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The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden dates back to 1929 when community members expressed interest in building a botanical garden. A greenhouse was purchased in 1939, which was open to the public. However, the center itself was not completed until 1979. Since then, the garden has become one of the region's premier centers to learn about botany while enjoying the beautiful gardens.


  • The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden was built in 1979 but its history dates back 1929.
  • Interior of the greenhouse
  • A type of tulip that can be found in season at the center

From 2004 to December 31, 2012, Des Moines Water Works maintained the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden as a public space. On January 2, 2013, the facility became a non-profit organization whose mission is to display and explain the wonders of the plant kingdom to the general public. The center boasts a collection of over 1000 different types of plants. The museum is also home to rotating horticultural exhibits, which recently have included a special exhibit on tidal pools and another on rain. Tidal pools create a unique habitat that allows for special types of the toughest flora and fauna species to thrive.

The center is home to several plant collections, including an amaryllis collection, a bonsai collection, a coleus and plectranthus collection, a gesneriad collection, and an orchid collection. The website also hosts a gardening blog full of gardening information and tips. A recent article described the speaker’s, blog article author Elvin McDonald, experience attending a canning and preserving workshop at the Botanical Garden’s botany lab. The center also provides educational programs for adults and students alike. These programs are dynamic and varied; they include art and science classes as well as classes about nutrition and eating locally sourced produce.

Interestingly, from the mid-eighties to the 2000s, the Botanical Gardens served as a Do It Yourself (DIY) music venue for Iowa’s punk and hardcore music scene. Do It Yourself refers not only to the fact that these music shows were produced independently, but also to a very specific brand of lifestyle and counter-culture. Although it encompasses many different types of people and belief systems, it is generally about breaking free from mainstream society and deciding what rules one will live by independently. There is still a strong DIY scene in the Des Moines area and in Iowa in general. One Des Moines area organization listed on a DIY website is the Des Moines Social Club—an arts and entertainment center focused on creating a space for unique community engagement.

"History." The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Accessed June 5, 2015.  http://www.dmbotanicalgarden.com/about-us/history.