The Wallace family of Iowa has a great reputation for its association with agriculture and promoting food production,so I was drawn to the Henry Wallace Country Life Center near Orient.I must state that all systems were not go for our April visit as the visitor center featuring a restaurant, gift shop ,restrooms etc…was not open .Nevertheless, I was able to get a sense of the attraction as I meandered around the acreage that features the Henry Wallace family homestead.
One of the unique characteristics of this attraction is a sculpture walking path in the nearby tall grass prairie.”Grasses/Voices” featured at right is an artistic attempt to represent the importance of grassland to preserve our soils(at least that is what the brochure said.Further on down the path stands “Scarecrows and War”Even the brochure struggles to explain but art doesn’t have to be understood to be appealing or so I am told!!
Maybe I needed a mood altering supplement to fully appreciate the site’s sights, but I did get a little exercise as I hiked my way around the pasture.However,if country life is represented by this attraction then I wasn’t raised in the country .
I needed a spring garden fix,having previously described a long distance drive to a non-existent attraction in Central Iowa, so I put the VanderVeer Conservatory in Davenport at the top of my list .The botanical conservatory did not disappoint as much of the park was in full bloom.
The park is reminiscent of New York’s Central Park although certainly on a smaller scale.It features flowered walkways,playgrounds, ponds,water fountains and open play areas. The power of municipal tax dollars and volunteer help always seems to manifest itself in the area of public recreational areas and Davenport is no exception!Needless to say the citizenry and visitors like me are the beneficiaries,even though I had to pay a grinchy dollar to tour the indoor tropical greenhouse facility!
As we continue to experience a statewide drought in the summer of 2012, it was a definite challenge to objectively imagine the beauty that the Heritage Rose garden in Gray might have displayed. It is easy to see that this little park would be a nice stop for rose lovers!Unfortunately I really had to hunt for the growing beauties.The physical displays that incorporated the early settlers life of this area with the various plantings were in place but it was up to the viewer to fill in the imaginary colors in place of the dry browns!
The birdhouse(pictured left) capturing the flavor of an early local church was just one example of the towns efforts to adorn its downtown garden area with a historical flavor. Other examples are featured in the picture section of the blog.If you like a quiet pastoral setting then come to quiet pastoral Gray,Iowa,just wait until the rains return!
Since the early 1990’s the SE corner of the Iowa State University campus in Ames has been adorned with gardening beauty.Thanks to a generous gift from a local family,Reiman Gardens got its start along with the help from the horticulture department of ISU.The result has been a popular Iowa tourist attraction for young and old alike.Wisely the directors of the gardens have chosen not to rely solely on their gardening abilities to draw people to the facility.Various naturally related features have been added to the exhibit over the years to increase public appeal.Growing from 5 acres to its present 14 acres, additions included a campanile garden,hillside garden, Lake Helen aquatic garden,the south fields ,the Patti Jischke Children’s Garden and most recently an encloses Christine Reiman Butterfly wing.
As if that weren’t enough,appeal has been expanded this year to include Lego sculptures that complement the Mother Nature themes.Several exhibits that feature up to 50000 pieces in their construction have been strategically placed through out the gardens. How smart, because who doesn’t like to play with Legos?
The grand finale for me was a unique opportunity to experience an indoor butterfly garden manned by ISU students and featuring many unusual moths and butterflies not commonly seen in the Iowa wild.I had to resist the urge to swat at one that landed on me as there would have been too many witnesses!!So I contented myself to capturing the pesky bugs on film. So with all the beauty and one-of-a-kindedness to behold, I certainly was able to spend a “rosy” time in Ames!