Des Moines Botanical Garden rose garden and conservatory

Hosta leaves in vases

On Wednesday, I flew into Des Moines and was met by my friend, Kelly Norris who is the Director of Horticulture. We immediately drove to the Garden and had a delicious lunch at the Garden Café. The pièce de résistance was a Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp that was beyond wonderful. As we were leaving the café, I noticed the “flower” arrangement on the counter, several large hosta leaves, one to a vase. We sometimes forget that foliage can stand alone to catch the eye.

Des Moines Botanical Garden – Lauridsen Savannah

When we ventured out into the gardens, I was told how fortunate we were. The temperatures had been in the nineties and were expected to be there again on the weekend. But we were blessed with mid-eighties for the afternoon and seventies in the evening. As one might imagine, the flora at the Garden is meant to educate and inspire Iowan gardeners. An area known as the Lauridsen Savannah is filled with sedges, Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’, and Heuchera macrorrhiza ‘Autumn Bride, a simple and very low maintenance combination. I was amazed to see this Heuchera thriving in full sun but Kelly told me that the only requirement is consistent moisture. I usually see this Heuchera in dry shade where moisture is obviously lacking but it thrives there as well.

Iris spuria as punctuation point in sedges

Continuing along the path through the savannah, we came upon beautiful groupings of Iris spuria. Most of them had finished blooming because of the Iowa heat this past week but one mass of ‘Missouri Rivers’ was still in full bloom. I had not grown any of this species but Kelly is such as enthusiast that I ordered some last fall. The few that I have are gorgeous and I can hardly wait until the clump enlarges.

Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ and Nepeta

In another section of the Garden, I loved the combination of Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ and Nepeta. It was an excellent example of color interplay – blues and pale lavender  with some purple foliage.

Lysimachia clethroides ‘Heronswood Gold’

I love seeing new (to me) plants on garden tours. This time, Kelly introduced me to Lysimachia clethroides ‘Heronswood Gold’ that was set against a maroon barberry background. It is starting to ramble a bit but slower to do so because of the heavy clay soil and the fact that the golden foliage does not produce as much chlorophyll as the species. This loosestrife is good as punctuation marks in the garden.

Centaurea ‘Carama’ at BHG Test Garden

In the early evening, I was in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden that is managed by another Des Moines friend, Sandra Gerdes. The occasion was the Botanical Garden soiree for donors and table sponsors for my luncheon talk on Garden Renovation on Thursday. I met several avid gardeners and thoroughly enjoyed the lavender/elderflower shortcakes. Wandering in this garden, before everyone arrived, I found Centaurea ‘Carama’ with which I was not familiar. It is similar to Centaurea dealbata but the flowers are smaller. It was paired with a yellow Coreopsis for great color contrast.

Stachys ‘Summer Crush’ in the Des Moines rose garden, a new introduction from Intrinsic Perennials

I awoke Thursday morning to gray skies and wet pavement. Much to everyone’s dismay at the Botanical Garden, at 10:30, the skies opened wide; fortunately, by 11:00, when the pre-luncheon meet and greet and book signing was to commence, the rain had reduced itself to a drizzle and after my talk, the sun came out and the attendees could venture out into the gardens. I went out as well since the light yesterday had been extremely harsh.

Des Moineans are very friendly people and proud of the strides that their city and young botanic garden have made. I hope that I’ll be returning.