This is another year for major projects

  • New maintenance building (the barn) is completed
  • What was the Alpine Garden is changed to the Rock Garden incorporating various types
    of ground cover and succulents as well as making a stepping stone path
  • Tree collection sub-committee established; they re-inventory the trees and update
    the entire collection data-base and divide the grounds into sections and install new signs identifying the trees in each section

Funding for a new maintenance building comes from three grants; Leighty Fund with the Community Foundation for $1,000, the Waterloo Hotel/Motel Tax Fund for $10,000, the Black Hawk Gamming Commission for $42,000 and private donations totaling

The barn will be located in the southwest corner about where the original site plan had it. Here the site has been granded and work has started
The barn begins to take shape!
The finished product!
This is what will become the rock garden; planted various ground cover and succulents

By the end of 2011 the Arboretum looks like this; a drop off circle drive has been established around the tower; the compost and brush piles are behind the Red Cedar Trees on the north end of the property

Planning is already underway for the next stage in the evolution of this beautiful green space; the bean field rabbit maze will be seeded as grass for further development (plans are in the “brainstorming” stage) The open areas that have been allowed to grow as “tall grass” will be mowed in the future and exist as grass meadows.


A sub-committee is formed that will lead to some improvements in the Children’s Garden. A decision has been made to remove the community garden plots and to re-seed them into lawn. This area will be developed as a “tent pavilion” in order to enhance wedding rental opportunities. The Display Gardens will get a facelift this year as well and a new area developed with Prairie plantings.

The Children’s Garden sub-committee enhancements included;

  • A chalkboard dragon
  • A toddler trail through the peek-a-boo forest
  • Re-purposing the two “circle areas” into gardens
  • Painting the kids chairs to add bright colors
  • Turning one of the silos into a “castle”
  • Adding new colorful plant material throughout
A wedding tent
The Dragon; designed and painted by Nancy Friedman and built by Randy Robinson
This photo and the next two show the toddler trail built by Bob and Nancy Friedman with the cedar steps, chairs and balance beam provided by Randy Robinson
The two empty circles became "specialty gardens" this one the snail trail built by Nancy Friedman and Paul Kammerdiner
The other circle became the Sensory Garden planted by Melinda Young and Paul Kammerdiner
Then there was the castle for fun built by Randy Robinson and Pat McGivern and the painted chairs for a splash of color

In addition to the changes to the Children's Garden; the Display Gardens will get a fresh look this year by dividing the large space  into smaller sections in order to better catch the eye. A grass path will divide the sections and the spaces will be given a stone border. This next photo was taken in May; the borders are not finished yet.

This year a group of Terry Roger’s Hawkeye students re-purposed some “weed field” land that is located on the far eastern end of the Arboretum across the creek into a prairie. Unfortunately the harsh drought during the summer produced less than great results but they re-seeded it in the fall and hopes are high that the area will yet develop into what we are hoping for although we know that it takes several years for a prairie to flourish.

A meager beginning to what we hope becomes an example of Iowa prairie
This photo and the next one are of the new Annual Garden that was planted this year

At the end of the 2012 growing season more changes were taking place at the Arboretum. Rob Pruitt has become the new Executive Director.

Also the first phase of an ambitious expansion project has begun with the conversion of the old Head House into a new Welcome Center. Funding from the Gaming Commission and Community Foundation

Work begins on turning the old maintenance shed called the head house into a Welcome Center
Exterior work nearing completion
By the beginning of next year's growing season work should be finished

The new welcome center is expected to be finished by the beginning of 2013.This is phase one of the project and as the New Year begins; more exciting projects are in the planning stages. Cindy Wells as the chair of the expansion project sub-committee has already begun with phase two planning 

As always winter is the time for developing new and ever more exciting plans for your number one green space in the Cedar Valley. 



This year was a microcosm of what has always made the Arboretum work. A tremendous and talented group of volunteers; dedicated staff, and generous financial support from individuals and the community. A great many exciting things were accomplished.

  • Office re-organization and staffing
  • The welcome center inside space was finished including the creation of a small gift shop; restroom; office space; a sign in station; and a meeting area.
  • The two ponds had the infrastructure updated and improved
  • The arrival gardens got a much needed grooming
  • The Forget-me-not pond garden got established
  • The ornamental grass garden also became more established and received some landscaping maintenance and the rock garden continues to improve
  • The specimen collection berm also had some maintenance
  • Weplanted 14 new trees
  • New educational and fun activities were added to the children’s program
  • Several additions were made to the Children’s Garden


With the completion of the new Welcome Center it became necessary to re-organize the staff to ensure a presence of someone at the Arboretum during normal daytime hours. An executive director had been hired toward the end of 2012 and we needed to hire a full time office assistant; which happened at the beginning of the growing season this year. 

