Discovery Garden - Iowa State Fair Grounds

The Discovery Garden at the Iowa State Fairgrounds is a cooperative effort between the Polk County Extension District Master Gardeners and the Iowa State Fair.


The purposes of the Discovery Garden are to provide a public exhibition area that highlights: 

  • New and unusual plant material
  • Annuals
  • Perennials
  • Plant material labeled with botanical and common name
  • Landscaping/design techniques


While the Iowa State Fair is the peak display time for the Discovery Garden, it blooms all summer with interesting and unusual plants.  There is rarely a time when the garden isn't in use, being visited by gardeners, families, or photographers who value the variety of colorful borders that make up this garden.



Most of the materials used in the garden are grown by Polk County Master Gardeners in the group's greenhouse, ensuring new and fresh displays each year.


At the garden's water feature is a wooden bridge, constructed as an exact replica of the bridge used in the movie "The Music Man." It is a true Iowa treasure. 


This photo from the 2006 fair is a little fuzzy but a wonderful illustration of how much children enjoy the tunnel. 

Matthew was three and a half - the contributor titled this Pure Joy !!

Pure Joy


Guided tours of the garden are available. These are led by Polk County Master Gardeners who are knowledgeable in the details of the plants on display. Interested individuals or garden clubs are invited to contact ISU Polk County Extension, 515-957-5761, to arrange for a tour.



Please plan on visiting the garden anytime during the growing season to view inspiring garden designs and exciting new annuals, perennials, grasses and native plants.  Remember, gardens are planted to “peak” during the Iowa State Fair, August 7 – 17, at which time all garden art and plant labels will be in place and Master Gardeners will be available from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm to answer your gardening questions and provide you with plant lists.  COME SEE US AT THE FAIR!





The Iowa State Fairgrounds are located at the intersection of East University (Hwy 163) and East 30th Street in Des Moines.

The Master Gardener Discovery Garden is located on the south side of the fair's Agriculture Building See map of fairgrounds. 

The garden is easily identified by the small red barn, white picket fence, and gazebo that are features visible from the curbside.

Return to Master Gardener page.

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