Educate, enchant, and inspire an appreciation of plants, butterflies, and the beauty of the natural world.
– Reiman Gardens Mission Statement
Reiman Gardens turns 20 this year. The university’s old horticultural garden (est. 1914), the predecessor to Reiman Gardens, was greatly expanded and moved to its present location to serve as an attractive entrance to the Iowa State University campus. Construction began in 1994 and the garden was officially dedicated on September 16, 1995.
Reiman Gardens is the largest public garden in Iowa.
The idea for a new garden was the result of a casual observation by Roy Reiman. He suggested to ISU President Martin Jischke that the southern view was bland and would be improved by flower beds and ornamental landscaping. Roy and his wife Bobbi are the namesakes and benefactors of the Reiman Gardens. Roy, who graduated from Iowa State (B.A. Agricultural Journalism ’57), is the founder of Reiman Publications (now affiliated with the Reader’s Digest Association) which publishes Taste of Home, Country, Reminisce, and 11 other country lifestyle magazines. The Reimans are very generous members of the Cyclone family, having leant their support to ISU for a variety of projects. There have also been a number of other supporters of Reiman Gardens over the years.
Running a garden is a lot of work, and luckily the gardens have a dedicated volunteer group. The Reiman Gardens CoHorts are the service society for Reiman Gardens. The CoHorts help plant the gardens, plan and publicize events, serve as docents and tour guides, and provide other volunteer assistance as needed.
The old horticulture garden had been operating on 2 acres near the power plant since 1966. Despite it’s small size and location, it was a popular event site. However, the old site was surrounded by the campus industrial zone and offered no room for expansion. The Reiman’s gift enabled the university to develop a 14 acre site south of Jack Trice Stadium, dramatically improving the size and location for the garden.
The increased space enabled the eventual additions of an “idea” garden (envisioned as a demonstration garden for home gardeners), a Dr. Griffith Buck Rose garden, a children’s garden, water features, and event spaces. The gardens have since grown to 17 acres and include a 2500 square foot butterfly wing.
Programming and Research
The gardens serve as an outdoor laboratory for art and horticulture students and provide year-round programming for the general public. Formal education is supported through the internship program, serving as a test site for student research, and through guided Pre-K – 12th grade lessons and activities.
The gardens have lots to offer the public as well. One of the most popular attractions is the exhibit of up to 800 butterflies in the Christina Reiman butterfly wing.
One of the recent attractions added to the gardens is Elwood, the resident garden gnome. At 15 feet tall, he is the world’s largest concrete gnome!
Special Collections and University Archives is the home for the administrative records of the Reiman Gardens (RS 5/7/4) and the CoHorts (RS 5/7/3). We also have the Historians’ Books prepared annually by the CoHorts (RS 5/7/3/0/5) and a collection of news clippings about the gardens (RS 5/7/0/0).