Avon Gardens owners Taylor Doehrman and Tara Cody on a bridge
Co-owners Taylor Doehrman and Tara Cody (Photography by Amy Payne)

Avon Gardens Owners Carry on a Colorful and Lasting Legacy

Residents in Avon and surrounding areas might recall the story of Karen Robbins and how Avon Gardens was created. In 1987, Robbins bought her grandparents’ pig farm and turned it into a garden paradise, with more than 200 varieties of flowers, lush greenery and ponds.

Couples began flocking there to create the perfect wedding, gardeners loved to shop at the garden center on the property while learning gardening tips and tricks, and residents simply enjoyed walking along the paths and taking in the beauty of each space Robbins created.

Wedding arch at Avon Gardens
Wedding Arch at Avon Gardens

In August of 2023 Robbins passed away, but she knew she wanted her garden to be placed in good hands. Not only did the entire staff stay on at Avon Gardens, but the business is also now owned by two former employees, Taylor Doehrman and Tara Cody.

She spoke to both women before naming them co-owners a few years ago, and knew their skills and talents naturally fell into the work they do today.

“Karen and I had a conversation about it a couple of years ago, and I said I’m not going anywhere,” Cody said. “I feel really lucky that she trusted me enough to leave me the wedding side of the business, and I also do the bookkeeping.”

Cody has a degree in music education and taught for 10 years before returning to her former college job at Avon Gardens.

“I came back to the gardens because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, and it was kind of like divine intervention,” Cody said. “I was brought back here at a certain time for a reason. My music education skills still get put to good work. I’ve organized concerts with hundreds of children and have a great attention to detail.”

Cody said Robbins was a tough boss, but instilled in her the love and passion she has for creating the perfect space for a wedding. “She had very high standards, and of course now I appreciate it because I also have very high standards,” Cody said. “When you’re preparing for someone’s wedding day, it’s about making it as beautiful as possible. Karen was so passionate about sharing this space. It’s nice to share it with others.”

Doehrman also spoke to Robbins and was a part of the succession plan. She manages the gardening, landscaping and retail space on the five acres of displayed gardens.

Blooming flowers behind a gazebo

“I’m the resident horticulturist,” Doehrman said. “I studied sustainability and agriculture, and minored in horticulture. It kind of happened naturally. Every time I could choose a course in college, I went with botany or horticulture, and after graduation I worked in ecological restoration.”

They’ve both been co-owners of Avon Gardens for years – a little-known fact for those who weren’t in the business family. This also assured Robbins that they had years of experience before she passed. Robbins knew they would bring the different strengths and passions each woman had to the gardens’ benefit.

“Her number-one goal was to be sure the gardens would always be around,” Doehrman said. “She wanted to be sure she’d find the right people who would do that. There’s a lot of different aspects to the business, and it’s important that we wouldn’t just do the gardening or just do the weddings. She wanted to make sure her legacy would be preserved here.”

In fact, both women say they don’t see how Robbins did it on her own for so long. “Karen was an accountant,” Doehrman said. “She was just a hobby gardener. She loved day lilies and hostas. She was passionate about plants and wanted to share it with people. She was never formally trained, and it just goes to show that you don’t need a fancy degree.” It’s encouraging and inspiring to the many who walk the paths at Avon Gardens. New gardeners and even those experienced can learn something new, whether observing the different plants or taking a class.

Doehrman and Cody plan to continue the same services they’ve always had. “Weddings and receptions are a big draw but we also have retail, a garden center open from April to October, and during business hours people can come and walk through the gardens,” Doehrman said. “We have cut flowers that pick up later in the summer and we also offer U-pick sessions to make your own bouquets. We’re also offering classes throughout the year.”

They have a few new ideas of their own too. “We have some interests we shared with Karen like sustainability and regenerative gardening,” Doehrman said. “Animals were a passion of Karen’s, and we’re partnering with Misty Eyes [Animal Center] a few times this season. We want to continue to grow those interests we shared with her.”

The beauty and the magnitude of the grounds often surprise people. Driving by on the road, one might only see a small portion of the property, and both Doehrman and Cody see the reaction of guests on a regular basis. “The garden center is located in the front,” Cody said. “When you walk around the corner it really blows people away.”

Most of all, the co-owners want to dispel any rumors after Robbins’ passing. They’re here and they’re ready to carry on her legacy for the next 20 years. “We often hear we’re the best-kept secret and we don’t want to be,” Doehrman said. “Karen often said she’s paid too much in advertising for people to say they’ve never heard of us before. We want people to know we’re here and we’re offering events. Our location might be a little bit of a hidden gem but we want to get the word out.”

Avon Gardens shop inside with sun streaming into the shop
Visit Avon Gardens at 6259 E County Rd 91 N, Avon, IN 46123. Click on the image to learn more.

They’re also bringing Robbins’ name and spirit along in everything they do, and they’re thankful to their mentor for what they have today. “We know she’s here and she’s going to let us know if we’re messing up,” Cody said. “Part of the beauty of this place is the spirit of her ancestors here. She believed that they help the garden grow and we believe she’s here doing the same.”

Doehrman agreed. “We’re thankful to Karen for creating this in the first place,” Doehrman said. “You’d never know this started out as a pig farm. To see what she’s done here just makes you feel lucky to be a part of it every day. To walk with the flowers is to walk with Karen.”

Learn more by visiting Avon Gardens’ website or stop by at 6259 E. County Rd. 91 North, Avon, Indiana 46123.

Comments 1

  1. Georgia says:

    I didn’t discover Avon Gardens until we moved to Avon from Boone County in November of 2021 while we were out driving around & checking out the neighborhoods. We immediately had to stop to see what was “around the corner” and like you said we were amazed! My husband passed away in August of 2022 and Avon Gardens is my favorite place to take a stroll, pickup some new additions to my little porch flower garden or just sit and enjoy a visit from Dandelion & Petunia and the sounds and smells of this magical place. Taylor and Tara (& all your staff), thank you for all the hard work I know it takes to keep Karen’s dream going!

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