“Learning the stories of our ancestors through plants”

The Cooper-Foreman Heirloom and Native Gardens is a collection of ethno-botanical gardens located on the campus of Kansas City Kansas Community College.  The gardens are privately funded and maintained by community volunteers.  KCKCC generously hosts these gardens for their educational value.

They serve as visual representations of the history of Wyandotte County from early Native American occupation to the twentieth century.  Each plant has been carefully chosen for the story it shares about its origins, the people who loved and nurtured it, and, in some cases, its contribution to the foods and medicines of our local people.  All plants lure the casual observer to appreciate their beauty, while encouraging contemplative reverie.

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Cooper-Foreman Heirloom and Native Gardens is to promote a greater awareness and appreciation of the historic gardening culture of Wyandotte County, Kansas, prior to 1920, while teaching children and adults how gardens looked, were tended, what plants the gardens contained, and how the plants were used.

The gardens are open for public viewing when the campus is open seven days a week.  Gardens and individual plants are identified with signage.  Inside the mailbox in front by the entrance garden gate visitors may find Self-Guided Tours.  Benches are provided for rest stops.

The garden has been created for public enjoyment.  The volunteers are happy to provide an enjoyable experience for all, but ask that people not pick the fruits and herbs.  The food items are used for educational purposes at specified events throughout the year. 

Garden Tours

Garden Tours are conducted every 3rd Thursday of the month, June - August, by arrangement only.  Contact Pam Louis-Walden at 913 620-6930.

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Garden Tours

Ancient Native Plants

Food and Medicinal Plants used by the Kansa Indians

How Kansa Indians used Hemp (workshop for school children)

Colonial Plants from Thomas Jefferson’s Garden

How a Colonial Garden influenced the writing of the Constitution

George Washington’s Revolutionary Garden

Lewis and Clark discoveries along the Kaw River

Benjamin Franklin’s view of an Agricultural Nation

Historical Stroll Through the Roses

The Settlers’ Garden and Plants that Came by Covered Wagon

Flowers of Quindaro

The Potato King Who Made Wyandot County famous

The Winesap and Apple Industry in Wyandotte County in late 1800s

Birds of Cooper-Foreman Gardens

Butterflies of Cooper-Foreman Gardens

Esther Foreman

Esther Foreman PhotographDuring the growing season, every Friday morning at 9:00, Esther Foreman can be found north of the Flint Building at the Cooper-Foreman Heirloom Garden, as she tends to the needs of the volunteers who share their gardening skills.  In 1998, Esther had just experienced the death of her parents, Ethel and Louis Cooper, and her husband, Horace Foreman, when she read in the Kansan that donations were being accepted for the Heirloom Garden, then located at the Wyandotte County Museum.  She made a donation and as time passed, she decided to fund the garden.  She wanted a memorial to her parents and husband, and this project, designed to teach the history of the county through plants, seemed a perfect fit to Esther.  As a former educator in KCK, Esther was pleased to attach her name to a teaching project. 

Esther Foreman is a 1937 graduate of KCKCC and is always proud to tell people.  Any mention of this college brings a smile to her face.  In 2008, when the opportunity came to move the garden, Esther was excited about the possibility of offering it to her old Alma Mater.  She remembers with great fondness her days at the Old Horace Mann Building between Eighth and Ninth Streets on State Ave., the former KCKCC campus location. 

Esther was born July 29, 1917, in Kansas City, Kansas, where she has lived all her life.  The family home was at 3023 North 12th Street in Quindaro.  Upon graduating from KCKCC, she began teaching in District 500 with her longest teaching assignment of 25 years being at Eugene Ware Elementary School.

Esther’s greatest wish now is to see the communities of KCKCC and KCK benefit from the knowledge of our history as it is told through the plantings of the Heirloom Garden that is so close to her heart.

The Volunteers

The gardens exist only because of a group of community people called The Volunteers.

The Volunteers have supported this very unique garden from its inception in 1999 at the Wyandotte County Museum, through its move to KCKCC, and through its establishment and growth at this present site.   These essential people have their names are on the bricks in the center courtyard of the Settlers’ Garden.  You will see them in the garden every Friday morning at 9:00.

Jim and Janene Brown
Martha Budke
Jim and Jean Ellis
Fred and JoAnn Eyerly
Pat Gates
Carol Gottsburen
Marty Hayes
Patrick and Barbara Higgins
Ada Mahmud
Carolyn Parmalee
Marty Porter
Erma Riding
Seiko Roberts
Lucy Soptic
Bob and Mary Swayne
Wayne Walden and Pam Louis-Walden
Karen Wesselowski

Volunteers are welcome and may inquire by calling 913 620-6930 to learn more about how to donate their time to weed, water, or help with special events for the garden.


The garden is located on the Main Campus, North of the Flint Building. 

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  • Celebration of Spring Luncheon for Friends of the Garden
  • Harvest Celebration
  • Kansas’ Birthday Celebration for Children
  • Yoga in the Apple Orchard
  • Prime Time Annual Tea-in-the-Garden
  • Tours upon request

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Passalong Plants.
Steve Bender and Felder Rushing. University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

Restoring American Gardens:
An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants 1640-1940
. Denise Wiles Adams. Timber Press, 2004.

Founding Gardeners: 
The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation
.  Andrea Wulf.  Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

Uses of Plants by Indians of the Missouri River Region
Melvin R. Gilmore.  University of Nebraska Press, 1977.

Native American Food Plants: 
An Ethnobotanical Dictionary.
 Daniel E. Moerman.  Timber Press, 2010.

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7250 State Avenue | Kansas City, KS 66112 | 913-334-1100
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