What Is the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden?

You have to grow it to know it. Whether it's testing a new plant variety or trying a garden trend, we do the ground work (literally) in the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden® to help you grow a better garden.

BHG Test Garden Logo

Outside the offices of the corporate headquarters of Better Homes & Gardens, near the heart of downtown Des Moines, Iowa, lies an oasis of green. And yellow, and red, and purple—you get the idea. This refreshing pocket of colorful plants on half a city block is the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden®. Despite its name, the Test Garden is not just a garden. It is an outdoor studio for photographers, a venue for corporate entertaining, and a meeting and lunch spot for employees. Though it's located downtown, the garden is landscaped in the style of a backyard—or, actually, multiple backyards: No matter where you are, if you turn ever so slightly, you will have a whole new vista. In all, there are 22 distinct areas in the Test Garden.

variety of plants in test garden
Carson Downing

An Abundance of Plants

The mission of the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden® is to serve gardeners nationwide by providing garden-tested, firsthand information about plants, gardening methods, garden styles, projects, and ideas. The bounty of different plants and varieties in the Test Garden does just that. Within the 22 different garden spaces are hundreds of perennials, trees, and shrubs, plus a changing palette of annuals and bulbs. The Better Homes & Gardens editors and Test Garden visitors find new plants tucked into shady corners, sunny borders, and colorful containers all the time.

To test plants and offer fresh ideas, the garden changes every year. Arbors and trellises are replaced with new designs; old plants come out to make room for new ones. The Test Garden holds plants that are not yet available from nurseries or garden centers; if these plants prove to be good performers, BHG is ready to tell readers about them when they first come to market.