Explore Iowa Gardens

Compliments of Johnson County Master Gardeners & Project GREEN

Iowa is home to beautiful public and private gardens. Our state’s longstanding reputation for agriculture makes it only natural that communities would want to showcase their advantages through community gardens. Make time this year for a scenic road trip to explore these treasures. Gardens have offered a place to pause, reflect and rejuvenate, especially important with the COVID-19 global pandemic. The ability to connect with nature provides an opportunity to experience joy, relieve stress and bring relief. The beauty of nature is a wonder.

This Iowa regional listing is a work in progress with compliments of Johnson County Master Gardeners of Iowa and Project GREEN.

Central Iowa

Arie Den Boer Arboretum at Water Works Park, 408 Fleur Drive, Des Moines, IA 50321 (515)283-8700.
The Arboretum proudly displays one of the world’s largest collections of flowering crab apple trees with 300 varieties. The collection grows through a donor program promoting planting of memorial trees.

Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden, Grand and Locust Streets, Des Moines, IA (515)284-3994.
This test garden for Better Homes and Gardens magazine offers a variety of plants and display gardens, including a dwarf conifer garden, a fragrant path, a shade garden, a clay garden, a rock garden, and an ornamental grass garden. Employees are available to answer questions. Open hours are limited.

South Bluff Nature Center at Bellevue State Park, Highway 52 South, Bellevue, IA (563)872-4019.
Garden designed specifically to attract butterflies by providing nectar plants for adults and host plants for caterpillars. Some 60 species of butterflies expected each year. Adjacent to a three-acre prairie preserve and wildlife food plots, these gardens are also used as a teaching and research resource.

Buxton Park Arboretum, N. Buxton and W. Girard, Indianola, IA (515)961-9420.
Enjoy the Victorian gazebo and lighting as you take a tour through formal perennial and rose gardens in this 5.4-acre park. The Arboretum includes a Interpretive tree tour. A new, peaceful Memorial Gardenwas added after the 100th anniversary of the park.

Central Gardens of North Iowa, 800 2nd Avenue North, Clear Lake, IA 50428
Begun in the year 2000, this lovely 2.75-acre garden 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.

Clare & Miles Mills Rose Garden, Greenwood Park, 4802 Grand Avenue at 49th Street (Behind the Des Moines Art Center), Des Moines, IA 50310 (515) 237-1386.
This lovely All America Rose Selections accredited garden displays more than 2,500 roses and is one of 132 such gardens in the United States.

Des Moines Botanical Center, 2021

Des Moines Botanical Center, 909 East River Drive, Des Moines, IA 50316 (515)242-2934.
The riverside Botanical Center displays nearly 1,000 different species and cultivars of tropical, subtropical, and arid region plants in an 80-foot-tall and 150-foot-wide Plexiglas dome. Special collections include cacti and succulents, bonsai, and orchids (over 200 species). The 14-acre center site’s outdoor displays feature annuals and perennials, a cottage garden, a butterfly garden and an herb garden.

Forest Park Museum, 1477 K Avenue, Perry, IA 50220 (515)465-3577.
The Arboretum features a collection of trees from all parts of the country planted in straight rows to allow farming between the rows.

Garden of The Gardeners of America/ Men’s Garden Clubs of America, 5560 Merle Hay Road, Johnston, IA 50131 (515)278-0295.
The national headquarters for The Gardeners of America/Men’s Garden Clubs of America is located on a two-acre plot maintained by volunteers and showcasing a variety of annual and perennial gardens and trees, plus a gazebo, waterfalls and archway.

Iowa Arboretum, 1875 Peach Avenue, Madrid, IA 50156 (515)795-3216.
The 378-acre arboretum, a “Library of Living Plants” containing forest, prairie, and meadow areas, offers 3 self-guided woodland trails through 40 cultivated acres displaying hundreds of species of trees and shrubs, plus herbs, roses, ornamental grasses, Siberian irises, daylilies, and hostas.

Johnson Rose Garden, 306 W. Lincolnway Street, Jefferson, IA 50129 (515)386-4759.

Lilac Arboretum and Children’s Forest, Ewing Park, 5300 Indianola Avenue, Des Moines, IA. (515) 237-1386
This arboretum features more than 1,400 fragrant lilacs of 120 varieties.

