What’s the deal behind all the hanging flower baskets in Carmel? Who oversees them and what is the cost?

Many years ago, Main Street in Carmel looked like most small-town Main Streets in the Midwest, with empty store fronts, small businesses struggling to attract visitors, crumbling curbs and sidewalks. Mayor Brainard and previous City Councils decided to invest money in the infrastructure and created the idea of an Arts & Design District that would attract art galleries and be a pleasant place to visit, shop and dine … an area based on the beauty of public art.

The city began hanging beautiful flower baskets, adding to the visual beauty for both pedestrians and motorists.

As part of that effort, the City began hanging beautiful flower baskets, adding to the visual beauty for both pedestrians and motorists. That, along with public art and better infrastructure has helped transform the District into one of the most popular places to live, work and play. The flower baskets have been a hit for visitors and their use has expanded to include other areas.

Carmel currently has 1,000 16-inch baskets on the roads. There are 40 extra baskets kept at the Carmel Street Department in case some die, or if there is new construction areas during the season. The locations of the 16-inch baskets are along 116th Street, Carmel Drive, City Center Drive, Carter Green, Main Street, Range Line Road, Monon Blvd., 3rd Ave SW, City Center Plaza, Veteran’s Way, Elm Street, Walnut Street, (basically all-around Midtown Plaza area).

In addition to these areas, the City hangs larger, 28-inch baskets, along Keystone Parkway and U.S. 31 overpasses. These baskets wrap around the light poles. Typically, there are four baskets per interchange (a few of them have six) adding up to 40 large baskets total.

At the Veterans Plaza Reflecting Pool, the city has 16 large wire baskets with coco liner. These are also 28” wide.
All of the city flower baskets are “water-saver” style baskets, which means they have water “reservoirs” with wicks to the flowers so that the Street Department need only water each basket three times a week. They receive half-concentration, strength bloom-boosting fertilizer for two of those waterings, followed by simple water on the third watering. All baskets arrive during the week after Mother’s Day in May.

This year, the baskets will have Geranium Acapulco (a cascading ivy geranium). The Carmel Street Department is charged with choosing the best type of flowers to purchase. Given the weather trends in Carmel, and based on many years of experience, the baskets will likely have Geraniums or Petunias. They have the most pop of color as people drive by. The city has experimented with several other mixtures and varieties of flowers, but these two flowers do well with the heat of our summers and will last through October.

As for the annual budget, the flowers typically cost about $20,000 from the grower and the Street Department uses four part-time employees, six days a week to take care of them.

Authored by Laura Campbell, Sue Finkam, Kevin Rider, Jeff Worrell, Sue Finkam, Bruce Kimball, Miles Nelson, Anthony Green and Adam Aasen.