Des Moines Area Gardens: The Ultimate Travelogue

Garden travel fans will love experiencing these Des Moines area gardens! Join Flower Chick as we explore 21 public gardens in and around Iowa’s capital city, Des Moines …

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden by

The Enchanting Water Garden At The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Welcome to our ongoing “Visiting Midwest Gardens” series! These travelogues spotlight some of the most beautiful public gardens in Zones 5 and 6 … with a little fun along the way. This feature brings us to the Des Moines, Iowa area in the heart of The Hawkeye State …

Des Moines is Iowa’s largest city and offers a thriving business climate and numerous visitor attractions, including the many gardens we’ll showcase below. Situated along Interstate 80, the city is easy to reach from anywhere in the central United States …

Reiman Gardens, Ames Iowa by

Don’t Miss Reiman Gardens in Ames … 17 Acres of Public Garden & Live Butterfly Exhibit

We’ll not only highlight Des Moines area gardens, but also share some great places to eat, relax, and discover a bit of the area’s history. Des Moines and central Iowa are a popular travel destination no matter your interests – come along and see!

Traveling south on Interstate 35 from Minnesota, our first stop is the Iowa town of State Center. Then it’s west to Ames, home of Iowa State University and the nationally known Reiman Gardens …

State Center Rose Garden, Ames, and Reiman Gardens

State Center Rose Garden: The appropriately named town of State Center is located about 40 miles northeast of metro Des Moines and 25 miles east of Ames. The town, of course, draws its name from its geographical location in the center of Iowa. State Center is known as “The Rose Capital of Iowa”, impressively highlighted by the beautiful State Center Rose Garden on the east side of town.

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Welcome Sign To State Center IA – Proudly The Rose Capital of Iowa

This beautiful rose garden was established in 1959 and contains over 1,000 healthy plants on this 1 1/2 acre site. There’s a nice combination of both old and new varieties.  An old-fashioned gazebo has been built as a prime viewing station. The gardens are lighted in the evenings so you can enjoy any time of day.

State Center Rose Garden by

The Lovely State Center Rose Garden in Full June Bloom

Held annually since 1958, the State Center Rose Festival celebrates the history and charm of this beautiful town and historic Rose Garden.  Each year during the third weekend in June, the town comes alive with a parade, entertainment, food vendors, Rose Queen coronation, live music and fireworks.

Discover The Roses That Do Best In Zone 5 … Click Here To View

From State Center, Route 30 West will take you right into Ames. Ames is a short 30 miles north of Des Moines and in close proximity to anywhere in the metro area. Let’s make two quick stops in Ames before heading to Reiman Gardens …

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Make Sure To Take Your Time & Stop and Smell The Roses In State Center

Sportsman’s Lounge: Located in the heart of Ames on Main Street is Sportsman’s Lounge, a local gathering spot for decades. In fact, Sportsman’s Lounge is the oldest bar in Ames, dating back to 1949 …

Oldest Bar in Ames Iowa Sportsmen's Lounge by

The Oldest Bar in Ames … The Sportsmen’s Lounge

When you’re in Ames, stop in for a cold one then explore the rest of Main Street, the heartbeat of the city. You’ll find all sorts of shops, restaurants, a local book store, and more …

Wheatsfield Cooperative This welcoming retail grocery, bakery, and deli has been an Ames community staple since 1974. The business is owned by its members, who share in the operating principles and profits.

The emphasis here is on the local. Well over 100 Iowa locally produced products are available here, from Iowa made cheese to locally grown produce to grocery specialties like honey, hummus, salsa, and much more. Don’t let the name “cooperative” fool you, though … anyone can shop at Wheatsfield, a membership isn’t required.

Stop at Wheatsfield Coop For Healthy Choices & A Great Selection by

Stop At Wheatsfield Coop For Healthy Local Foods & A Great Variety Of Fresh Options!

Among the many enticing items to pick up at Wheatsfield are Iowa made cheese and freshly baked bread. You’ll find ample options for both, including Maytag bleu cheese and a deliciously creamy mild cheddar from Wild Homestead Dairy of Waukon, IA …

If it’s lunch time, Wheatsfield has a full service deli and a wide selection of freshly made wraps and sandwiches to go. There’s even a couple of wrought iron picnic tables in front of the store to sample your purchases …

Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland – Recipes For Kringles To Lebkuchen & More

Reiman Gardens: You’ll find Reiman Gardens right next to Jack Trice Stadium at the edge of the Iowa State campus …

Reiman Gardens is a living garden … always changing, adapting, evolving with the seasons and with its annual theme. There’s so much to see – allow at least 1 1/2 hours to see everything, preferably more to soak it all in … so you don’t miss anything on the gorgeous grounds!

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The Well Laid Out Waterwise Gardens at Reiman Highlight Drought Tolerant Plants

Explore a large variety of plants — from aromatic herbs, Dr. Griffith Buck roses, a towering palm tree, native prairie species, colorful annuals and perennials and so much more. Get tips and inspirations for your own garden, enjoy unique art and architecture exhibits, and relax in an indoor tropical oasis.

