The Brenton Arboretum

Brenton Arboretum
Enjoy the natural world of trees all year long at the Brenton Arboretum. Tree and shrub collections in groupings allow you to see the differences between species and varieties side by side, and spectacular vistas entreat you to relax under the leafy canopies. Just 20 minutes from the Des Moines metro, this arboretum is a must-see for tree and garden enthusiasts.

Check Out the Shrubs

Trees are wonderful structural features, but some yards can't accommodate large, mature trees. Shrubs combine the solid charm of trees with smaller sizes and an assortment of shapes. Ninebark (Physocarpus), pictured here, features exfoliating bark and outstanding red, orange, or green foliage.

Engage Your Senses

Create contrasts with textured foliage, such as this magnificent Shawnee Brave bald cypress (Taxodium distichum 'Mickelson'). The feathery foliage of this tough, columnar conifer is accompanied by round cones. Some evergreen conifers, such as arborvitae, chamaecyparis, and juniper, come in a range of sizes and forms.

Grow Nuts & Fruits

Fruit and nut trees are easy finds at most nurseries. Tasty rewards usually follow within a few years of planting. The Brenton Arboretum displays chestnuts, shown here, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, butternuts, and more. You can also check out unusual edible fruits such as pawpaw, native persimmon, and chokeberry.

Enjoy the View

Make the most of views in your landscape by framing them with trees. Place seating strategically to allow you to take in the sunsets for hours of quiet enjoyment. You can enjoy examples of seating areas with rewarding views at the Brenton Arboretum.

Embrace Winter

Winter doesn't have to be drab in the garden. Crabapples and hawthorns produce berrylike fruits in cheerful shades of red and gold. These little fruits hang on through winter and provide a showy display against a white world. They also bring life to your yard as birds come to thank you for the snack.

Let It Grow

Weeping crabapples, such as this 'Louisa', make striking focal points in the landscape. Allow pendulant branches to form a natural shape. While they might require some extra space, the rewards are longer tree life span and lower maintenance.

Be Inspired by the Prairie

Dynamic expressions of color and form seen in the arboretum prairie can inspire you to add native plants to your landscape. Mix in wildflowers such as coneflowers and black-eyed Susans for a memorable late-summer display.

Winterscape Your Yard

Appreciate the structure of your landscape all year: Choose form and texture that delight even in winter and in spring as foliage emerges. The dynamic landscape at the Brenton Arboretum includes conical alders, spade-shape redwoods, broomlike locusts, and broad cottonwoods.

Include Seasonal Color

What is green today can be red tomorrow, so consider autumn foliage when planting in your yard. Think about the colors in your autumn garden and plant trees or shrubs with complementary fall foliage.

Believe in Branches

Lindens showcase fabulous crimson branches set against vibrant yellows of the willow collection at the Brenton Arboretum. Look for spicy reds in lindens and redtwig dogwood; Ussurian pear and magnolias feature fuzzy buds; and birch and ninebark provide warm textures. You can even bring prunings inside for decor.

Consider Form & Texture

The arboretum is abundant with inspiration for perennial gardens. This rattlesnake-master is a native to the tall-grass prairie but stands out with a unique form and iridescent hue. Spiky flowers and leaves make this an excellent accent plant, or plant in mass as a textured backdrop.

Tell a Story

A sculpture of St. Francis stands among the crabapples, arms open to the sky, welcoming the birds. The arboretum takes an active role in conservation, and St. Francis reminds visitors and staff to enjoy and care for this natural place.

Add a Water Feature

Extend your garden to the water's edge. Young and old are drawn to water for play and tranquility. Include water-loving plants such as iris, wild bergamot, and meadow blazing star to tuck close to a small dock or platform. Whether you host a dinner party or a playdate, your water feature is certain to be a hit!

Go No-Mow

Grass walking paths wind through the arboretum's tall- and short-grass prairie. Rich colors bloom in every season, yet this magnificent planting seldom receives maintenance. You can enjoy an established prairie plot in you yard: It requires little mowing or watering, with just an occasional check for weeds.

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