tropicals to tulips to trees and everything in between. This presentation will cover some favorites selected from all types of plants. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a high speed trip down a curvy road without guardrails. 




Photo Gallery


Audience Reviews

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Gardening Without Privacy

Vickie Davis from Indianapolis - 08/10/2020 21:09:24

Excellent Presentation -- Not only did he provide beautiful slides of the plants he was describing but he also gave information about growing conditions. He made the presentation fun and interesting.

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Gardening with Privacy

Bobbi Main-Jackson from INDIANAPOLIS - 08/10/2020 12:12:52

Excellent presentation! I learned a lot in an hour and Irvin had a great way of making it interesting.

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MG meeting 08102020

Joan Carter from Indianapolis - 08/10/2020 11:54:31

Really informative and inspirational talk.

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