Iowa Gardens Reiman in Ames by

Bountiful Raised Bed Gardens At Reiman in Ames, Iowa

Flower Chick had a hard time deciding which photos to use for this post … there were so many photogenic specimens at Reiman Gardens!  So, I put together a little slideshow:

Trumpet Flowers Hummingbird Magnets by FlowerChick.comEdible Flower Exhibit at Reiman GardensTropical Splendor Under The DomeLoads Of Color at Reiman by Flowerchick.comBright Zinnias at Reiman by FlowerChick.comSunny Coneflowers at Reiman Gardens by FlowerChick.comButterfly Exhibit at Reiman Gardens by

When you first enter, you must check out the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing!  This awesome oasis offers an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors as up to 800 butterflies enchant visitors.  Be sure to check out the butterfly metamorphosis lab and identification materials displayed to complement your visit.  You’ll be inspected for “hitchhikers” as you exit this paradise … staff wants to make sure the inhabitants are safe and don’t leave with you.

Handbooks: Butterflies & Moths: The Clearest Recognition Guide Available – Discover Here

Butterfly & Moth Exhibit at Reiman Gardens by

Giant Silkmoth in the Butterfly Exhibit – Over 7 inches in width.  Very cool!

A segment of the rose garden features the hardy shrub roses developed by Dr. Griffith Buck.  A professor at Iowa State University, Dr. Buck bred many beautiful, hardy landscape roses between 1962 and 1985. Buck roses are recognized worldwide for their winter hardiness, attractiveness, low maintenance, and resistance to diseases like black spot.

Griffith Buck Roses at Reiman by

One of the Many Winter Hardy Roses by Dr. Griffith Buck on Display – Love The Color Combo!

There’s something for everyone of all ages and interests at Reiman Gardens. Whether you enjoy seeing native and exotic tropical butterflies, listening to a soothing water feature or growing better vegetables, this Iowa garden treasure is ready to delight, enchant and educate.

Heading Toward Des Moines

Iowa Arboretum & Gardens: The Iowa Arboretum, located on 160 acres in Boone County’s Des Moines River Valley showcases hundreds of species of trees, shrubs and flowering plants in a peaceful setting. Woodland and prairie trails provide wonderful outdoor walking opportunities. Flower Chick was happy to see the grounds are ‘dog-friendly’.  Well-behaved and leashed pooches are welcome with their owners.

Iowa Arboretum by

Experience Acres of Tranquil Gardens, Trees, Shrubs & Flowers At Iowa Arboretum in Madrid

There are currently over 5,000 living specimens with individually assigned ‘accession numbers’ at the Iowa Arboretum. Some of the collections include oaks, hardy pecans, dwarf conifers, maples, irises, and hostas.  There are also several themed plantings including the Butterfly Garden, Kroeze Tea House, Children’s Garden and Orchard.

Butterfly Garden at Iowa Arboretum by

The Bustling Butterfly Garden at the Iowa Arboretum

In the Butterfly Garden, I spotted yarrow, hummingbird mint, hollyhock, swamp milkweed, false indigo, butterfly bush, coneflowers and Joe Pye weed.  These are great examples of plants that butterflies flock to either as host or nectar species.

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Loved This Photo Op … A Busy Bee On A Sedona Rose By The Entrance To The Arboretum

Charles Gabus Memorial Tree Park & Gardens: In Walker Johnstone Park just south of the Urbandale Public Library.  The Memorial Tree Park and Gardens is a quiet, contemplative place in the midst of a busy urban park.  Many types of trees are highlighted including oaks, maples, white pines, spruce and cedar …

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Charles Gabus Tree Park Entrance

It is a place of beauty, with a variety of trees, flowers and shrubs where one can relax. The trails were popular with cyclists, walkers, and families out to enjoy nature. The park also features a fountain, benches, sculptures, an event plaza, and picnic tables for community use.

Charles Gabus Formal Gardens

The Formal Gardens at Charles Gabus

Demonstration Garden:  The Demonstration Garden in Urbandale is the oldest Iowa State University Extension, Polk County Master Gardener project. It is a cooperative arrangement between the Polk County Extension and the City of Urbandale. It’s also a learning lab where Master Gardener trainees receive hands-on experience in proper pruning techniques each spring.

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The Delightful Demonstration Garden Is A Feast For the Senses

This botanical gem is a nearly a secret garden.  Set in an out-of-the-way location near the community’s Walker Johnson Park, the beauty and interesting displays contained here make the drive well worth it.

Demonstration Garden Urbandale Birds & Bees garden by Flower

The Birds and Bees Garden in the Demonstration Garden – A Colorful Pollinator Haven!

These gardens are full of creative ideas and horticulture information! There are terrific signs with more detailed tips to help you set up similar gardens in your yard – pollinator garden, rose garden, water-wise garden, shade garden, raised vegetable beds, orchard, and others all well-crafted.

All of the vegetables, fruits, and herbs grown here are donated to local food pantries.  What a good neighbor!

Demonstration garden Urbandale Iowa by

Attractive Shade Garden With Seasonal Interest

Mills Rose Garden: Officially known as the Claire and Miles Mills Rose Garden, this Des Moines garden has been a popular gathering location since its dedication in 1933. You’ll find it in Greenwood Park on Grand Avenue, directly behind the Des Moines Art Center. The garden is an official All American Rose Selection Public Display Garden, one of less than 150 in the United States. Greenwood Park is the oldest city park in Des Moines, established in 1894.

Mills Rose Garden Iowa

The Gorgeous Mills Rose Garden – An Official AARS Public Display Garden

A visit to this rose garden should be on the ‘must-do’ list of locals and tourists alike. This lovely public garden boasts more than 2,500 plantings of over 200 varieties of roses, that typically begin to bloom in early June.

