Inspirations from an Indiana Garden Center | Midwest Living

Inspirations from an Indiana Garden Center

A garden center outside of Indianapolis is part nursery, part botanical center, part muse.
  • Destination: Inspiration

    Plant shopping has never been more enticing than when you are at a center like Avon Gardens outside Indianapolis, where more than 3,000 varieties of ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers fill the 5-acre property.

    Owner Karen Robbins calls herself a “plant-a-holic.” Her garden center (15 miles west of Indianapolis) might be the region’s most beautiful laboratory—she uses the space to test every plant she sells and tasks her staff with sharing the lessons learned with browsing customers.

    Pictured: An ornamental spruce and a weeping cherry accent a bridge spanning a pond. Blue oat grass and coral bells border the water feature. 

  • Easy-care perennials

    One core lesson at Avon Gardens is to rely on easy-care perennials with attractive foliage and extended blooming periods—in other words, maximum show with minimum fuss. For big, dazzling flowers, Karen loves daylilies, especially repeat-blooming varieties such as ‘Zephyr’s Song’ and ‘Tranquil Beauty’. “Daylilies tolerate a lot of conditions, and the flowers are works of art,” she says. Newer varieties of coneflowers and coreopsis also win praise. “They bloom longer than their predecessors, and they make good neighbors: They don’t reseed and take over.” Drought-tolerant Kalimeris is her secret weapon because it bears countless little asterlike blooms for months. 

    Pictured: Peach-tinged ‘Calling All Angels’ daylilies.

  • Serene scenes

    Brick paths lead through shade gardens accented with iron planters and lanterns. Customers look to expansive display gardens for plant pairings and landscaping ideas.

  • Tranquil feel

    Lush hostas and a Japanese maple line a cascading stream.

  • Vibrant beds

    Ferns, coneflowers and coreopsis mingle with a Japanese maple and pink petunias.

  • Captivating colors

    Pink ‘Tranquil Waters’ daylilies and Chinese astilbe pop against ‘Incrediball’ hydrangeas.

  • Gardener's escape

    Customers stroll through display gardens that converge at a lily pond. The land was a hog farm 30 years ago.

  • In the shade

    Ferns, coral bells and hostas line a shaded path.

  • Garden lessons: Mix it up

    Start each bed with a strong focal point, such as an evergreen, specimen tree or arbor. In larger beds, add secondary focal points; shrubs bring structure. Use perennials as fillers. Grasses and foliage create texture and contrast.

  • Garden lessons: Include white

    Flowers like ‘Milkshake’ coneflowers provide visual relief amid vibrant color schemes, bring shady areas to life and glow alluringly in twilight.

  • Garden lessons: Add mood lighting

    Candles, lanterns and other subtle lighting make the garden inviting at night. Candle stakes set at different heights add enchantment.

  • Garden lessons: Lift it up

    Raised containers add vertical interest and maximize the impact of annuals. A series of planters in the same colors and materials will draw the eye through a garden.

  • Garden lessons: Plan for year-round interest

    In Karen Robbins’ garden, iris and peonies echo the colors of spring-flowering trees. Coneflowers, coreopsis and petunias (pictured) bloom boldly all summer. Fall stars include asters, Japanese anemone and grasses. Dwarf evergreens and bare, weeping trees look beautiful in snow. 

  • More about Avon Gardens

    Summertime events offer more education or a fun night out with friends. Evening Pot Parties teach guests how to make container gardens. Wine and live music star at Girls Night Out, where ladies find garden inspiration (and good conversation) via candlelight. The same candles cast a glow over evening weddings and receptions. “These gardens bring a lot of joy,” says owner Karen Robbins (pictured).

    For more information: Avon Gardens (317) 272-6264;

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