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Winter finally let go of its hold on our spring. It’s time to catch up on color.

Winter finally let go of its hold on our spring. It’s time to catch up on color.

We were robbed of some vital spring color this year. Mother Nature just held on to gray days seemingly forever. But with a mad dash through a garden center or a slow saunter through a garden tour, we can restore our spring and summer fix on color.

Garden Tours
Windsor Heights Garden Tour

This every-other-year garden tour in Windsor Heights takes place 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday, June 9, rain or shine. There will be eight gardens and two flowerbeds in Colby Park. There is no charge for the tour, but visitors are encouraged to consider a free-will donation. The money raised helps purchase plants and other items for the two garden beds along the circle drive at Colby Park.

For a tour map, stop by Windsor Heights City Hall up to two weeks before the tour or Colby Park, 6900 School Street, the day of the tour.

The tour is sponsored by the Keep Windsor Heights Beautiful Committee. Besides planting and maintaining the two flowerbeds in the park and sponsoring the garden tour on even-numbered years, the committee sponsors a litter pickup in April and a plant exchange in June.

State Center Rose Festival

This year’s festival, Thursday, June 14, through Sunday, June 17, marks the 60th annual festival in the Rose Capital of Iowa. State Center is on Highway 30 between Nevada and Marshalltown. A large flowerbed celebrates old and new rose varieties. Family-friendly events include a parade, food vendors, Fun Zone, craft show and market, truck and tractor pulls, coronations, and music.

Central Iowa Garden Railroad Society Tour

The tour will be from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday, June 23, with six layouts to visit. On this fun tour, homeowners have combined their love of gardening with their fascination with “G” gauge (garden-style) trains and their details. Some are completed and some are under construction. To match the train sizes, some gardeners use small or miniature plantings for scale. Some of this year’s spots are geared to children. You might see Thomas the Tank Engine, Chewbacca and Han Solo from Star Wars, and even Ninja Turtles and dinosaurs. Others are authentic period setups. Tickets cost $10 per carload and can be purchased at any of the tour spots. Check out the website,

  • San Juan Valley Railway: Howard and Kay moved their layout from Boone to Altoona several years ago. It depicts a branch line of the Denver & Rio Grande narrow gauge along the Colorado-New Mexico border in the 1930s.
    311 5th Street Place SE, Altoona
  • BCG&O Railway: Joe and Andee Vocelka named their layout with the initials of their grandchildren. You might see a Minion driving a switcher or a bear guarding against forest fires along 130 feet of track. Raised flowerbeds and a busy Main Street are included.
    6659 NW 52nd Street Court, Johnston
  • Chipmunk and Squirrel Railroad: Neal and Sue Brown’s setup has been operating since 1992. It has three main loops; one extends down one side of the backyard, complete with steep grade. All the buildings are lit at night with low-voltage lighting or solar-powered LED lighting. The setup has both remote-control live stream and remote-control battery power.
    4110 Patricia Drive, Urbandale
  • Deer Creek Railroad: Mike, Andrew, and Nate Meston are carrying on their father Mike’s railroad. The layout features lots of grading and building-block walls and 720 feet of track and 42 switches, plus a pond, a creek, and a waterfall. Look for Thomas Land.
    1075 NW 67th Place, Des Moines
  • Iron Horse Railroad: Ron and Cathy Huntimer bring the Old West alive with cowboys, Indians, and Iron Horses, the trains of the era. There are stage coaches and 52 dwarf Alberta spruce trees and multiple groundcovers for effect.
    1318 SW 3rd Street, Ankeny
  • Reindeer Pass Railroad: Mike and Renee Kidman have a huge setup with nearly 500 feet of track, two 8-foot tunnels, a covered bridge, and a 40-foot stream. They have used their miniature hosta collection to good advantage.
    5220 NW 8th Street, Ankeny

Polk County Master Gardeners Tour

Extraordinary Gardens by Ordinary People will be from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday, June 30. Tour seven gardens in the Mitchellville, Altoona, and Pleasant Hill areas. Free children’s activities and interactive exhibits will be available. Tickets cost $10 for age 13 and up; kids 12 and under are free.

Tickets available online at and at Iowa State Extension and Outreach, 1625 Adventureland Drive, Altoona; Goode Greenhouses; The Woodsmith Store garden center; Canoyer Garden Centers in Ankeny and Grimes; Beaverdale Farmers Market 4:00 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 5 and 26; Altoona Farmers Market, 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. June 20 and 27; and Downtown Farmers Market 7:00 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 23. Addresses of the open gardens are provided when you purchase a ticket.

Other Garden Locations
Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden

This pocket garden surprise is adjacent to the Meredith corporate headquarters at Grand Avenue and 15th Street. It acts as a display garden, a testing ground for plants, and a photography studio. The garden is open to the public from noon to 2:00 p.m. on Fridays from May to the first Friday in October. View a variety of gardens: mixed perennial, shade, meadow, vegetable and herb, and the courtyard. Free; call for reservations, 515-284-3994.

The Brenton Arboretum

Head west from Des Moines to Dallas Center to visit trees, shrubs, and prairie. There are native grasses, wildflowers, and tree collections. There are classes and walks to take. The arboretum was designed by Anthony Tyznik, a landscape architect and botanical artist. It is open from 9:00 a.m. until sunset Tuesday through Sunday; free. 25141 260th Street, two miles south of Dallas Center. Signs directing visitors are located on Highway 6, Highway 44K, and County Road R-16;

Iowa Arboretum

Developed in 1966, this 40-acre tract in rural Boone County is called a Library of Living Plants. It displays hundreds of species of trees, shrubs, and flowers. Numerous classes and events are offered for children and adults. Open sunrise to sunset. Call ahead for tours. Admission: members free, nonmembers $5, children 12 and under free. 1875 Peach Avenue, Madrid;

Reiman Gardens

This colorful 17-acre attraction puts out the welcome mat to Iowa State University and the city of Ames. Next to Jack Trice Stadium, it showcases one of the largest public gardens in the state. The year-round site offers an indoor conservatory, indoor and outdoor areas, a spectacular indoor butterfly wing, and five greenhouses. Extended summer hours from May 1 to September 30 are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; the butterfly wing closes at 4:30 p.m.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

The dome on the Des Moines River will lead you to one of the city’s most popular attractions. With display gardens inside and out, the venue is a spot for meetings, receptions, classes, and Sunday music. Trellis, a restaurant, offers lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission: members free, adults $10, 65-plus $9, students 4 to 17 $7, 3 and under free. 900 Robert D. Ray Drive.

World Food Prize gardens

If you’re in downtown Des Moines and need a floral fix, walk to 100 Locust Street, on the banks of the Des Moines River, to the home of the World Food Prize, formerly the Des Moines Public Library. When the building was redone, a formal two-acre traditional, timeless garden space was added. It’s perfect for photography and a stop to relax. The grand central fountain plaza and lawn are reminiscent of similar spaces around the world.

Community Gardens

When you’re driving, biking, and strolling around Des Moines, take note of many community gardens in public neighborhood spaces. The Des Moines City Greenhouse provides neighborhood associations with flowers each May for planting in public spots. For example, small garden spots all the way down Polk Boulevard add bright pops of color; the same is true on Kingman Boulevard. A large flowerbed at 56th Street and University Avenue showcases annuals and perennials. Look for many others all over town.


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