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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