During the winter of 1961, the Veal family set out to create an ice slide by spraying water on the hill beside their house. In the morning they awoke to discover quite a happy accident. The spray of the water had frozen on a nearby honeysuckle bush creating a covering of beautiful icicles. With the slide overshadowed by the icy shrubs, the Veal’s began spraying the water directly on the bush and thus the Ice Tree was born!
Truth be told, the Ice Tree isn’t formed around an actual tree. A base is made from scrap lumber, small tree trunks, and lots of binder twine. Then brush trees, bushes, and 3 to 6 hoses are tied to the frame and water is pumped continuously from the pond on their property up to the frame. Once the ice solidifies, the hoses are rearranged, new brush is added and new ice begins to form. This year’s ice tree is currently over 60 feet tall and with the weather working in their favor, the Veals are pushing for 75+ feet to beat their record from the 1980’s.
Each year the Veals begin growing the “tree” after there have been at least five days of temperatures below 30 degrees. Typically January is the good month of growth when temperatures stay between 30 and 5 degrees. The builders are now 2nd and 3rd generation with John as the engineer and designer, Janet (his sister) as the colorist and helper, and Wynter (Janet’s daughter, named after her favorite season) as the design assistant. The color that is added by a garden sprayer is a mixture of powdered food-coloring and water.
The Veal family takes great pride in their rainbow colored ice tree and continue building year after year for several reasons. They enjoy growing something in winter when most things wouldn’t survive the cold, it’s fun and good exercise and they love seeing visitors coming to see the tree and watching as their faces light up with astonishment. Most importantly the Ice Tree is a sweet reminder of their late father, the tree’s original creator. Vierl G. Veal didn’t necessarily always like the cold weather, but he loved creating beauty from adversity.
This grand ice sculpture is truly something that needs to be seen in person. It’s pretty magical and definitely unlike anything I’ve seen before in real life. Visitors are asked to stay on the blacktop, but are invited to take pictures and grab a brochure. With the arctic winter we’ve been having this year, I’d say you’ll have many more chances to see the Ice Tree before it melts. Normally the tree is completely gone by the first weeks of April, but it did make it all the way until May 5th once.
You can find the Ice Tree located at 11333 Southeastern Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46259.
From I-465 take I-74 east toward Cincinnati.
Exit at #99, Acton Rd.
Go south to Southeastern Ave. (1st road) and turn left (east).
After the sharp curve, turn left at the first driveway.
Oh, and don’t forget to like the Veal’s Ice Tree Facebook Page to keep up with the tree’s progress!