Living History Farms, 2600 NW 111th Street, Urbandale, IA 50322 (515)278-5286 or (515)278-2400.
A dozen garden plots scattered throughout this living history museum all were developed from historically accurate seeds, some going back more than 300 years. Gardens include a Native American garden, vegetable gardens, herb/flower gardens, a cutting garden, a Victorian annual garden, a Victorian perennial garden, a wildflower garden, a prairie restoration trail and more than 40 acres of crop land.

Pella, 2003

Pella Historical Village and Scholte Gardens, 728 Washington Street, Pella, IA 50219 (641)628-3684.
This museum village celebrates its Dutch heritage with flower gardens, architectural models and antique Dutch heirlooms brought to Pella by immigrants. Tulips (28,000!), annuals, perennials and roses ornament the village which includes the Scholte Gardens at the home of its founder and a Statuary Garden dedicated by Princess Margriet of The Netherlands.

Rabbit Hollow Gardens, 2285 290th Street, Garner, IA (641)927-4448.
An acre of perennial and herb gardens includes a Moon Garden, a Wild Flower Garden, an Herb Garden, and a Butterfly Garden, as well as a gift shop.

Reiman Gardens, 2019

Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University, 1407 University Boulevard, Ames, IA 50011 (515)294-2710.
Reiman Gardens offer 14 acres and 26 unique garden areas with seasonal displays designed around a grand theme that changes each year. Two large glass houses include the breathtaking Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing with one of the most diverse collections of live, exotic butterflies in the country, and an indoor conservatory open year-round. Gardens 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 (demonstration gardens including Front Yard Garden, Naturalist Garden, Formal Lawn Garden, Home Production Garden, Outdoor Living Room, Walled Court, Sunny Yard Garden, Prairie Vista Garden, Paving Court and Reflection Garden).

State Center Rose Garden, 300 Third Street SE, State Center, IA 50247 (515)482-2559.
State Center, the Rose Capital of Iowa, is home to this rose garden featuring old and new rose varieties and a gazebo.

Terrace Hill Historic Site, 2300 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50312 (515)281-3604.
A Victorian mansion, built by Iowa’s first millionaire, has been restored to the late 1800s period and showcases a re-created Victorian formal garden.

Union Park Floral Garden, 1801 Pennsylvania Avenue (North of Lutheran Hospital), Des Moines, IA
This park features seasonal floral displays and thousands of annuals.

Eastern Iowa

Project GREEN Gardens at Ashton House, 820 Park Rd, Iowa City, IA 52246 (319) 356-5100 (rental info).
Project GREEN Gardens are positioned along the scenic Iowa River and feature the home built in 1947 by Edward L. “Ned” Ashton as a private residence. Ashton, who has been called “the most distinguished bridge engineer in the history of Iowa” was a professor of civil engineering at the University of Iowa. The home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. After the historic flood of 2008, the City of Iowa City purchased the home in 2011 to use as a special events facility. In 2014, the parkland was named honoring Project GREEN’s longstanding partnership with the City of Iowa City. The gardens surrounding the home feature a number of historic trees, shrubs and wildflowers creating a community treasure. Project GREEN has funded more than $2 million in public beautification projects in Iowa City and Johnson County. The nonprofit organization celebrated 50 years of service to the community in 2018.

Bickelhaupt Arboretum, 340 S. 14th Street, Clinton, IA 52732-5432 (563)242-4771.
The 13-acre Arboretum, started in 1970 by Frances and Robert Bickelhaupt on the grounds surrounding their home, 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.

Brucemore, 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403 (319)362-7375.
A National Trust Historic Site, Brucemore is a Queen Anne style mansion situated on a 26-acre park-like estate. The 1-acre formal garden, more in the style of a cottage garden, showcases more than 400 roses complemented by flowering perennials.

Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Hawkeye Community College, Hess and Orange Road, P.O. Box 1833, Waterloo, IA 50701 (319)236-0455.
The 75-acre site, begun in 1996 with the planting of approximately 140 native trees and shrubs in the sesquicentennial forest section, strives to create a major botanical collection of native and exotic plant materials with special emphasis on those that thrive and flourish in the Cedar Valley region.

Crapo Park, Great River Road, Burlington, IA (319)753-8110.
The 85-acre 100 year old park includes an arboretum with over 200 varieties of trees and shrubs and botanical gardens of annuals and perennials.

Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Marshall Park, 3800 Arboretum Drive, Dubuque, IA 52001 (319)556-2100.
375 volunteers maintain this award-winning garden with 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.

