Top Ten Reasons You Would Love to Garden in Indianapolis

Welcome to Indianapolis, Indiana, the capital of Indiana, located in the midwestern part of the United States, the heartland, the crossroads of America. My home, where I live and garden in a tiny place I call May Dreams Gardens.

Did you know that David Letterman is from Indianapolis? He is! And so with apologies to Dave, I’m offering my Top Ten Reasons You Would Love to Garden in Indianapolis.

10. Good Soil. Generally soil is a brown silt loam or a maybe a clay silt loam. Most gardeners end up with pretty good dirt for planting by adding a bit of compost and other organic material.

9. 150 Frost Free Days. Our last frost of the spring is generally around May 10th or Mother’s Day and our first frost of the fall is around October 10th, giving us 150 days to grow our vegetable gardens and annual flowers.

8. USDA Zone 5 Hardiness. Some people in Zone 4 think that the really good plants for the garden are hardy in Zone 5 and warmer. There is a lot we can grow here.

7. Good Rainfall. Our average annual rainfall is close to 40 inches so we can often get by without a lot of extra watering during the growing season.

6. Autumn. We have great fall color on our deciduous trees and shrubs in the fall. Many gardeners and other people just wanting to see good fall foliage colors go south of here to a place called Brown County to see some of the best fall color around and enjoy strolling among quaint shops.

5. Winter Break. We get a nice long rest from gardening in the winter time, which makes us appreciate our growing season that much more.

4. Good Garden Centers. Our city has some good garden centers and a few little out of the way places to buy plants. Not all of them offer beautiful display gardens like the Avon Gardens on the west side, but you generally don’t have to go too far to buy a decent plant.

3. Good Public Gardens. We have some nice strolling gardens to take your mind off your own weed patch or to give you ideas on what to plant in your own garden. These include White River Gardens, the historic gardens on the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Museum, Garfield Park and Conservatory, and just up the highway in West Lafayette is Purdue University and the Horticulture Gardens.

2. A Great Mid-Sized City. We aren’t the biggest city around but we have an NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts, an NBA team, the Indiana Pacers, and a place called “the track” where they run a race on Memorial Day Weekend called the Indy 500. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

And the number one reason You Would Love to Garden in Indianapolis....

1. Lilacs and Peonies. Our winters get cold enough so that in the spring we can enjoy the heavenly scent of lilacs in bloom and be amazed by the beauty of our state flower, the peony.

Lilacs in bloom...
Peonies in bloom....

Thank you, Jodi from Bloomingwriter for suggesting that we post about "Where in the Gardening World Are You" and showcase our little spot in the world of gardening.

All year I dream of the days in May when the sun is warm, the skies are blue, the grass is green, and my Indiana garden is all new again.


  1. Excellent, Carol! Thank you so much for playing...I knew your post would be original, informative, and of course, fun. Looking forward to peonies and lilacs too....

  2. I guess my

    #1 - home of May Dreams Gardens
    #2 - Lilacs and Peonies
    who needs anymore numbers?

    Nice to see you also mentioned your soil type. I laughed this summer when I fould out some people were calling me the "dirt whisperer". I think it sounds better than the other name I have, "manure man" - I'm not sure if it's because I use a lot of horse bedding compost or if they think I'm full of something.

  3. Carol this is a treemendous post. I think David would be proud of your top 10.

  4. My garden was stacking up fine in the comparison until you sprang "Lilacs and Peonies" on me!

    Then I read your Twitter update and saw 5 degrees and snow....

    I'll just stay down here in the sandpile under the live oaks, just 200 miles south of stunning fall color.

  5. Thats one the things I miss most about Indiana, the crisp autumn weather.

  6. You had me at #10: good soil. And then you had to rub it in with #1: lilacs and peonies. Wow! Do bushes every really look like that...I mean non-Photoshopped ones. Cruel. Cruel. You're too cruel.

  7. This is a wonderful and informative post, Carol! I missed out on the great dirt though. This used to be a corn field probably with some of that great soil, but the builder scraped it all away and we are left with the hardest clay and absolutely no top soil.

