The Discovery Garden at the Iowa State Fairgrounds is a cooperative effort between the Polk County Extension District Master Gardeners and the Iowa State Fair. This feature by Iowa Public Television tells a bit about the history of the garden.
- The Discovery Garden began in 1983 as a small bed of annuals named "The Children's Garden" planted on the south side of the Agricultural Building by the President of the Des Moines Men's Garden Club. When volunteerism declined, the Iowa State Fair Organization assumed the design, planting and maintenance of the garden and it became a miniature farm scene. In the mid-nineties, care of the area was assigned to the Polk County Master Gardeners. Under our guidance, the Discovery Garden has grown into a beautiful spot maintained by volunteers and visited by thousands each year!
- About 5,000 square feet is replanted each year and over 80 Polk County Master Gardeners and Interns maintain the beds from early April through the first snow. All plants and beds are marked for the fairgoer's ease of information
- New and unusual plant material including; annuals, perennials, tropicals, natives, ornamental grasses, hardy roses, dwarf conifers and bushes.
- Plants and beds are labeled during the Iowa State Fair
Our famous children's tunnel made of gourds and other climbing vegetables and flowers for children of all ages to run through.
- A landscaped pond with a bog and rapids
- Composting areas
- A rainwater harvesting system
- Unique garden design techniques
While the intent of the Garden is to peak at the Iowa State Fair, it provides interest, color and a place to relax throughout the season. There is rarely a time when the Garden isn't in use whether by wandering gardeners, families with children interested in crawling through the tunnel, wedding parties, or someone just looking for a place to eat lunch or read a book. It is also a favorite place for photographers who value the variety of colorful borders which make up the Garden.
Plant materials, for the most part, are grown by Polk County Master Gardeners in the group's greenhouse ensuring new and fresh displays each year.
In 2009, the pond area was removed and expanded with the help of our volunteers and a local water feature design company. Kept intact was the bridge which is an exact replica of the bridge used in the movie, "The Music Man". It is a true Iowa treasure!