Reiman Gardens has Always Been a Work in Progress
The oasis of Reiman Gardens (pronounced rye-men) had a natural genesis as part of Iowa State University’s mission to educate students in the area of horticulture (the art and science of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers or ornamental plants). Reiman Gardens is the latest edition in Iowa State’s tradition of having a horticulture garden that dates back to 1914.
The original horticultural garden was north of the farm house at the Iowa State Horticultural Research Station. In 1964, the garden was moved to a three-quarter-acre site on the northeast corner of Iowa State University campus, north of the power plant. The site was limited, however, because it offered little room for expansion and was surrounded by Iowa State’s industrial zone.
Roy Reiman’s Inspiration
Spurred by the desire for more space and a somewhat off-hand comment from alumnus Roy Reiman to the University president, the horticulture garden was on the move again in the early 1990s. The faculty in the Horticulture Department and University administrators had discussed the possibility of moving the gardens to a larger, more visible location to beautify the entrance to the city of Ames and Iowa State University.
In 1993 President Martin Jischke and others presented Roy and his wife Bobbi with plans for today’s Reiman Gardens. The Reimans generously gave $1.3 million to initiate phase one of the new gardens. Construction began on current Reiman Gardens in 1994, which included transplanting many collections from the old horticultural gardens to the new Reiman Gardens. The current Gardens was officially dedicated on September 16, 1995.
At its opening, Reiman Gardens covered just five acres, which included the entry court, the Herb Garden, Rose Garden, the Campanile Garden, Mahlstede Horticulture Learning Center and a Maintenance Building. In 1998 ground was broken for the Children’s Garden, followed by the Town and Country Garden and Lake Helen. The Gardens have continued to grow and evolve over the last ten years to cover 17-acres. The most recent addition is the Conservatory Complex and Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, which opened in November 2002.
Rodney Robinson Landscape Architects, a landscape architecture firm in Wilmington, DE, designed the Gardens. Robinson was selected because of his experience at other public gardens like Longwood Gardens and the Washington Mall. Iowa State University faculty and staff were also active in the development of the Gardens’ master and planting plans. Daryl Metzger, of Architects Smith Metzger in Des Moines, designed the buildings within the Gardens. The architecture reflects the Prairie School made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright, a selection inspired by the state’s agricultural traditions.