Skip to main content

Des Moines' Secret Garden

Submitted by Bethany on Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:00

As I kid I always loved the book "The Secret Garden". Imagine my surprise and delight when as a grown-up I learned that Des Moines has its very own secret garden! Okay, it's not totally a secret - it's actually the test gardens for the well-known magazine Better Homes & Gardens. And it's on Google. However, not many people know about it, and it's rather hidden in the middle of the city, so I'm going to pretend it's my own little secret garden. Plus it's only open to the public on Fridays from 12-2, so that's pretty exclusive! 

Despite the rain today, my dad and I ventured downtown to explore the gardens during the small window of time available to the public. The garden is located directly across from the sculpture park and is surrounded by high walls so you can't really see in. When you find the entrance you take a few steps down and it really is like entering a secret world. 

An emblem on the walkway reminds you where you are - the very exclusive test garden for the magazine. It would be hard to write about plants and gardening without actually doing it, right? So here is where the magazine works to test new flowers, hybrids, and landscaping design. 

This garden really is located in the middle of the city, with high rise office buildings and apartments all around. Once you are in the garden, however, it's hard to believe the city is right outside! This one was a section where I was able to capture the tall buildings behind the trees, but unless you look closely you don't really notice it while you are there. 

I'm not really big on gardening myself, but I am more than happy to spend time wandering around a garden someone else has worked hard to make beautiful. This space was gorgeous. My dad does enjoy gardening so he seemed to have fun looking around and reading the identification labels for all the plants!

My favorite flowers were these beautiful purple flowers that looked like balls perched on a long stem. Despite seeing them all around the garden we never found a label telling us what they are. So if any experts are reading this, please let me know!

I also enjoyed the irises that were blooming, they looked especially charming with the raindrops from the morning's storm. 

I'm a big fan of water features so I was delighted to find that the test garden had several hidden throughout. This one is the kind I would love to have in a garden of my own someday. (You know, when I win the lottery and can pay someone to garden for me. I'm not doing it myself!) 

In the center of the garden, there was a huge seating area with a gorgeous fountain in the middle. The lights in the fountain made the water appear almost opalescent, it was stunning in person and hard to capture in a photograph! 

Of course, I couldn't resist a selfie with my dad to commemorate our times at the secret garden. I'm not sure what's happening with the lighting here but I assure you dad doesn't have a halo in real life (even though he is pretty great.) 

If you live in Des Moines have you ever heard of or been to the test garden? Do you want to go now? If you live somewhere else, does your city have any secret gems not many people know about? Dish below! 

XOXO, Bethany 

Location