    I do love gardening in Indiana. I'm still learning the plants that so well here. Last year after you posted about your lilacs, I went right out and purchased some.

    Go Colts!

  8. Carol,

    I'm jealous, that soil looks divine. I live in a town called Rocklin (CA), guess what's is in our soil, river rock, ugh! Great post, your hometown sounds like a nice place.


  9. I believe your good soil is directly related to your winter break. That freeze re-sets the soil biology every year setting back the potential pathogens and diseases that will overtake a subtropical vegetable garden much sooner.

    I think summer heat must be a selling point too, at least for fruits and vegetables. A 90-day tomato is just that with summer heat. But it can become an unattainable 120-day tomato in a cooler summer.

  10. Wonderful read and informative too. Thanks to chuck b. for explaining the plus of the winter, though, I had no idea it made for good soil. We have lilacs and peonies also, along with tulips, muhly grass and overwintering dahlias in our zone 7a, but it's not called rocky top here for nothing!

    Frances at Faire Garden

  11. There's that lilac bush again. I'm still green with envy when I see it. That and your snowball bush.

    Frankly, Zone 5 sounds COLD to me. I'm freezing my hoohoo off and I'm in Zone 7!!!

    Robin at Bumblebee

  12. Back home again in good old Indiana. Thanks for the great post on your home state.

  13. Interestingly enough, your list sounds a LOT like what mine would be, even though I live in Eastern Ontario, Canada! (I can even parallel your David Letterman link: Paul Shaffer is from Ontario, although from much farther north than I.)

    Good soil, number of frost free days, Zone 5 (Cdn), rainfall, brilliant autumn, WINTER...and stunning lilacs and peonies -- we're Kindred Gardening Spirits, I think ;) Enjoyed reading your list.

  14. You certainly have a longer growing season than my corner of the world that is still under mountains of snow..that is snow bank mountains!
    I enjoyed this interesting post and seeing my favorite Spring blossoms!hugs NG

  15. I've lived in Nashville for 16 years now, but I lived in Indianapolis for 16 years before that. Indianapolis is a really good place to live, there are a lot of wonderful points about it. But the good soil is one of the best parts. The soil here in my part of Middle TN is *terrible*. I really miss that rich brown soil.

  16. Oh to have good soil that doesn't break shovels! But I'm not sure I could wait that long for spring!

    (Anne from SoCal)

  17. David Letterman eat your heart out! :-) Great top ten, Carol, much better than what David Letterman usually comes up with (well, his team of writers I mean).

    I would go for number 10 too, good soil is such a bonus to a gardener!

    I'm glad to say that lilacs and peonies do very well here too, such wonderful blooms, don't you think?

  18. Peonies are so beautiful. You're right you can grow some in California but they're nothing like the ones in your neck of the woods.
    That's it. I'm packing up and moving to your neighborhood. There's too much rain here this year anyway.

  19. That's a great list, Carol! It almost (almost) makes me wish that I could move a state west... ;)

  20. Jodi, thanks for your kind words, I really am looking forward to spring and lilacs in bloom.

    Wiseacre, I had to mention the soil because that really is something we have going for us around here (for the most part).

    Lisa at Greenbow, thanks, and your post about your Indiana garden is very interesting, too

    Jean, yes, you can’t beat those lilacs and peonies, but it has been quite wintry around here lately.

    Christine, you don’t get ‘crisp autumn weather’ in Kansas?

    M Sinclair Stevens (Texas), other than cropping those pictures of peonies and lilacs, they are not photo-shopped. They really do look like that most springs. Lush growth, isn’t it?

    Robin’s Nesting Place, that is too bad that your top soil is gone. It takes some time to build it up again. I’m glad you bought a lilac. Every Hoosier garden ought to have lilacs and peonies.

    Mad Man Bamboo (Sean), Indianapolis is a nice place. I can’t imagine gardening in a place where the soil is like river rock.

    Chuck B., you are right on both points, the warm summers are ideal for growing tomatoes and the winter helps the soil, both the biology of it and the structure (through freezing and thawing cycles).