Flower Chick was amazed at how large it is!  I kept walking and walking and walking … never saw a rose garden this big before.  If you love roses, or want to grow roses, or just like looking at roses … this is rose heaven.

Hybrid Tea Rose 'Beverly' - What An Outstanding Specimen by

Rosa ‘Beverly’ Hybrid Tea Rose – What An Outstanding Bloom!  Lovely Citrus Scent Too!

You’ll find something in bloom from spring to the first frost and the Rose Garden is even a serene place to visit during the winter months. The Clare and Miles Mills Rose Garden is open from sunrise to sunset daily.  Make sure to bring your camera and take your time. The roses are labeled so you know what you are looking at.

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A Panoramic View Of A Portion Of The Mills Rose Gardens – Wish It Were Scratch & Sniff!

Public rose gardens are the ideal place to see what roses do well in your gardening zone.  It’s helpful to either take photos of the rose you are attracted to and the id marker, or jot them down to research later.

Winter Hardy Roses That Add Beauty To Zone 5 Gardens … Check Out These Easy Care Varieties

Des Moines Area Gardens by

Such A Pretty Yellow Floribunda … Rosa “Ch-Ching!” Very Disease Resistant and Fragrant

Salisbury Mansion & Gardens: Located just east of Greenwood Park, the impressive Salisbury Mansion & Gardens is a Tudor style manor home originally built in the 1920’s. The home is open for public tours, private events, and is a popular setting for weddings …

Salisbury Gardens Des Moines Area Gardens by

Visitors can opt for a guided or self guided tour to explore both the home and gardens. Originally built and owned by cosmetics executive Carl Weeks and his wife Edith, the home and grounds became a public museum and events space in 1999 …

Salisbury Mansion and Gardens by

The Formal Gardens At The Salisbury Mansion – Beautiful Trees & Shrubs and Very Green

Arie den Boer Arboretum: This 90+ year old arboretum is located in Des Moines’ Water Works Park, one of the city’s largest green spaces. The arboretum is famous for its collection of flowering crabapple trees, which put on quite a spectacular show in late April and early May …

Des Moines Area Gardens and Arboretums

This popular Des Moines attraction is named after the arboretum’s founder, Arie den Boer. Mr. den Boer was one of the world’s leading authorities on care and propagation of crabapple trees. Over 800 can be found here, along with another approximately 2000 other trees, many native to Iowa …

Des Moines Area Gardens by

Eye-Catching Plantings On The Arboretum Grounds

Flower Chick visited in late June so we didn’t experience the famous crabapples in bloom. Darn!  However, we did appreciate all the healthy trees, paved roads so you can drive through portions of the park, and the pockets of colorful plantings.  Pretty areas where you can hike, picnic or just sit and relax.

Explore The Amazing Beauty Of Crabapple Trees … Best Suited For Gardening Zone 5

The flower beds were nicely done and included vinca, marigolds, zinnias, calibrachoa, dwarf grasses, and one of my favorite foliage plants … Persian shield. Perfect for lovers of purple leaves!

Persian Shield Close Up – Good Choice For Container Arrangements As Well As Planted In Beds

Ewing Park: One of the area’s most popular parks, Ewing Park dates back to the late 1930’s. The park is famous for its lilac arboretum.

Ewing Park by

Once the Ewing family farm, this expansive park is located on the south side of Des Moines. Interestingly, Ewing Park is also home to a soap box derby track … we’d love to be here some time to see all the action!

Ewing Park by

Verdant, Rolling Terrain in Ewing Park … Soapbox Derby Track on Far Right

Brownie Park: Located near the Norwalk Public Library. This tiny park is named after a local Girl Scout Brownie Troop, which helps maintain the park and keep it clean as a community service project, along with an active corps of community volunteers.

Brownie Park Iowa by

Local garden clubs have “adopted” Brownie Park and devote many hours beautifying the grounds … and it shows!  Flower Chick liked how there were brochures for the taking on “You Can Save Pollinators” and “Planting Your Garden”. They offer growing tips and recommended host plants and nectar plants to attract beautiful butterflies to your yard.

Here Come the Girl Scouts!: Amazing True Story of Juliette ‘Daisy’ Gordon Low & Her Adventures

Pollinator Garden at Brownie Park

The Pollinator Garden at Brownie Park

This picturesque little park is home to a butterfly garden and a magnolia arboretum, which we understand to be the very first in Iowa. Magnolia trees in Zone 5 tend to bloom in April, so while we missed the spectacle on our visit, there are many other floral displays to discover here …

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Pretty Memorial Garden With Hand-Painted Signs In Brownie Park

Buxton Park: While you’re in Des Moines, be sure to carve out some time to visit Indianola. This Iowa town of roughly 15,000 residents is about 15 miles south of the metro area. Indianola is home to the annual National Balloon Festival and features an inviting historic downtown bustling with inviting shops and restaurants …

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Gorgeous Combination of Plants In The Well-Tended Flower Beds at Buxton Park

Of particular note is Indianola’s picture perfect Buxton Park, located adjacent to the Simpson College campus. Let’s explore the park, which features an arboretum and exuberant floral displays …

Buxton Park by

Floral Beauty Abounds in Buxton Park in Indianola

The park is named after local resident William Buxton Sr. who donated this 5 acre parcel of land to the city. Buxton Park is Indianola’s oldest, established in 1906. A serene, peaceful place, it’s one of the most scenic city parks in the Midwest …

Buxton Park Beds By

Impressive Array Of Interesting Foliage Plants Such As Coleus & Caladium on Display

Home to the largest magnolia tree in Iowa, gingko and tulip trees can also be found here. Today the park is maintained by volunteers and the local parks and recreation staff. A self guided arboretum tour brochure is available near the park’s gazebo. Children’s garden added in 2019. The three tiered water fountain is a popular stop for leashed dogs for a cool drink …

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Buxton Park is maintained by Indianola’s Parks & Recreation staff, along with a horticulturalist and numerous volunteers.  A very lovely and well-tended park …

Gardens In & Around Downtown Des Moines

Robert Ray Asian Gardens: If you’re planning a visit to the Des Moines Botanical Garden, add in some time for the Robert Ray Asian Gardens … it’s just down the street on the same side of the river.