Frontier Organic Research Farm Botanical Garden, 3021 78th Street, Norway, IA 52318 (319)227-7966.
A fascinating 1-acre Botanical Garden showcases 200 botanical species in 17 medicinal herb beds patterned in the shape of a leaf. Theme-based beds and miniature gardens include a bee garden, a yinyang garden, a spiral garden, an herb wheel, a moonlight garden, a potage garden, and a male/female material medical bed. An elderberry grove surrounding the garden serves as a natural windbreak.

The Gardens at the Gazebo on the Green, 3002 Newport Road, N.E., Iowa City, IA 52240 (319)338-7889
These private gardens on 33 acres include 14 formal theme gardens including a Rose Garden, an English Country Perennial Garden, a Southern Courtyard Garden, a Neoclassical Romantic Garden, an Herb Garden, a Grass Garden, a Water Garden and 7 more with gazebos, pergolas, tea and garden houses, a 65′ long arbor and more. Private facility.

Grimm’s Peony Farm, 3872 F Ave Lamont, IA 50650, (563) 920-9467.
Grimm’s Peony Farm is a rural homestead near the tiny town of Lamont, Iowa. Follow gravel roads to find this beautiful, flowering oasis. This small, 2-acre farm, features 500 peony plants. Properly planted and cared for peonies can live nearly a hundred years.

K & K Gardens, 108 E. Wilbur Street, Hawkeye, IA (563)427-4759.
Located on the southern edge of Northeast Iowa’s rolling hills, this 1-acre perennial garden showcases plants available at this commercial nursery.

Municipal Rose Garden: Community Center, Sunny Crest Park, 2204 Grant Street, Bettendorf, IA 52722 (563)344-4112. (August 2021 – Bettendorf is seeking bids to redevelop this space.)
The Community Center is located at Sunny Crest Park, which features a gazebo and garden.

Muscatine Art Center, 1314 Mulberry Avenue, Muscatine, IA 52761 (319)263-8282.
A 1908 Edwardian Mansion, the Laura Musser Museum, features a Japanese Garden. While you’re in Muscatine, visit the Pearl Button Museum.

Noelridge Park, 4900 Council Street NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403 (319)398-0247 (319)398-5101.
This large multi-facility public park contains an All-America Selections Display Garden, test gardens and greenhouses.

Quad Cities Gardens to Visit

Riverside Gardens, Third Street and US Highway 151, Monticello, IA (319)465-5626.
The lovely 37 gardens feature a wide variety of annuals, perennials and hosta, and a wetland nature trail.

Shakespeare Garden, Ellis Park, 2000 Ellis Boulevard NW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52405 (319)398-0247.
A formal garden showcasing specific plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings.

Stampe Lilac Garden, Duck Creek Park, 3300 East Locust Street, Davenport, IA (563) 326-7812.
An extensive collection of lilacs is set off by spring-flowering bulbs, peonies and mid-summer blooming perennials and annuals.

Teaching and Research Greenhouse, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50613 (319)273-2247.
The greenhouse complex houses plants from many different ecotypes, including 250 tropical plants, an extensive collection of arid climate plants, and the 1,200-square-foot Aquatic Learning Center (native and tropical plants, fish, mosses and ferns, a hydroponic display, a large stone waterfall, a spillway, a fast-moving stream, a peat bog, and more. Take the virtual tour of this attractive facility at its website.

Vander Veer Park Conservatory, 214-5 W. Central Park Avenue, Davenport, IA 52803 (563) 326-7812.
The site features a formal All-America Selections accredited Rose Garden with 188 roses of 145 varieties, a hosta garden and annual and perennial beds.

Weed Park Memorial Rose Garden, Park Drive, Muscatine, IA 52761, (563) 263-0241.
This memorial rose garden is accredited by the All-America Rose Selections organization.

Western Iowa

Heritage Rose Garden, Main Street between 1st and 2nd, Gray, IA 50110 (712)563-3066.
A country-style garden features an extensive collection of Old Garden and Canadian Heritage roses.

Prairie Pedlar, 1609 270th Street, Odebolt, IA 51458 (712)668-4840.
This retail garden store and barn showcases over fifty display gardens arranged into theme beds plus a greenhouse filled with everlasting annuals, hard-to-find perennials, scented geraniums, and herbs.