Tri-State’s Azalea Path Botanical Garden is a nearby floral retreat

HAZELTON, Ind. – The magnificent flowering shrubs. Winding paths. The Secret Gardens of the Fairies. The cozy seats and off the beaten track. The Azalea Path Botanical Garden and Arboretum is the Tri-State Secret Garden.

“It’s everybody’s backyard,” said Beverly Knight, owner of the garden and arboretum in Hazelton with her husband Stephen. It’s only an hour from Evansville and it’s a hidden gem. Still, for those in the know, it’s a popular outdoor springtime destination.

Knight grew up in Vanderburgh County, living near Cynthiana. She drove for UPS and, along the way, loved coming up with landscaping ideas – and wanted lots of land to implement them. She and her family eventually found a larger piece of land straddling the Pike and Gibson county line and began building a house and garden.

One of Knight’s friends along the way was Dr. Henry Schroeder, a renowned azalea hybridizer.

“I loved azaleas, I loved them,” Knight said. “When I saw Dr. Schroeder, he asked me if we were going up to our land and sent me a tray of azaleas to plant. He was one of America’s most prolific breeders.

Knight hadn’t intended his house to be a tourist destination at first, but it’s located near Smith’s Greenhouse, and when guests drove by and saw his flowers, they’d stop thinking it was the greenhouse. Then they would ask to look around a bit, then they would show up later with friends.

“I figured I should just open to the public,” she said.

Azaleas dot the landscape at the Azalea Path Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Pike County, Ind., Friday, April 26, 2019. The facility was started by Beverly Knight in 1979 on 15 acres and has grown to over 60 acres and has about 500 varieties of the flower.

From vegetable garden to spring destination

It was the start of something that grew and continues to grow.

Knight’s original 15 acres have grown to so much more, with 25 acres now developed and more sections to come each year. There are thousands of azaleas, paths and statues. They added two lakes. Next year she will add a garden inherited from Dr. Shroeder, and eventually a stream on the property will be developed.

The azaleas will be in full bloom until mid-May, but there’s plenty to see after that. There are lots of unusual trees, plants and beautiful landscaping where weddings are scheduled every weekend during the summer.

There’s even a patio with seating, beer, and wine where visitors can enjoy a picnic they bring. Until mid-June, Azalea Path is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily so visitors can come before it gets hot or after work.

Azaleas dot the landscape at the Azalea Path Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Pike County, Ind., Friday, April 26, 2019. The facility was started by Beverly Knight in 1979 on 15 acres and has grown to over 60 acres and has about 500 varieties of the flower.

Also stop at Sullivan’s

Azalea Path visitors often make a day out of it by stopping at Sullivan’s Grocery and Diner, a historic restaurant just a few miles down the road. The building was erected in 1883 and Jeff and Terri Sullivan have owned it for 21 years. Sherri Sullivan is the manager.

“This place was originally built as an Odd Fellows club,” Sherri said. “After that, it became a small grocery store where they served deli sandwiches for years. When my brother and his wife bought it, they started serving burgers, fish sandwiches, and tenderloins.

Azaleas dot the landscape at the Azalea Path Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Pike County, Ind., Friday, April 26, 2019. The facility was started by Beverly Knight in 1979 on 15 acres and has grown to over 60 acres and has about 500 varieties of the flower.

More has been added to the menu lately. The place is famous for hand-breaded tenderloins with specially seasoned homemade breadcrumbs.

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People missed the big fish sandwiches that were sold at the Gibson County Fair, so the Sullivans came up with the “Tad’s Fair Fish” sandwich – a large slice of white pollock in a puffy secret batter, served piping hot on a bun with leaf lettuce and tartar sauce.

Also on the menu are catfish fillets, Angus cheeseburgers and appetizers to complete the meal.

Sometimes homemade pastries are available, and in the cold months homemade soups are offered.

We met Sheila Austin from Evansville having lunch at Sullivan’s after a trip to Azalea Path. It was her first trip to the area, and she was glad she made it.

“When we were at Azalea Path, someone recommended we eat here,” she said. “The flowers there were breathtaking, and I liked the idea of ​​eating here because it was an old fashioned grocery store. The food is excellent, exactly what you would expect from an old fashioned restaurant. We had fun today. It’s a hidden gem that many people don’t know about; I posted so many pictures and got a lot of comments.

If you are going to

Azalea Path Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is located at 1502 N. County Road 825 W, Hazleton

There is an entrance fee of $5 per person.

Phone: 812-483-1098

Opening hours until June 15: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day

After June 15, call to make sure someone will be there before you make the trip.

Sullivan’s Grocery and Diner is located at 8400 W. Indiana Road 65, Hazleton

Phone: 812-354-2919

Hours: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

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