Just in time for winter, indoor exhibits at Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden to reopen

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Just in time to provide an escape from the dead leaves and chilly winds of winter, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is set to reopen its conservatory to the public for the first time since closing in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 80-foot-tall geodesic dome, a landmark for travelers crossing the Des Moines River on Interstate 235, is home to a tropical garden featuring everything from delicate orchids to towering palms. 

The building, which also houses the Gardeners Show House, Garden Shop and an art exhibit, will be open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. beginning Wednesday. The Trellis Cafe is also open for limited hours. 

Kelly Reilly, director of marketing for the gardens, said the staff has taken its time to ensure it can reopen the conservatory safely.

“That was the first date that we had the right protocols, the right safety precautions planned out, and the resources to get the conservatory and gardens ready for the public,” Reilly said. 

General admission will be available for purchase in advance at DMBotanicalGarden.com or by calling 515-323-6290. Entry into the garden is not guaranteed to those who don’t reserve a spot, except for holders of an Iowa Libraries Adventure Pass, Museums for All participants and Pineapple Program token holders.

More: With a new reflection garden open, what’s next for the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden?

Tickets will be for specific times to aid in ensuring social distancing.

Other protocols include: 

  • Groups should not exceed more than five people unless they are direct family members.
  • Drinking fountains will not be accessible, so bring a water bottle.
  • Face masks will be required at all times, except for children under age 2. Admission will not be given without a proper face covering. 
  • Six feet of distancing is required.
  • Patrons are asked to stay home if they are feeling ill or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Surface areas in the garden and restrooms, and door handles will be regularly cleaned throughout the day to ensure safety. 

The garden will be closed to the public on Mondays to allow staff to take care of the collection without having to compete with visitors for space on the narrow paths.

The outdoor garden reopened in July and will remain open through the fall and winter, depending on the weather. 

For more information, head to DmBotanticalGarden.com. 

Sierra Porter covers entertainment for the Des Moines Register. She can be contacted at [email protected] or via Twitter @SierraAPorter95

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Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden opens new Ruan reflection garden

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Now open to the public: the Ruan Reflection Garden, an oasis nestled at the north end of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden that caps an elegant, tree-lined allée and will serve as a gateway to an envisioned garden expansion.

The newly constructed space features an oblong fountain in the center of a courtyard. The pool is ringed with delicate black and red chairs and tables and 34 katsura trees, hardwoods with heart-shaped leaves. The trees are young but are expected to grow large enough to shade the sitting area.  

On the northern and southern ends of the courtyard are 12-foot metal archways, called “sky frames.” The southern gate connects to the Ruan Allée, a shaded walkway.

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Construction the Ruan Reflection Garden is complete and it is now open to visitors of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in downtown Des Moines.  (Photo: Kelsey Kremer/The Register)

The northern gate will lead to future gardens, shown in an updated master plan from the Colorado-based Didier Design Studio. The plan does not specify a timeline, but illustrates an ambitious array of interactive exhibits, including a woodland exploration area, a water play area for kids, and an elevated forest walkway. In addition, it shows an amphitheater for the garden, which already hosts musical performances.

The garden’s marketing director, Kelly Reilly, said the plan, approved by the garden’s board of directors late last year, provides a “general framework” for the remaining, undeveloped half of the 14-acre property, located on the east bank of the Des Moines River between I-235 and East University Avenue. 

“The Botanical Garden looks forward to sharing more details with stakeholders and the public in the future as we solidify our plans,” Reilly said.

Janis and John Ruan III, chairman of the Des Moines-based Ruan transportation company, and their John Ruan Foundation funded the construction of the new reflection garden, donating about $1.5 million for its planning, design and construction, Reilly said. Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects of Chicago, which has worked with the botanical garden since 2009, was responsible for the design.

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Construction the Ruan Reflection Garden is complete and it is now open to visitors of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in downtown Des Moines.  (Photo: Kelsey Kremer/The Register)

“It brings us tremendous joy to complete this project and unveil to Des Moines a stunning garden that is sure to delight and inspire each visitor’s experience,” Janis Ruan said in a news release.

The John Ruan Foundation also provided funding for the Ruan Allée.

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Due to COVID-19, only the outdoor gardens are open. Visitors who are not members of the Botanical Garden must purchase tickets and reserve a time slot for their visit online.

Katie Akin is a retail reporter for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or at 515-284-8041. Follow

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