Robert Ray Asian Gardens by

Robert Ray Asian Gardens Are A Peaceful Respite in Des Moines

In fact, we learned while visiting the botanical garden that the Robert Ray Asian Gardens are under the same ownership and care umbrella, which makes sense as they’re literally two blocks apart.

Robert Ray Asian Gardens by

Did You Know?  Three of the essential elements used to create an Asian garden are stone, which form the structure of the landscape; water, representing life-giving force; and plants, which provide the color and changes throughout the seasons.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden: The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a 14-acre botanical garden located near downtown Des Moines on the east bank of the Des Moines River and north of I-235.

Teeming with thousands of plants, the Outdoor Gardens celebrate the pleasures of gardening in the Midwest from the first winter thaw to autumn’s season-ending frost. In the Conservatory, you’ll find the richness of the tropics, complete with exotic orchids, anthurium, hibiscus and other flowering plants, under a sheltering canopy of palms and trees otherwise unknown in Iowa.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden by

Magnificent Floral Displays Along The Pathways at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Flower Chick was delighted to see they harness the power of integrated pest management (IPM) at the botanic garden! While walking around the grounds you may notice plants with white tags hanging from the stems and leaves.  These contain eggs of beneficial bugs that, once hatched, find and prey on common pests like aphids, whiteflies and mealybugs.  Using the “good bugs” to fight the “bad bugs” is very eco-friendly.  Thumbs up!

Nature’s Good Guys Caterpillars, Moths, Ladybugs, & Lacewing For Your Healthy Garden …

Conservatory at Greater Des Moines Botanic Garden

Tropical Delight In The Conservatory With This Grand Hibiscus Welcoming You Inside

The Rose Garden at the Greater Des Moines Botanic Garden stands out in a good way … instead of the traditional rose gardens you see at most public gardens (stand alone roses in beds) the rosebushes here are mixed in with other perennials and seasonally interplanted with herbs and edibles.

The rose collection features a number of varieties developed by the late Iowa State University horticulture professor Dr. Griffith Buck and other contemporary cultivars that thrive in our Midwestern conditions.

Mixed Rose Garden at Greater Des Moines Botanic Garden by

The Modern Rose Garden Mixes A Variety Of Perennials and Edibles With Shrub Roses

You’ll be greeted by an interesting array of grasses, sedum, junipers, a weeping blue spruce and assorted other varieties in the photogenic Conifer Garden.  If you are in the Des Moines area, the botanic garden is a must stop!

Greater Des Moines Botanic Garden by

The Conifer Garden Delights With Many Unique Specimens Intermingled With Perennials

Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden: Have you ever wondered how magazines capture their spectacular photos? Well, in the case of Better Homes & Gardens magazine, they own their very own test garden. It’s located between busy Grand and Locust Streets about a mile west of downtown Des Moines …

Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden by

June In Bloom In The Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden

Because it is a working space, visiting times are limited to Fridays from noon to 2 p.m., from the first Friday in May through the first Friday in October. Visitors may stroll through the gardens on their own (garden staff is available to answer questions). Flower Chick wasn’t in town on a Friday afternoon so I took a few stealth photos through the fence for you …

My eyesight isn’t the best … but I believe I spotted hydrangeas, yarrow, shrub roses, hostas, campanula, Asiatic lilies, impatiens, coneflowers, caladium and many other thriving plants in the distance.  I love their magazine and will be on the lookout for an upcoming feature on the test garden …

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Next Time Flower Chick Will Visit When They Are Open To The Public!

World Food Prize Museum & Garden:  This is a special tribute to Nobel Peace Prize winner and World Food Prize founder Dr. Norman Borlaug, and to provide an enduring foundation for all of the programs he created.  The World Food Prize Foundation took on a $29.8 million capital project to restore the century-old Des Moines Public Library Building as the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug World Food Prize Hall of Laureates.

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The Splendid Formal Gardens On The World Food Prize Museum Grounds

Tours are offered of this magnificently restored Beaux Arts space which celebrates the spirit of giving, emphasizing the importance of global food security. Dr. Borlaug is honored for his role as the Father of the Green Revolution and the man who has saved more than one billion lives with his innovations in agriculture.

Kudos to those who trim all those manicured evergreens!  There are a lot of them in shrub, tree and hedge form and they were in pristine shape!

World Food Prize Des Moines by

Gorgeous Container Plantings At WFP: Lantana, Sweet Potato Vine, Verbena, & Fountain Grass

Union Park: – One of Des Moines’ first four parks, Union Park was established in 1894. Located a few minutes north of downtown, Union Park is renowned for its flower gardens and family friendly attractions …

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The Lovingly Cared For Carousel In Union Park – Flower Chick’s Sneak Peek!

