Reiman Gardens: ‘More than Meets the Iowa’

Some examples of herbs at Reiman Gardens on July 1, 2013.

Maggie Mcginity

The mission at Reiman Gardens is simple: “To educate, enchant and inspire environmental stewardship through displays of living beauty.”

Reiman Gardens is the Iowa State-owned, award-winning public gardens located just south of Jack Trice Stadium off of University Boulevard.

One way Reiman Gardens achieves its mission is by offering educational classes, programs, events and series throughout the year.

“Each year we decide on a specific theme that we’re going to base educational programs, events and displays around that ties together with our mission,” said Sara Merritt, education specialist at Reiman Gardens.

“That really helps us round out the ideas that we want to use for programming and events,” Merritt shared. “So for this year, that theme is More than Meets the Iowa… connecting everything back to the unique and interesting things that a lot of people might not know about Iowa.”

When finding instructors and leaders for these programs, Merritt says staff at the Gardens search for “people who are experts in their field.” One of these people is Lynn Parkey, an herbalist who taught a class on Tonic Teas as part of the Food in the Gardens series on July 1, 2013.

“Any of the teas that I make, that I blend together, are not actually teas… they’re actually all herbs,” Parkey said.

Tonic teas, Parkey said, include dried versions of red clover, which is sometimes called purple clover, stinging nettles and oatstraw.

“They’re almost magic in the way that they work for us, and they are almost always free,” Parkey said. “You can go out and pick them yourself.”

During her class, Parkey said these tonic teas have many health benefits. She said that red clover can encapsulate tumors in a mucous membrane and thus stop these tumors from spreading out into other areas of the body.

Parkey also said that oatstraw helps to repair the myelin sheath around nerves, and that stinging nettles can be more nutritive than spinach and kale.

Parkey’s Tonic Teas class is part of the Food in the Gardens series, a series of classes offered every other Monday, 6-8 p.m., during June and July. The last class of this series happens on July 15 and features Unique Frozen Treats.

Another aim of Reiman Gardens’ programming, according to Merritt, is to inspire people to “explore the beauty” Reiman Gardens offers.

“It’s a natural beauty, and so there’s a lot of connections between gardening and art, gardening and meditation, gardening and poetry,” Merritt said.

Certain classes at Reiman Gardens can help people explore those connections. In June, there was a four-part class which featured poetry and painting.

In July, there is a four-week Smartphone Photography class, going from 6-8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays July 10, 17, 24, and 31. A  four-week Macro Photography class is offered in August, also Wednesdays from 6-8:30 p.m., by the same instructor, Mark Stoltenberg.

Reiman Gardens offers a monthly Floral Design Series, a monthly Behind the Scenes tour, which features an opportunity to see things not usually open to the public, monthly Brown Bag Lectures and a three-part series on the Insects of Iowa.

The 10th Annual Garden Art Fair, held in Reiman Gardens on Sunday, July 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., gives people a chance to explore the connections between gardening and art. This Art Fair allows the public to view and purchase garden-related art. Other large events at the Gardens include the Flower Caucus on July 21, and the 4th Annual Garden Quilt Show, running Aug. 23-25.

Reiman Gardens vies to collaborate with other community organizations which also offer classes and programs to the public.

“We want to work synergistically with … all these other community organizations so that we can really build that educational focus and bring more people to all of those places,” Merritt said.

One of these collaborations is Co’Motion in the Gardens, a movement workshop series offered in partnership with Valerie Williams’ Co’Motion Dance Theater and one of the many activities Reiman Gardens offers for youth.

“We also just started this year a program called Plant Pals, which is for youth,” Merritt said. “They actually get to come and cultivate the garden with us.”

More information about Reiman Gardens’ programs can be found on their online education and events calendar.

ISU students have an extra incentive to partake of Reiman Gardens’ classes.

“Any time during normal business hours, it’s always free to Iowa State students with an ISU card,” Merritt said.

“They also get a reduced price for classes and specialized events,” Merritt said. “We have a general public price, and then we have a 20 percent reduced price for our members, and then we have 15 percent off of that price for Iowa State students for classes, so it’s usually pretty inexpensive.”

Merritt said the Gardens are also a great space for students to come to for studying, hanging out, and even furthering their own studies by teaching classes.

“We look for Iowa State students who are interested in teaching, who are interested in exploring their expertise and their experience in a classroom setting,” Merritt said.