Going for a slow stroll through the garden, surrounded by beautiful flowers, with the faint floral fragrance drifting through the air is just about as close as it comes to paradise on Earth. But, for those black-thumbed gardeners like me, it can be frustrating when your own garden doesn’t really…grow. No worries there; luckily for us there are plenty of beautiful public gardens in Iowa that we can tour whenever we want. Better yet, you don’t have to weed them to enjoy them!
1. Reiman Gardens, Ames
The beautiful Reiman Gardens in Ames spans 14 acres and offers 26 unique garden areas. There are two glass houses: the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, which has one of the most diverse collections of live, exotic butterflies in the country, and the indoor Conservatory, which is open year-round.
The gardens at Reiman include the Dunlap Courtyard, the Hillside Garden, Joey and Jesse's Herb Garden, Lake Helen (displaying aquatic plants), Margaret E. Penkhus Campanile Garden, Missing Buck Roses, Patty Jischke Children's Garden, Rose Gardens, South Field, Stafford Garden, and the Town and Country Garden, which is a test garden used for magazines.
2. Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Dubuque
The Dubuque Arboretum is an award-winning, volunteer-run arboretum and garden that offers a breathtakingly beautiful, and stunningly large variety of all types of flora.
The garden has over 800 roses (hybrid teas, miniature, shrub, and old garden roses) and over 13,000 hostas (700 varieties), as well as special collections of irises, peonies, lilies and daylilies, dahlias, and dwarf conifers. Special gardens include a Rose Garden, a Knot Garden, an Herb Garden, and a Japanese Garden. A Greenhouse and displays of prairie wildflowers and grasses complete the site.
3. Central Gardens of North Iowa, Clear Lake
Central Gardens in Clear Lake is a lovely 2.75 acre garden that showcases 22 theme gardens, including the Container Garden, the Moon Gate, the Alumni Walk and Garden, the Low Shrub Garden, the Ceremony Garden, the Heritage Garden, the Herb Garden, the Shrub Rose Garden, the Midwest Garden, the Stream Garden, the Butterfly Garden, the Ornamental Grass Garden, the Wetland Garden, the Bird Garden, the Wildflower Garden, the Victorian Shrub Garden, and the Victorian Garden. Features include beautiful winding paths, a pergola, ponds, lawns and steps.
4. Bellevue State Park Butterfly Garden, Bellevue
The Bellevue Butterfly Garden was designed specifically to attract butterflies by providing nectar plants for adults and host plants for caterpillars. There are around 60 species of butterflies each year, and the garden comes alive with color. Because they are adjacent to a prairie preserve and wildlife food plot, these gardens are also used as a teaching and research resource.
5. Bickelhaupt Arboretum, Clinton
Bickelhaupt is a 13 acre arboretum that displays more than 1,500 plants, including trees, shrubs, flowering perennials and wildflowers. Special collections include dwarf and rare conifers, lilacs, a medicinal plant display, and a conservatory showcasing house plants.
6. Des Moines Botanical Center, Des Moines
This riverside botanical center displays nearly 1,000 different species of tropical, subtropical, and arid regional plants in an 80-foot-tall and 150-foot-wide glass dome. Special collections include cacti and succulents, bonsai, and orchids (over 200 species). The outdoor displays feature annuals and perennials, a cottage garden, a butterfly garden and an herb garden.
7. Scholte Gardens, Pella
Pella, famous for their Dutch Tulip Festival, obviously has some pretty great tulip gardens. Aside from the 28,000 tulips, there are also annuals, perennials and roses that ornament the village which includes the Scholte Gardens, and a Statuary Garden dedicated by Princess Margriet of The Netherlands.
8. Noelridge Park, Cedar Rapids
This large public park in Cedar Rapids contains a display garden, test garden and greenhouse. The greenhouse produces annuals and perennials for planting on public property, and a permanent display of large tropical plants is also housed there.
Public gardens are awesome – You get all the enjoyment of a garden without the work!