The Heritage Carousel in Union Park has provided smiles to thousands of people since it first started going in circles in 1998.  It’s operated under the Des Moines Carousel Foundation, a non-profit organization, and provides about 45,000 rides during a typical season!

It was established to provide an affordable, wholesome and nostalgic family based activity. You can even ‘adopt’ a carousel animal and name it for a season, or rent the carousel for a special event!

Here’s A Merry-Go Round You Can Take Home With You …

Rocket Slide in Union Park by Flower Chick

The Fun For All Rocket Slide in Union Park – Blast Off!!

Speaking of nostalgia, another popular attraction in the park is the Rocket Slide.   The freshly painted slide closely replicates the original look when it was first placed in the park in the late ‘60’s or early 1970’s. Fun!

Union Park Flower Bed Des Moines Iowa by

Color Burst In The Flower Beds At Union Park: Ageratum, Moss Roses, Caladium, Asparagus Fern

Discovery Garden: You’ll find this impressive garden on the Iowa State Fairgrounds site. The Fairgrounds are located on the near east side of Des Moines at University Avenue and E. 30th Street, only a short drive from downtown …

Discovery Garden at Iowa State Fairgrounds by

Pardon The Pun – But What A Charming Discovery!  Definitely Stop To Enjoy This Floral Oasis.

A very attractive hidden gem amidst the Fairgrounds. Flower Chick really enjoyed this slice of floral paradise! They pack a lot on to a fairly small footprint at Discovery Garden. This picture-perfect garden has a lot going on … so take your time as you walk around the various plots to capture all the details.

Des Moines Area Gardens by Flower Chick

You’ll Find Exquisite Garden Plots in Discovery Gardens at the Fairgrounds

While meandering from display to display, a mother and daughter pushing a baby carriage stopped me and asked if I was one of the Master Gardeners.  (I guess I looked the part with my floral shirt and camera around my neck ; )  I told them I wish I could take credit, but this was my first time here enjoying all the gardens.

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They inquired if I knew the name of a certain yellow perennial that caught their eye. Thankfully, I knew it since I have it in our yard (plus it’s planted at the local cemetery where I tend the garden plot).  Threadleaf Coreopsis!

Did You Know?  Thread Leaf Coreopsis is a native perennial in the daisy family that grows in dense bushy clumps. It may grow 2-3 feet tall with a similar spread. Plants thrive in infertile sandy and rocky soils and tolerate drought, low levels of salt, infertile soil, heat, and humidity.

Discovery Garden at the Iowa State Fairgrounds by

Attractive Displays By The Talented Master Gardeners at The Discovery Garden

Time Honored Des Moines Favorites

Des Moines is a wonderfully historic city, an aspect which sometimes goes unnoticed. Rich in Italian-American and German-American culture, Des Moines boasts impressive historic architecture and many long established independent business and restaurants just waiting to be discovered by new generations … is always pleased to spotlight these types of businesses on our travels. They’ve stood the test of time and they’re the type of local businesses worth seeking out. Here are a few of our Des Moines favorites …

Graziano Brothers: Known in the Des Moines area and beyond simply as Graziano’s, this legendary spot dates back to 1912. Part Italian-American grocer, deli, and meat counter, Graziano’s calling card is their Italian style specialties …

Perhaps most famous is Graziano’s Italian Sausage. You can buy it bulk or in links, and believe it, the sausage here is not to be missed. It’s available in different levels of heat (mild, hot, etc.), along with all kinds of Italian style deli specialties …

Insider Tip: Try to visit here around lunch time. Graziano’s will prepare a sandwich for you, made fresh while you wait. We enjoyed a spectacular roast beef sandwich and accented it with a couple spoonfuls of hot giardiniera …

Hessen Haus: In a city well known for its Italian restaurants, Hessen Haus stands as a testament to Des Moines German heritage. A popular, rollicking friendly spot, you’ll find it right downtown on 4th Street …

Hessen Haus Des Moines Iowa

The Lively Hessen Haus in Des Moines – Enjoy a Boot of Beer and Great German Food

Feast on traditional German specialties like schnitzel or sauerbraten and have a blast poring over the expansive draught beer selection. There’s plenty of spectacular German imports, and local favorites as well … prost!

If you visit in the warmer months like we did, opt for the adjacent outdoor patio. By the time you leave, you’ll no doubt be in a festive frame of mind!

Celebrate German Heritiage At Home With These Festive Beer Glasses … Click Here To See

Did You Know? The oldest bar in Des Moines is the Hull Avenue Tavern, dating back to 1933. Located several blocks north and east of Union Park, Hull Avenue Tavern is not what you’d call a fancy place, but that’s part of the appeal. Well known for their commitment to local live music, it’s a lower key neighborhood gathering spot when the place opens mid afternoon …

Triangle Tap: On our way from downtown Des Moines west to some of our other garden destinations, we stopped at a legendary Des Moines bar tucked away off the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Euclid …

It’s the Triangle Tap, perhaps Des Moines finest dive bar (in the best sense of the phrase). Serving up cold beer and conversation since 1938, the Triangle Tap is a favorite of cyclists as it sits right off one of the city’s main trails …

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Enjoyed Some Day Drinking With The Friendly Regulars At Triangle Tap in Des Moines

The bar is a favorite of a lot of others, too. This is the kind of place where you’ll know someone every time you walk in. For Flower Chick, even though it was our first time here, within minutes we were engaged in friendly conversation with a few regulars …

The bar boasts an impressive tap beer selection, from all the standard domestics to several local Des Moines offerings. We found it an exceptionally welcoming place for a little day drinking! We’re told it’s a popular spot in the late afternoon and evenings too …

There’s a good reason why the Triangle Tap has been here since 1938 … it’s a great place! We’re planning to stop in the next time we’re in Des Moines. You should too!

