Inspirations from an Indiana Garden Center
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.
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.
Brick paths lead through shade gardens accented with iron planters and lanterns. Customers look to expansive display gardens for plant pairings and landscaping ideas.
Lush hostas and a Japanese maple line a cascading stream.
Ferns, coneflowers and coreopsis mingle with a Japanese maple and pink petunias.
Pink ‘Tranquil Waters' daylilies and Chinese astilbe pop against ‘Incrediball' hydrangeas.
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.