Mission, Vision & History

Our Mission

Exploring, explaining and celebrating the world of plants.

Our Vision

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a vibrant, seven-acre public garden in the heart of downtown Des Moines, providing an enduring guest experience through progressive design, innovative programming and dynamic exhibits.

We are:
Educational: Our commitment to literacy is rooted in the belief that education is a lifelong pursuit.

Cultural: We believe the fusion of art and horticulture provide a venue for meaningful, memorable experiences.

Innovative: As explorers, we curate dynamic collections with application to both industry and community.

Ecological: As ecological stewards we embrace the challenges and opportunities of environmental changes.

Our Commitment to Diversity

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden stands as one team devoted to learning and practicing anti-racism, inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility, such that the Garden can be a vital resource and advocate for our diverse community. Public gardens and community green spaces have an essential role in bringing our diverse community together. We believe the Garden is a platform for a hopeful and peaceful future. Together we will dedicate ourselves to the active work of listening, learning and breaking down barriers and inequities.

A New Beginning

  • 1929: The Des Moines Garden Club and the Des Moines Founders Garden Club planted seeds in the spring. The stock market crash in October halted progress.
  • 1956: Members of the same garden clubs revived the idea for a botanical garden, which was tied to the construction of two new swimming pools. The pools were built but the gardens remained a dream.
  • False starts ensued in 1960 and 1964.
  • 1966: The City of Des Moines secures an old 14-acre brickyard. It will eventually become the site of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.
  • Oct. 1, 1969: The Friends of the Des Moines Botanical Center, the facility’s first governing group, is officially incorporated.
  • 1971-1977: The Friends raise $85,000.
  • August 1977: Economic Development Work Project donates $2,577,000 to build the domed conservatory and the City of Des Moines contributed $700,000 to build the production greenhouses.
  • Oct. 29, 1977: Groundbreaking for the conservatory.
  • October 1979: The conservatory receives a truckload of tropical and subtropical plants, a gift from Longwood Gardens.
  • Dec. 15, 1979: Grand opening day is bitterly cold — the poinsettias in the lobby are frozen stiff from the doors being opened so many times.
  • 1988-1991: A capital fund drive by the Friends funded the North Wing and new meeting rooms, additional production greenhouses, a reorganized entrance and gardens along the river.
  • 2003: Declining revenues and increasing expenses lead the City to consider closing the facility, at which point the Des Moines Water Works offers to assume management. Subsequently the City of Des Moines contributes $600,000 for updating infrastructure and repair work done by Water Works.
  • December 2007: The opening of the Gardeners Show House in one of the production greenhouses with frequently changed seasonal displays has an immediate positive impact. Funded by the Friends and built by Water Works employees, it is maintained by the Iowa State University Extension Polk County Master Gardeners and Botanical Garden volunteers.
  • 2008: Des Moines leaders — J.C. “Buz” Brenton, Tom Urban, Janis Ruan and Fred Weitz — in collaboration with the City of Des Moines, lay the groundwork for rebranding the existing Friends of the Des Moines Botanical Center to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and forming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to assume management of the Botanical Center.
  • 2009: Following a nationwide search, Landscape Architect Doug Hoerr, principal at Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architecture of Chicago, is hired to develop a vision plan.
  • 2010-2011: Work continues to secure operating support, including $245,000 a year for 10 years by Bravo Greater Des Moines, $200,000 per year from the City of Des Moines and $200,000 in-kind operating support from Des Moines Water Works.
  • May 2011: The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden assumes the 501(c)(3) designation formerly held by the Friends of the Des Moines Botanical Center and signs a 28E agreement with the City of Des Moines for the lease, operation, management and maintenance of the Botanical Center. A governing board of directors forms and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden Capital Campaign Committee begins its work.
  • June 2011: DuPont Pioneer (now Corteva Agriscience) announces a $3 million contribution to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden’s “A New Beginning” Capital Campaign.
  • September 2011: Following a nationwide search, Stephanie Jutila is named the first president and CEO.
  • June 2012: The master plan developed by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architecture is approved by the Des Moines City Council.
  • Jan. 1, 2013: The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden lease with the City of Des Moines begins, marking a new era of leadership, operations and management.
  • March 2013: Robert D. Ray Drive closed north of the Botanical Garden’s parking lot to make way for new gardens.
  • July 2013: Construction on outdoor gardens, interior renovations begin.
  • September 2013:: Interior renovations complete.
  • Fall 2013: Planting in new landscape areas begins along with the kickoff of fundraising for the $6.2 million Phase II of the Master Plan.
  • Spring-late Summer 2014: Planting in new landscape areas continues as Phase I of the Master Plan nears completion.
  • Spring-Summer 2014: Phase II construction began.
  • April 4, 2015: New outdoor gardens (seven acres) open to the public for the first time.
  • July 25, 2017: The Amorphophallus titanium (corpse flower) blooms in the conservatory, the first of its kind in Iowa. The Botanical Garden welcomed 4,636 visitors the day of the bloom and 11,843 total visitors between July 13-31, 2017
  • Feb. 3, 2018: The Botanical Garden receives Bravo Greater Des Moines’ Encore Award in recognition of the organization’s longstanding and exceptional contributions to the region’s cultural landscape.
  • Jan. 1, 2019: The Botanical Garden joins the Museums for All initiative, providing free admission for up to four people with a valid EBT card.
  • June 2019: The Botanical Garden adopts its next strategic plan, Increasing Our Relevance.

Today, the Garden is constantly evolving as our Gardens mature and we envision future development. Explore the Gardens.