Chuck Celci’s Tavern: You’ll find Chuck Celci’s Tavern in the vibrant and very fun Valley Junction shopping area in West Des Moines. Really more a family gathering spot than a traditional tavern, this place has been doing it right since the mid 1940’s …

Chuck Celci's

Enjoy A Delicious Meal & Beverage At Chuck Celci’s Tavern

Enjoy one of Chuck Celci’s legendary thin crust pizzas or a fantastic meatball sandwich. Locals love Chuck Celci’s … we visited on Monday evening and were amazed by the steady flow of to go orders. It just goes to show … go where the locals go and you’ll be rewarded with a great meal.

Insider Tip: Chuck Celci’s Tavern is also famous for their creamy parmesan dressing. Fortunately, you can buy it to go. It’s great on salads and deli sandwiches …

Smitty’s Tenderloins: Arguably, Iowa’s most famous sandwich is the pork tenderloin. The sandwich is offered at restaurants across the state and debates rage regularly as to which is best. There’s even an Iowa Tenderloin Trail linking some of The Hawkeye State’s famous tenderloin hot spots …

Creating the sandwich is relatively simple. First, a center cut pork loin is flattened and tenderized. Then, they’re either fried or grilled and served on a bun which is traditionally too small for the tenderloin itself. Pickles, onions, and mustard are the commonly accepted toppings, though that’s entirely personal preference.

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Wow! Very Tasty Tenderloins At Smitty’s in Des Moines. A Delicious Sandwich!

As you might imagine, there are scores of places in and around Des Moines serving noteworthy tenderloins. One of our favorites is Smitty’s Tenderloins, located near the airport on Army Post Road …

In business since 1952, Smitty’s menu sticks to what they do best … tenderloin sandwiches, burgers, and sides like fries, fantastic onion rings, cheese sticks, and a few more. Pop in at lunch time and get your pork tenderloin fix and see all the locals grabbing orders to go …

Smitty’s is true Des Moines experience. Be sure to stop in – the tenderloins are fantastic!

Can’t Get To Iowa For A Delicious Pork Tenderloin? Then Enjoy This Mouth-Watering Wall Art …

Hiland Bakery: There’s nothing quite like a good old fashioned bakery, and in Des Moines, it’s Hiland Bakery, which dates back to 1946 …

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Located on the city’s north side off Euclid Avenue, Hiland Bakery offers all the traditional favorites along with a few twists and inventive baked goods. If you’re in a hurry, you can order ahead and even pick up a house made deli sandwich to go …

Court Avenue Brewpub: On our previous visit to Des Moines some twenty years ago, there were only two brewpubs in town and Court Avenue was the first. Located right downtown on a busy stretch of Court Avenue, the brewpub is still turning out fabulous beer and upscale pub grub.

Court Avenue Bewpub Des Moines IA by FlowerChick.som

A Des Moines Staple – The Court Avenue Brewpub For Good Beer & Food

Over a beer, we mentioned to each other, “We stop here every time in town”. Hopefully next time won’t be 20 years from now! If you’re in downtown Des Moines and looking for some approachable, inventive beer and great food to pair it with, you won’t go wrong at Court Avenue Brewpub …

High Life Lounge: Looking for a fun, casual happy hour place in downtown Des Moines? You won’t go wrong at the High Life Lounge. It’s about two blocks from the Hessen House and convenient to just about everything downtown …

As you might have guessed from the name, the star of the show here is Miller High Life. This Milwaukee brewed staple continues to be highly popular (and very drinkable!), much the same as it was 40 and 50 years ago …

High Life Bar Des Moines by

The Retro Cool High Life Bar – Good Beer Plus Check Out All The Old School Signs

Walk in and you’ll be surrounded by old school High Life advertising, neon signs and of course, Miller High Life on draught. If living the High Life isn’t your thing, no worries. There are several other beers on tap (try the Grain Belt from Minnesota) and a full bar with all manners of cocktails …

Check out the High Life Lounge’s food menu too. You’ll find all sorts of comfort food faves like Grilled Cheese, pork tenderloin sandwiches, cheeseburgers, pot roast, meatloaf, chicken pot pies, and a whole lot more …

If there was ever such a thing as a retro-modern bar, High Life Lounge is it! Lively yet conversation friendly, Flower Chick thinks this is one of the most fun places in downtown Des Moines. Stop in and see for yourself!

Time For Some Bleu Cheese

Heading east about 1/2 hour east from Des Moines on Interstate 80 brings you to the community of Newton, Iowa. Let’s stop and explore two of Newton’s most popular attractions, Maytag Dairy Farms and the Newton Arboretum & Botanical Gardens …

Maytag Dairy Farms: Have you ever heard of Maytag Bleu Cheese? Well, this is where it’s produced, and it’s out-of-this-world good!

