The oasis of Reiman Gardens (pronounced rye-men) had a natural genesis as part of Iowa State University’s mission to educate students in the area of horticulture (the art and science of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers or ornamental plants). Reiman Gardens is the latest edition in Iowa State’s tradition of having a horticulture garden that dates back to 1914.
The original horticultural garden was north of the farm house at the Iowa State Horticultural Research Station. In 1964, the garden was moved to a three-quarter-acre site on the northeast corner of Iowa State University campus, north of the power plant. The site was limited, however, because it offered little room for expansion and was surrounded by Iowa State’s industrial zone.
Roy Reiman’s Inspiration
Spurred by the desire for more space and an impromptu conversation between alumnus Roy Reiman and the University president, the horticulture garden was on the move again in the early 1990s. The faculty in the Horticulture Department and University administrators had discussed the possibility of moving the gardens to a larger, more visible location to beautify the entrance to the City of Ames and Iowa State University.
In 1993, President Martin Jischke and others presented Roy and his wife Bobbi with plans for today’s Reiman Gardens. The Reimans generously gave $1.3 million to initiate phase one of the new gardens. Construction began in 1994, which included transplanting many collections from the old horticultural gardens to the new Reiman Gardens. Rodney Robinson Landscape Architects, a landscape architecture firm in Wilmington, DE, designed the Gardens. Robinson was selected because of his experience at other public gardens like Longwood Gardens and the Washington Mall. Iowa State University faculty and staff were also active in developing the Gardens’ master and planting plans. Daryl Metzger, of Architects Smith Metzger in Des Moines, designed the buildings within the Gardens. The architecture reflects the Prairie School made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright, a selection inspired by the state’s agricultural traditions.
Dedication of Reiman Gardens
Reiman Gardens was officially dedicated on September 16, 1995. At its opening, Reiman Gardens covered just five acres, which included the entry court, the Herb Garden, Rose Garden, the Campanile Garden, Mahlstede Horticulture Learning Center, and a Maintenance Building.
Expansion of the Gardens
In 1998, ground was broken for the Children’s Garden, followed by the Town and Country Garden and Lake Helen. The Gardens have continued to grow and evolve over the years to cover 17 acres with the following significant additions:
- 2001: Home Demonstration Gardens
- 2002: Hughes Conservatory
- 2002: Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing
- 2010: Elwood, the World's Largest Concrete Gnome
- 2017: Hillside Water-wise Garden
- 2022: Sycamore Falls