People & Places

Iowa All Over: Reiman Gardens celebrates 20th anniversary this year

A modern-day sanctuary

People walk around Reiman Gardens in Ames on Friday, July 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
People walk around Reiman Gardens in Ames on Friday, July 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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Overhead, light filters through a blanket of green leaves. Green dwarf apples dangle from branches. Green, orange and yellow squares glisten and shine from tree houses.

The setting is part of a display at the Home Production garden, one of 12 gardens that surround the Marge Hunziker House at Reiman Gardens in Ames.

In total, there are 26 distinct garden areas spread over the 17-acre facility.

In this particular space, Reiman Gardens works with national organization Plant a Row for the Hungry. The group encourages people and businesses to plant one extra row in their garden and donate the food to local pantries.

“Everything that comes out of here either we use for educational purposes or we do a tasting or we donate to Plant a Row for the Hungry,” said Sara Merritt, education manager at Reiman Gardens.

In addition to the Home Production garden, other gardens surrounding the Hunziker House provide inspiration and suggestions that can be incorporated into residential and business landscapes.

Founded in 1995, Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University aims to “educate, enchant and inspire an appreciation of plants, butterflies and the beauty of the natural world,” Merritt said.

Exhibits and displays change frequently at the facility, she said. The gardens annually choose a theme — this year, to mark the 20th anniversary, the theme celebrates the past and future of the gardens.

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An exhibit called InTREEguing TREEhouses features a collection of eight interactive tree houses. Each treehouse showcases the work of local designers, architects and artists.

The beautiful Text Hut, created by Skip Willits, was inspired by the written word. The house is made of recycled tin, with torch-cut text written into the surface of the tin, according to the gardens.

One of the phrases on the roof of the tiny house reads: “A place that I can call my own.”

Inside the small walk-in house is a tiny stool. Visitors can sit on the stool, take advantage of books in the house and enjoy a peaceful spot to read.

There is also a metaphotonic pod treehouse, a treehouse that celebrates Arbor Day and one in honor of Audubon Day. The treehouse exhibit will be on display through Oct. 25.

Elsewhere in the gardens, a lily pond is full of brightly colored green, pink and purple water lilies.

“We have a lot of life in our lake that kind of happened accidentally,” Merritt said. “We didn’t stock this lake with fish, but there are fish in it and there are bull frogs and there are all kinds of water skimmers, lots of dragon flies.

“This is its own ecosystem, even though it’s a cultivated space.”

Merritt said Iowa State has been supportive as seeing the gardens as the gateway to the university. A remodeling project is underway to integrate the neighboring football stadium and the entrance to Reiman Gardens called the green space, Merritt said.

The gardens offer free admission on home football game days to anyone with a ticket.

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Beginning in mid-August and continuing through Jan. 10, the Hughes Conservatory will host a new indoor garden railroad exhibit.

The exhibit will feature a garden railway and include a replica of Iowa State University’s historic Dinkey train as well as other significant buildings on campus.

If you go

What: Reiman Gardens

Where: Intersection of University Boulevard and South 16th Street, Ames

When: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Admission: $8 adults, $7 for seniors ages 65 and up.

More: Call (515) 294-2710 or go to www.reimangardens.com

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