Dennis Zaabel, Botanical Garden volunteer

From helping with cacti and succulents to using his expert welding skills, volunteer Dennis Zaabel has had a hand in shaping many areas of the Garden. His craftsmanship has shown up in conservatory exhibits over the years, including a constructing notable blue rebar sculpture that anchored the acclaimed kokedama exhibit High Flight and several pieces in the Gardeners Show House. He’s also a talented floral arranger, making tabletop arrangements for Trellis Café and once spearheading the bouquets for Spring Garden Festival Opening Night. His artistry has few limits.

How long have you volunteered at the Garden?

Roughly seven years.

How did you get started here?

Before it was officially the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, I got involved because of the Master Gardening program. I made friends, enjoyed coming and felt I could help in some way or another. I stayed because I enjoy the horticulture, friends, and everything else about this place. I like to say it’s the jewel of the Midwest.

What project are you proudest of?

I would say the cactus garden—I love being part of the adventure of watching the plants grow and evolve. I enjoy sharing what I know about cacti with everybody that stops by, especially kids. I enjoy sowing the seeds to start a passion for nature. I also have liked to get involved in other things like Earth Day.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering?

The camaraderie that everybody has when someone needs help is amazing. It’s all about the community here. I’ve learned a lot from the people who volunteer alongside me. I’ve learned things from everyone around me. Even people who don’t give monetary donations share their time, and I feel like I am making an impact.