The Perennial Collection was established in 1982 and is one of the most colorful places on the Iowa Arboretum grounds during the summer months. Since many perennials are grown for their flowers, this collection highlights plants with different bloom times or exceptionally long periods of bloom. Both native and introduced species and their cultivars are displayed. In spring, both herbaceous and woody peonies and irises predominate. Later, the hundreds of daylilies provide a colorful show.
The central border was redesigned in 2008 by Ann Hutchins of Des Moines with funding and help from the Ames Garden Club. The bed was bermed and provided with a good cover of pine bark mulch. Several varieties of fescues, variegated feather reed grasses, switchgrasses, fountain grasses, sedges, gramas, Indian grasses, and moor grasses were selected. To better display grasses as they might be used in a home garden, we chose accompaniments from among the sophisticated new cultivars of coneflowers (Echinacea), false indigo (Baptisia), asters (Aster), blanket flowers (Gaillardia), coreopsis (Coreopsis), salvias (Salvia), catmints (Nepeta), bee balms (Monarda), goldenrods (Solidago), sunflowers (Heliopsis), and black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia). These are all low-maintenance plants that blend well with grasses.
Herbaceous perennials for sunny locations can also be found around the Beckwith Pavilion, in the Butterfly Garden, south of the Cafferty Building and west of the Hughes Education Center. The large perennial garden west of the Hughes Center was designed by Arboretum president Linda Grieve of Ankeny.
As with home gardens, updates and renovations are periodically needed. To provide a longer season of interest, groupings of narrow conifers will be added to several of the beds in fall 2022 and spring 2023 with funding provided by a Conifer Reference Garden grant from the American Conifer Society.
Click to view additional photos of the perennial gardens
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