Rob Pruitt had become Executive Director in September of 2012
LaRae Randall became the office assistant in April of 2013
Completed Welcome Center

The visitor center re-model was complete toward the end of last year. By early spring of 2013 the finishing touches had been added to the inside. Several needs were met such as creating climate controlled meeting space; providing a designated sign in area for visitors so we can gather statistics; and making a space for a gift shop. We were also able to re-model the staff offices and the restroom facility.

Gift Shop area
Visitor sign in area
Meeting area and a great place for volunteers to relax


The Black Hawk Country Pond Club donated $1,000 worth of equipment and hours of labor to improve our two ponds. They repaired some worn areas and installed new filtration. The water is now very clear making the fish more visible much to the delight of the children.

Forget-me-not pond
Children's Garden pond


The Arrival Gardens were pruned and shaped with a new layer of mulch added
A new garden was started last year around the For-get-me-not Pond and this year it was added to

Last year saw some major changes to two garden spots in front of and to both sides of the Education Center. The area directly in front of and to the left (west) is called the rock garden. The area on the other side that goes around the corner toward the Children’s Garden entrance is called the Ornamental Grass Garden. Our gardens are always works in progress and this year some improvements were made to these two.


The Ornamental Grass Garden; landscape fabric was put down and the area was mulched to aid in maintenance
The Rock Garden becomes more lovely every year
The Specimen Collection (one of a kind conifers) is located just outside the Children's Garden and the berm was re-purposed this year with fabric and mulch


Each year thanks to generous donations we are able to add to our tree collection. In 2013 we planted 14 new trees with a Green Scene grant; HyVee food stores donated 3 trees from their garden center; and we had 1 tree donated from the fall festival auction.

Trees planted;

3 Emerold Green Arborvitae in the Rose Garden

7 fruit trees in the Children's Garden

1 Ivory Silk Japanese Lilac in the Children's Garden

3 conifers in the Specimen collection

2 flowering Crab Apples south of the Shade Garden

1 fruit tree near the Herb Garden

1 River Birch near the For-get-me-not Pond


 2013 was an exciting time for the Children’s Garden; the area on the north end that had been a small prairie was completely re-configured. The prairie plants were moved to the back of the space along the fence. This uncovered three mounded shapes which were where the new fruit trees were placed with an understory of over 1,000 strawberry plants. The prairie now flanks the north and east sides of the garden. Atop the fence are new gaily painted bird houses built by Randy Robinson and Howard Craven.

Re-located prairie plants along the fence with bird houses on top
Fruit trees and strawberry plants

During an early spring planning and operations meeting Howard Craven suggested that we get a playhouse to put in the re-configured space in the Children’s Garden. After some discussion the members of the committee decided to build this playhouse and install a green roof on it for extra interest. Gary Blonigan volunteered to build it and Howard promised to help. The materials for the playhouse would be purchased with a donation from Paul Kammerdiner and we would ask for donations of sedum to plant on the roof. The finished product became an instant hit with the kids.

This became an educational opportunity as well
Gary Blonigan (on the ladder) works on the roof of the new playhouse
The finished playhouse

We received a $500 grant from Khols this year and we gave it to the Arboretum Engineers, John Dodge Jr. and Rick Simmons who generously donate their time and talents to run and maintain the train garden which is always a favorite. They used the money to lay some new tracks and to build a great miniature village.

The train village

Once again this year Nancy Friedman spent many hours working in the Children’s Garden and was responsible for re-planting the sensory garden and adding some lovely plantings to the peek-a-boo forest.

The peek-a boo-forest

The theme for this year was Sunflowers so in keeping with that and following along with the focus on children; Maurine Crisp; Billie Hemmer; and Sara Jansen created the sunflower house just outside the education center.

The Arboretum Gnomes make their debut!

Another fun activity for children this year was the brain-child of our Director Rob Pruitt. Rob came up with an idea for a scavenger hunt for kids with gnomes as the objects of the hunt. A campaign was mounted asking people to adopt a gnome by paying a fee with the privilege of naming their gnome. A group of volunteers from New Aldaya then painted the gnomes and they were placed throughout the Arboretum grounds. A map was then created to help locate each gnome and prizes for successful completion were purchased. Thus the Great Sherlock Gnome Hunt was born. Over the course of the summer over 500 children participated.

Another new addition to the Children’s Garden this year was the music station created by Howard Craven; during the summer this space was filled with sound and laughter.

On a sad note we lost one of the most popular attractions in the Children’s Garden this year when Jake, our pet albino corn snake, passed away. Jake had been a summer resident of the Arboretum since 2008.

The growing season ended with our annual Fall Harvest Festival. We had well over 1700 visitors from 32 Iowa counties; and a good time was had by all.

The work was not done for the year, however, as one more project needed to be completed before we put the gardens to bed for this winter. The Arboretum has a wonderful collection of day lilies; the Stout award winning variety for each year since its inception in 1950 (with a ouple of missing years which will be added next year). This collection had been located on the south edge of the shade garden but we felt it needed a much more visible spot; so we moved the entire collection to the side of the paved path that leads to the shade garden.

The new home of the Stout lilie collection

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