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Get to Know the Board of Directors: Stu Franzen

By Carly Kwiecien

In the beginning there is a plan. In the end there is a flourishing, blooming garden.

Stu Franzen, long-time landscape architect with Planned Environment Associates, is a dedicated member on the Board of Directors at Friendship Botanic Gardens, as he brings new garden arrangements for the grounds by preparing site plans, specifications and cost estimates.

Both he and his wife, Sue, received Bachelor of Science degrees from Purdue University and are both registered landscape architects.

Together, they work for the firm, Planned Environment Associates, which was founded over 37 years ago and brings clients expertise with a vision to design solutions tailored to their needs. The firm is commercial and residential, and institutional design is well-versed on plant material, natural stone and other construction techniques.

He first learned about Friendship Botanic Gardens after meeting John Leinweber, current President of the Board for the Gardens.  

“About three years ago, John asked me to be a part of the Board for the Gardens, and you know when John asks you to help with something, you can’t refuse it,” Franzen said. “I was enlisted to be a part of the Board mainly because of my design background and big-picture outlook I could bring to the Gardens.”

Franzen has worked on several projects during his time with the Gardens, such as refurbishing the front entrance, the Veteran’s Memorial Garden, the island on Lake Lucerne and designing the Horizon Bank Labyrinth Garden.

“About a year and a half ago, I unrolled the plans for the maze garden during a meeting at John’s house,” Franzen said. “After he said it was great, we soon got started. Horizon Bank has been gracious enough to fund that garden, which helped move the plan forward.”

The maze is one of the newest additions to the Gardens.

“That was my favorite project because it’s more family-oriented,” Franzen said. “The goal of it is to entice families to walk through the Gardens and to have children run through the maze.”

As Franzen is truly a man of innovative ideas, he has several goals and plans for the Gardens.

“One of my goals is to use some of the artifacts we have from the 1930s and bring them to life,” Franzen expressed. “There’s a big terracotta statue and big concrete spheres, pillars and columns that I want to bring into more visibility as visitors come into the parking lot. Right now, they’re buried in weeds but to use those would show even more of all of the history that is here.”

Franzen enjoys seeing his plans come full circle and is excited about the progress the Gardens have made over the years.

“It’s pretty exciting to be a part of the team here,” Franzen said. “The exciting thing is that we’re going to start getting more recognition, not only in Michigan City, but also in the whole Midwest.”

He believes the success of the Gardens is attributed to the President, as well as the volunteers and the Board of Directors.

“That really boils down to John’s passion to keep everybody motivated,” Franzen said. “It’s easy to get discouraged if things aren’t going well, but from my view, things are always going great. I love when other board members are excited when I bring up a new project. It’s great to have that support.”