Winter Activities for Gardeners

For many gardeners, winter seems to drag on, and on, and on. Fortunately, there are a number of enjoyable activities to help pass the time.

Visit a Conservatory

A vacation in Florida, Arizona or other warm weather location is a great way to beat the winter blues. If a vacation isn't possible, don't despair. It's still possible to enjoy a tropical reprieve by visiting a local conservatory or greenhouse.

Two green oases in central Iowa are Reiman Gardens and the Des Moines Botanical Center. Reiman Gardens is located on the Iowa State University campus in Ames and features a conservatory and butterfly house. The 5,000 square foot conservatory is filled with tropical plants, a waterfall, and seasonal plant displays that change several times a year. The featured attraction from January 4 to March 5, 2005 is over 500 orchids. The 2,500 square foot Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing contains a lush, indoor garden and hundreds of native and exotic butterflies. Visit for additional information.

Another great central Iowa attraction is the Des Moines Botanical Garden. ( Located on the east bank of the Des Moines River near downtown Des Moines, the Plexiglas dome of the botanical center is 80 feet tall and 150 feet wide. The dome is home to hundreds of exotic plants from around the world. The plants share their indoor home with fish, turtles, and frogs.

In eastern Iowa, gardeners can enjoy a stroll in the conservatory at Vander Veer Botanical Park in Davenport. The conservatory contains tropical plants and several seasonal plant displays. Another attraction in the Quad City area is the Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island, Illinois. The 6,400 square foot conservatory contains hundreds of tropical plants, a 14-foot waterfall, and reflecting pools.

Leaf Through Garden Catalogs and Books

Another enjoyable winter activity is to leaf through garden catalogs. Many contain colorful plant photographs. Some carry specific merchandise, such as seeds, perennials, roses, or fruits. Others carry a wide variety of products.

Also, visit a bookstore or public library and browse through some of their gardening books. Excellent reference books for home gardeners include "Growing Perennials in Cold Climates" by Mike Heger and John Whitman; "Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates" by Nancy Rose, Don Selinger, and John Whitman; "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" by Michael Dirr; "Herbaceous Perennial Plants" by Allan Armitage, and many others.

With catalogs and books in hand, winter is the perfect time to design that new perennial bed, vegetable garden, or select new trees and shrubs for the home landscape.

This article originally appeared in the 1/14/2005 issue.


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