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Welcome to Central Gardens of North Iowa

Come explore over 20 themed gardens and nearly three acres of serenity and beauty. The splendor of our grounds and the vibrancy of our programming offer a wonderful place to escape for peace and quiet, meet friends for lunch, celebrate the wonders of nature and our changing seasons, host a wedding or other special celebration or participate in one of our annual events.

Herb Garden at Central Gardens of North Iowa

The Gardens

our gardens

Victorian Pond Garden at Central Gardens of North Iowa

Hosta Garden

Originally referred to as “Funkia,” these plants are now more commonly called hostas. The plants in this garden represent a collection of “tried and true” hostas as well as new varieties. With over 200 new variations of hosta introduced every year, only a few new varieties can be added. Many suitable companion plants such as groundcovers and shade loving perennials are also planted among the hostas.

Medicine Wheel Garden

This design incorporates Native American symbolism featuring a Bur oak, the state tree of Iowa, and designated as the Tree of Life in the courtyard center, with 12 species of hophornbeam trees surrounding the circle to honor each month. This space is based upon the Native American medicine wheel and the stones placed at each compass point represent the four seasons.

Wetland-Pond Garden

This small garden demonstrates the importance of wetlands as wildlife habitat and natural filtration systems. A backhoe carved out a shallow pool and a liner was laid to hold water. Native marginal and emergent plants such as rushes, sedges, arrowhead and pickerelweed thrive here.

Bird Garden

Trees, shrubs, and vines that produce fruits and berries, as well as provide nesting and protection opportunities, are prominent in this garden designed to attract birds. Different types of feeding stations, birdhouses, and nest boxes also help attract a diversity of birds, as does the proximity of the adjacent pond.

Woodland Garden

This south-facing garden is currently in transition as serviceberry and birch trees are slowly maturing and will ultimately provide the shade necessary for the successful introduction of woodland ferns, flowering perennials, shrubs and groundcovers. 

Stream Garden

Winding through the Wetland Garden, past the Butterfly and Bird Gardens, the stream empties into a pool in the Midwest Garden. Plantings here reflect a Victorian theme – a period of great growth in Iowa. Look for native streamside plants such as marsh marigold, Joe-Pye weed, blue flag iris, turtlehead, blazing star and dogwoods.

Butterfly Garden

A butterfly sundial is the centerpiece among nectar plants including liatris, monarda, butterfly weed, sedum, butterfly bush, goldenrod, false sunflower, and purple coneflower. Larval food plants for developing caterpillars support the butterfly life cycle. Limestone water dishes are interspersed in the area for puddling.

Butterfly Garden at Central Gardens of North Iowa

Wildflower Garden

Here the sun falls on a blanket of native and non-native wildflowers at the base of an Iowa prairie native tree, the Bur oak. Planted in drifts, the garden is more dynamic than would occur naturally.

Victorian Pond and Waterfall

Water lilies, water hyacinths, water lettuce, fairy moss, aquatic canna, and yellow flag iris accentuate the pond and provide a natural habitat for koi, goldfish and turtles.

Plant of the Year Garden

This garden showcases “Plants of the Year” as designated by All-American Selections, American Hosta Growers Association, American Iris Society, National Garden Bureau, Perennial Plant Association and other plant organizations to offer ideas for local gardeners.

Wetland Pond Garden at Central Gardens of North Iowa

Midwest Garden

Hardy, low maintenance, woody and herbaceous plants which can be successfully grown by homeowners in the Midwest are on display here. Native prairie wildflowers and ornamental grasses are mixed with new hybrids of traditional perennials and ornamental shrubs.

Annual Flower Display Garden

Each year the design and color schemes of these two large annual flower beds change to provide visitors with a beautiful, evolving display as the season progresses.

Shade Garden

This garden incorporates both native and non-native plants to broaden the shade planting palette. Dramatic specimens of perennials such as hostas, ferns, astilbe, pulmonaria, snakeroot, and goatsbeard provide the major displays. Colorful annuals add visual interest.

Lily Garden

Opposite the Shade Garden and nestled at the base of mature blue spruce is the Lily Garden.  Starting in late spring and extending through late summer, this garden is an ever-changing collection of colorful hardy Oriental and Asiatic lilies. Mixed in among the lilies are companion perennials and a rare Korean maple. Lilies are among the oldest known cultivated flowers.

Alumni Garden

This garden not only offers a wide variety of ornamental trees and shrubs but also functions as a vegetative backdrop to the iconic Moon Gate. Planted along the north side of the Alumni Walk are conifers such as pines and spruce, flowering crabs, ginkgo, linden, viburnums, dogwoods, and chokeberries.

Low Shrub Garden

This area features low maintenance landscape solutions as well as a nice backbone for a mixed border. Barberry, boxwood, daphne, diervilla, fothergilla, spirea, and weigela, all of which grow less than five feet tall, are planted here. As new and improved varieties of shrubs come into the market, some will be added, replacing those that have lost popularity.

Moon Gate Container Garden

Each year a different color scheme is used to design these colorful containers which provide an accent to the backdrop of the Moon Gate for photos and special events. One approach for container design is to add a thriller centerpiece plant, complementary filler plants, and a spiller plant to tumble over the side.

Shrub Rose Garden

Shrub roses tend to be disease resistant and have a long blooming period. Here you will find an ever-changing mix of dependable favorites as well as some new varieties. Planted among the roses are a number of companion shrubs and perennials.

Shrub Rose Garden

Indian Summer Garden

Providing a brilliant end of summer color, this garden features creeping sedum, artemisia, aster, lambs ear, Russian sage, salvia, and Karl Forester grass.

Ornamental Grass Garden

Waves of native exotic grasses and forbs, together with three wind sculptures, create constantly changing patterns across the landscape. The grasses are beautifully backlit by the setting sun.

Herb Garden

Here you will find another garden whose theme may change from year to year, revolving around plants used for medicine, cooking or dye. The beauty of herbs lies primarily in their scent, so be sure to spend some time deeply breathing in their beauty.

Bee Happy Discovery Garden

Bee Happy Discovery Garden

Kids will love this lively garden space filled with a diverse selection of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, all grown organically and in partnership with mother nature. See a variety of growing methods and observe pollination at work. Visit the Happy Hen House and learn how chickens can benefit a garden.


Sculpture Garden

Found just beyond the first bridge, the Sculpture Garden features a unique creation each summer by a Midwest artist!  Behind the sculpture, a backdrop of native grasses and shrubs provide definition of the space.  Ahead of it, annuals are selected to interplay with the sculpture and together with the changing light of the day, make for a fun and engaging experience.  Thanks to the Clear Lake Arts Center for partnering on this annual display.

More Features

other garden features

Medicine Wheel Plaza


Wind Forest Sculptures

Moon Gate/Theater Steps

Reunion Terrace

Naturalist Terrace

Nature Education Pavilion & Terrace

Mother Earth’s Workshop

Council Ring

Activity Lawn

Ceremonial Lawn

Various Walks

School Bell Gazebo