Adjacent to the headquarters of Better Homes & Gardens' parent company, Meredith Corporation, our Test Garden is located at the corner of Grand Avenue and 15th Street in downtown Des Moines. The Test Garden serves as a display garden, a testing ground for plants, and a photography studio for our company's publications and websites.
Public visitors are welcome on Fridays from noon to 2 p.m., from the first Friday in May through the first Friday in October. Visitors may stroll through the gardens on their own (garden staff is available to answer questions) or groups of ten or more may request a tour during the open hours.
For more information, or to make a tour reservation, contact the Test Garden Manager at Better Homes & Gardens. The phone number is 515-284-3994.
A small flagstone path loops through a border, and a variety of perennials gives it color spring through fall. Bulbs emerge here first, then a series of perennials. Later, the show will become a little more dramatic as grasses grow tall and summer bloomers emerge.
This area is especially strong in spring, as is typical of woodland gardens. Before the trees' canopy closes in with foliage, woodland bloomers such as bleeding heart and Brunnera flower fade. At the same time, foliage plants—hostas and heucheras in particular—expand and eventually cover the ground. It's best, as we found, to take photos only when the garden is shaded.
A cobblestone path leads you through a more naturalistic section of the garden. Native plants—Pulsatilla and Baptisia—bring welcome spring color to this informal setting. Throughout the summer months you can sit and enjoy a variety of blooms from Coreopsis, Echinacea, Penstemon and other perennials.
In the sunniest corner of the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden®, a mix of vegetables and herbs are planted in raised beds. The Test Garden plants in beds because of the many benefits raised bed gardens—they provide a longer growing season, promote healthier soil, and they keep your garden clean and compact. Not to mention, raised beds will save your back. In the Test Garden are plenty of fragrant herbs to sniff—like basil, sage, and chives—while getting a sneak peek at some of the newest vegetables the Test Garden is trialing.
When you visit the Test Garden, enter through our main gate on the south side of the gardens. Descend a few steps and join fellow garden enthusiasts for a stroll along the main path, or sit in our central courtyard under a ring of mature crabapple trees and catch up with friends over lunch. A custom-made glass and steel fountain is our central focal point, while scattered benches and patio tables make for comfortable lounging.