Maytag Diary Farms Bleu Cheese by

Visit The Maytag Dairy Farm Retail Store for Delicious Bleu & Other Excellent Cheeses

For 80 years, this family dairy farm has produced award winning bleu cheese. When you visit, the first thing you’ll notice are the beautiful white barns amidst a pastoral setting. Join a tour if one is available, or head to the gift shop to pick up bleu cheese, cheese spread, and popcorn from the farm …

Enjoy Scrumptious Maytag Bleu Cheese Without Travelling To Iowa … Click Here To Order!

Newton Arboretum & Botanical Garden: On Newton’s southeast side in Agnes Patterson Memorial Park. The arboretum and garden occupy the former site of an 80 acre family farm. And if you think all of Iowa is flat terrain, this impressive locale will change your mind. Rolling hills blend with an adjacent corn field to create quite a spectacular site that’s actually very representative of The Hawkeye State …

Newton Arboretum & Botanical Gardens by

Use The Map As A Guide So You Don’t Miss Anything!

With hundreds of varieties of plants and trees, water features, community art and a nature center, the arboretum and gardens offer the perfect spot for a stroll in the park, pursuing a love of nature photography, a family outing or even celebrating a wedding.

Such a gorgeous layout and execution!  We arrived just after a rain shower which made the entire garden sparkle and really greened up the trees, grass, and flower beds.

Des Moines Area Gardens by

Loved This Statue In The Jordan’s Crossing Area of The Grounds!

Flower Chick took so many photos I condensed them into this slideshow … with some of the highlights from the rose garden, plus perennials. annuals, native trees, butterfly garden, water garden, prairie wildflowers and more.

Off To Pella, Iowa

Heading south and a bit east from Newton, you’ll reach Pella, about 45 minutes from Des Moines. A nationally known Dutch heritage community, Pella is one of the most popular visitor destinations in the state of Iowa …

Home to a charming downtown area brimming with independent shops and merchants, Pella is an easy day trip from metro Des Moines. The town’s Dutch heritage is proudly showcased in the many public floral displays you’ll see as you explore the community. Entering Pella from Highway 163 brings you to the town’s largest park, Brinkhoff Park …

Discover The Interesting History of the Dutch in Iowa … Find Details Here

Brinkhoff Park: Named after an early park enthusiast, this park serves as a welcome park on the west edge of Pella on Washington Street.  Flower beds, a small windmill, and picnic tables greet those entering Pella from the west.

Brinkhoff park Pella Iowa by

A Touch Of Holland In Iowa – Brinkhoff Park Welcomes You

From the park, it’s two minutes into the heart of downtown. You’ll see Pella’s attractive historic town square, complete with an authentic Dutch windmill, and you’ll know you’ve arrived …

Much of the fun in Pella is walking around the town square’s perimeter. Independent shops and stores abound, so let’s check them out …

Time Out For Shopping In Pella

Jaarsma Bakery: From the standpoint of a foodie, Pella is most famous for its bakeries and meat markets. Visit Pella’s beautiful town square and you’ll be steps away from both … times two!

Jaarsma's Bakery Pella Iowa by

The Fantastic Jaarsma Bakery in Pella Iowa – Chock Full of Dutch Baked Treats & Sweets!

Pella boasts two traditional Dutch heritage bakeries and two enticing time honored meat markets. They’re here waiting for you to explore, so let’s do just that! For starters, you’ll want to linger at the wonderful Jaarsma Bakery, located at 727 Franklin Street, directly across from the square …

Flaky Dutch Letter From Jaarsma Bakery Pella

Try An Amazing Dutch Letter … Delicious With a Cup of Coffee or Tea

You don’t want to leave without “Dutch Letters” … An “S” shaped flaky puff pastry, wrapped around moist almond paste filling, baked to a golden perfection and sprinkled with a touch of sugar. Letters can be served slightly warm or fresh from the box. Delicious!

Ulrich’s Meat Market: Ulrich’s is Pella’s oldest business, dating back to 1868. This and In’t Velds (below) are where you’ll want to pick up genuine Pella Bologna …

The bologna you’ll find in Pella puts processed bologna to shame. In fact, you’ll wonder if you’re actually eating bologna! Pella bologna is darker in color, richer in flavor, lean, and free of artificial preserving ingredients. It makes for one great sandwich with a little brown mustard or your condiment of choice …

Ulrich Meat Market Pella Iowa by

Try Some Pella Bologna At Ulrich Meats – Outstanding!

In addition, Ulrich’s offers steaks, roasts, cuts of pork, locally made cheese, and a wide array of sausages and smoked meats. It’s hard to leave here without stocking up!

Insider Tip: You don’t have to travel to Pella to enjoy Pella bologna (or the town’s famed baked goods). Both meat markets and both bakeries ship. Check out their websites to see what calls your name …

Vander Ploeg Bakery: After visiting both of Pella’s bakeries, we wondered aloud how a smaller sized town could support two bakeries. Well, the answer came to mind immediately … they’re both out-of-this-world good. We stopped in here to pick up a few “Dutch Letters” and a one of kind apple cinnamon pecan bread loaf …

Divine Apple Cinnamon Pecan Loaf From Vander Ploeg – Delicious Served Warm or Cold

Did You Know?  Dutch letters were introduced to the United States by Dutch immigrants, and originated in Pella, Iowa, which was founded in 1845 by “Dutch religious refugees.” Dutch letters are a favorite treat at the annual Tulip Festival held every May.

In’t Veld’s Meat Market & Deli: Tucked along the east side of Pella’s picturesque town square on Main Street is this combination meat market and deli. In’t Veld’s has served Pella and surrounding areas since 1941 and are well known for smoked meat, summer sausage, bratwurst, jerky, and more.

