Imagine a Magical Garden
Imagine a magical garden where you are surrounded by plants below and beside, with trees stretching above your head.
Imagine too that, even though this garden finds itself situated in the center of the Midwest, it is always cool on the hottest summer day, warm on the most freezing of winter months.
Walking down its narrow pathway the magic really begins as you become surrounded by hundreds of butterflies. These are not just Monarch butterflies, beautiful in their own right, but creatures of all shapes, sizes and every color of the rainbow.
If you feel incapable of imagining such a place, never fear, for it is real. You can see and touch it for yourself.
It’s Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa.
Reiman Gardens is a beautiful 17-acre site within an extremely short walking distance from Iowa State University’s Jack Trice Stadium, home of the ISU Cyclone football team.
There, just past the entrance, is the 2,500-square-foot Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing. The glass-enclosed structure is the tropical home of nearly 1,000 butterflies from all over the world.
When we say “all over the world” we mean it quite literally. There are butterflies from six of the world’s seven continents. The only exception is Antarctica where, at last check, there are no butterflies.
Entrance and exit to the wing is closely monitored. Visitors enter a set of doors, with a docent in attendance keeping a watchful eye for any possible winged escapees, cross a short hallway and then pass through a second set of doors to enter the magical world.
Once entering you’re free to spend as much time as you please, taking in all the multitude of colors and shapes of the butterflies flitting and flying freely passed you.
When you do decide it’s time to leave, you’ll pass through a second set of doors and short hallway between. However, this hallway has a full-length mirror covering one wall where you are asked to check yourself, front and back, for any butterfly who might be attaching themselves to you, attempting to make its way into the world outside.
Stop for a moment outside the wing to check out its structure. Look closely and you’ll see it resembles a butterfly.
Outside the Butterfly Wing
Speaking of being outside the wing, you could just go visit the butterflies and leave but you would be missing out on so much more. Divided into a multitude of areas, each with a different look and feel, Reiman Gardens seemingly goes on forever.
I’ll admit to not being the biggest flower admirer in the world, but even I spent close to two hours wandering around, trying to absorb everything. I’ve visited the gardens twice, not long prior to Covid and once this past summer, and I have no doubt I will be back again sometime in the future.
There’s a shade garden, there’s an edible garden, there’s a rose garden, a bald cypress allee, a conservatory, a children’s garden with all sorts of things for young ones to do, a herb garden, reflection garden, hardwood forest and even a lake.
That’s just the beginning. All told, there are more than 30 different areas to explore, all listed out on their website.
Elwood the Gnome
And there’s a gnome. For all I know there might be several gnomes. Gnomes tend to be shy little people who hide behind the bushes, out of site from the general public, so there’s no telling how many might actually be there.
But there’s one gnome in particular, his name is Elwood, who you can’t possibly miss. That’s because he’s the world’s tallest concrete gnome.
Elwood stands a ginormous 15 feet in height. He cost $8,000 to bring to life and weighs 3,500 pounds.
There are taller gnomes in the world but those are made of some other, lighter, materials such as fiberglass, leaving Elwood the title of largest concrete, and probably heaviest, gnome in the world.
If you’re a planner, mark your calendar for September 15, 2025, when the gardens will be celebrating Elwood’s 15th birthday with an attempt to set the Guiness World Record for largest gathering of people dressed as gnomes!
It’s on my calendar, seriously, it’s on my calendar.
Winter at Reiman
Reiman is open all year around. Certainly, it can be a bit chilly, or downright freezing, out in the gardens during some winter months, but the butterfly wing is always nice and cozy, providing a pleasant retreat during a cold Iowa winter.
Plus, the gardens are lit up in December with the Winter Wonderscape holiday light show.
The lights go on from 5 – 8 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the month. The event is really popular though, so tickets have to be purchased in advance.
Whenever you do go, whatever season of the year, I guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself. Reiman Gardens is one of those amazing places, tucked into the middle of our state, that not enough people know about or have experienced. I encourage everyone to go.
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