    Frances, I’ll admit a tinge of jealousy of those who garden in zone 6 or 7. But give me good soil any day!

    Robin (Bumblebee), Yes, if you’ve got it (lilacs) might as well flaunt it. And it has been cold here, but with a coat, mittens, scarf, long underwear, sweater, two pair of socks and a warm hat, it’s fine, really.

    Carolyn Gail, thanks, it is ‘back home in Indiana’.

    Randa, welcome, kindred gardening spirit and thanks for the comment.

    Naturegirl, we have some snow on the ground now, but it will hopefully be gone soon.

    Badbadivy, thanks for the comment. Because we have good soil, I’ll put up with some of the tiny little ‘down sides’ to Indianapolis (like today’s weather).

    Yolanda Elizabet, thanks, I appreciate the kind words. Few of us can match up with the garden paradise you live in!

    Chigiy at Gardener’s Anonymous, let me know when to expect you, and please don’t forget your coat. It’s still winter here!

    Blackswamp_Girl, almost but not quite, right? You are gardening in a pretty good location, yourself!

    Thanks all for the comments and kinds words,
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  21. Sigh. Do I have to live there all year? Can't I just pitch a tent in Indianapolis when the lilacs are open but stay here in February?

    It's going to be 67°F tomorrow.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    [MSS - you don't have to retouch photos of peonies and lilacs... they're really beautiful. And they smell wonderful.]

  22. Annie in Austin, Sure you can stay in Austin in February and then come north to Indianapolis to see the lilacs and peonies. And I wouldn't make you pitch a tent, I'd clean out the spare room for you!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  23. Indianapolis looks like a great place to live, especially with good soil and lilacs and peonies. So beautiful, and so unattainable for this Zone 8b gardener.

    Like Annie, I'll have to take consolation in our gardening winters.

  24. Carol - I liked you "top ten reasons" so much that I did a top ten list for my garden too. It doesn't sound anywhere near as appealing as your list though! At the end of writing mine, I might consider moving to Indiana! Thanks for this post. I can't wait for spring!!!

  25. Pam/digging, Yes, some of my garden may be unattainable by you, but there is a lot in your garden that I'll never have, either. We are even!

    Gardenista, I read your post and had to get under a blanket to warm up afterwards. Zone 1b, now that's a cold place!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  26. Fabulous top ten list Carol - and such a creative way to do the geography post! You nailed it for me, I adore the peonies when we come to visit and I am always green with envy. It seems like even the smallest, simplest of gardens have prize worthy specimens of peonies all over central Indiana. But then, we have 67degrees here, like MSS, Annie and Pam said--you're right -- we are even. It's all about balance, isn't it?!

  27. My husband and I bought a house near Indy last April and look forward to actually starting a real vegetable and herb garden this spring. Very exciting! We have very clay-like soil - I really shocks me because the soil from my childhood near Monticello, Indiana, was not like this at all. The soil at my new home sticks to everything - my shovel, my huge awful clumps - it really does feel like I am digging in clay instead of dirt. But for the most part, the shrubs and flowers we put in last year grew really well and I am hoping our vegetable garden does the same. It is encouraging to hear good posts about Indiana gardening efforts!

  28. It's easy to see how much you love your little 'spot' Carol. You're lucky to have such fine soil. It seems to produce an abundance of fine vegetables.
    Our veggie garden has wonderful soil from years of amendment, and we too have the pleasure of lilacs and peonies in the spring..pure heaven!

  29. Very similiar to where I garden. Gotta love those lilacs and peonies!

  30. You listed a bunch of things that I miss about gardening in Wisconsin: good dirt, lilacs, peonies, and fall color.

    I'd add that you also get to smell the change in the seasons in the air. That just doesn't happen in Austin, and oh, do I miss that first smell of spring, the first crisp air of fall...


Post a Comment

Comments are to a blog what flowers are to a garden. Sow your thoughts here and may all your comments multiply as blooms in your garden.

Though there is never enough time to respond to each comment individually these days, please know that I do read and love each one and will try to reciprocate on your blog.

By the way, if you are leaving a comment just so you can include a link to your business site, the garden fairies will find it and compost it!