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 An Indoor Garden

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 an indoor garden. 

Two green oases in central Iowa are Reiman Gardens and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.  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 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 Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden (  Located on the east bank of the Des Moines River near downtown Des Moines, the plexiglass 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 and turtles. 

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. 

Gardeners in western Iowa can visit Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska.  The 5,000 square foot floral display hall in the Visitor and Education Center hosts various festivals and seasonal floral shows throughout the year.  The Henry Doorly Zoo is another great place to visit in Omaha.  Must see exhibits include the Lied Jungle (containing vegetation and animals native to rainforests in Asia, Africa, and South America), the Desert Dome (featuring plants and animals from deserts of southern Africa, Australia, and southwestern United States), and the Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion (highlighting butterflies, moths, and other insects). 

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, Debbie Lonnee, and John Whitman; "Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates" by Debbie Lonnee, 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.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on December 13, 2013. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.