They recently expanded into a next door building to create a market deli which is open mid mornings through lunch and serves a variety of sandwiches and wraps created with house cured meats and deli specialties …

Pella Iowa by

Wonderful Selection Of Meats & Cheeses At In’t Veld’s Meat Market & Deli in Pella

Insider Tip: Stopping at the deli for lunch? Try the Double Dutch … it’s two slices of house made Pella bologna and gouda cheese on a fresh bakery bun …

Pick up a ring of Pella bologna from both In’t Veld’s and Ulrich’s to get the true Pella experience! Don’t ask which is the best … that’s kind of like asking what’s the best flower ; – ) lol

Deja Vu Consignments –  This is a consignment store for all family members!  Women, men, children … all are covered. They also carry boutique items and giftables. Plus, if you are so inclined, you can also tan here in one of their two tanning beds. Visit them at 630 Washington Street in Pella.  I found several great clothing deals …

Deja Vu Pella Iowa by

Deja Vu Consignment in Pella – Check Them Out For Great Deals!

The Wijn House Did you know Iowa has a thriving wine industry? Well, it’s true. The Hawkeye State is home to seven wine trails and over 100 wineries …

Wijn House Pella

Stop By The Wijn House For Iowa Wines

A great place to introduce yourself to Iowa wine is at downtown Pella’s The Wijn House. The emphasis here is spreading the word about Iowa wines, including samplings, special winery spotlights, and an impressive stock of wines from all across the state …

With the recent interest in “buying local”, it’s great to see a retail outlet devoted to local wines. Flower Chick always picks up a bottle or two to savor when we get back home. Local wine is also an excellent thank you gift for someone who waters your hanging baskets while you’re away!

You’ll find The Wijn House on Franklin Street downtown, a half block west of Main …

Pella Books: Half a block west of Jaarsma Bakery on Franklin Street is this inviting used book store, housed in a former church. Pella Books buys and sells used, collectible, vintage, antiquarian, and rare books. They are a perfect destination for book collectors, historians, and book lovers of all types! I spotted children’s books, poetry, fantasy, history books, romance, mystery, and so much more.

Pella Books by

Cute As A Button – Pella Books – In A Former Church Building

Scholte House & Gardens: Walking on the north side of the square brings you to this historic home with lovely gardens. The “grande dame” of Pella is the 170-year-old Scholte House. Built by Hendrik Peter Scholte (founder of Pella) for his wife Maria in 1847/48 over a period of just six months.

The Scholte House in Pella Iowa by

The beautiful gardens behind the home are free and open to the public. Maintained by the Pella Historical Society and Museum Staff Gardeners, they plant 32,000 tulip bulbs each fall and give them away to locals after they bloom each spring.

Scholte House Pella by

Winding Paths, Mature Trees, Flower Beds, Gazebo, & Statues Add Charm To Scholte Gardens

Each June coleus, marigolds, petunias, begonias, impatiens and more are planted in the many flower beds in public garden.   A pretty spot to take in on your visit to Pella!

Scholte Garden in Pella by

Sunken Gardens Park: This pretty Pella green space is situated a few blocks north of the square and downtown. The park’s lagoon is laid out in the shape of a traditional Dutch wooden shoe, a nod to Pella’s Dutch heritage.

Sunken Gardens Pella by

Photogenic Windmill At The Sunken Gardens in Pella Iowa

Stroll around the lagoon and take in the attractive garden beds. A wide variety of formal tulip beds are blooming in the spring, amidst trees, a windmill, turn of the century benches, and classic light poles are showcased in the rest of the park.

Sunken Gardens in Summer by

A Winding Paved Path Takes You Around The Park

In the summer, the beds are filled with canna lilies, petunias, salvia, coleus, calibrachoa and other colorful annual flowers. A short walk from downtown … The Sunken Gardens Park is a litle gem to unwind, relax and take in the sights.

Des Moines Area Gardens

Colorful Flower Beds Surround The Lagoon At The Sunken Gardens

This park is a year-round tourist attraction especially in the spring when the 13,000 plus tulips are in bloom. Ice skating is enjoyed by many during the winter months.

Summary: Des Moines Area Gardens

It was a real joy to experience all these Des Moines area gardens up close and personal! If you’re a Zone 5 gardener, Des Moines offers a lot to see and do, from the beckoning Des Moines Botanical Garden to all the other scenic vistas in the area …

To fully experience Des Moines and the surrounding communities, allow yourself at least three days so you don’t have to rush. The city is fairly easy to get around and all the gardens spotlighted above are really worth adding to your agenda …

Reiman Gardens Iowa by

Beautiful Garden Beds At Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa

Every time we visit Des Moines, we add to our ever expanding list of local favorites. You’ll love getting reacquainted with tried and true favorites and experiencing everything that’s new around the city …

For gardeners and garden travel fans, all of these Des Moines area gardens offer a new spectacle with each visit. There’s always something new to see!

Buxton Park by

The Artistry of Buxton Park In Indianola, Iowa

We hope this travelogue inspires you to visit this part of Iowa and also rouses your gardening sensibilities. Flower always welcomes your questions and comments …

Garden Trowel Sculpture

Garden Trowel Sculpture In Downtown Des Moines – Over 23 Feet Tall & Weighs 2300 Pounds! 

Be sure to check out our other “Visiting Midwest Gardens” features, some of which you’ll see below …

Most of all, thanks for coming along and thanks for reading!

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