Home » Gardens & Map » Annuals Garden

Annuals Garden

Season 2021: “Follow the Yellow Brick Road!”

The brick paths that traditionally lead visitors through our display of annual flowers inspired this season’s theme, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”

Although our brick road is not yellow, it passes among a variety of colorful plants and flowers, just like the road in the mythical Land of Oz. Each of our 16 square flowerbeds is centered around a symbol related to the 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum or its more modern counterpart, the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland.

Walkers will pass a scarecrow guarding his sweet corn, a tin woodman standing before a Dwarf Alberta Spruce, and a lion surrounded by marigolds and gazania in leonine shades of brown and yellow. At the end of the path is the Emerald City, constructed of overturned flowerpots, where a tiny wizard hides among all-green plants, including Bells of Ireland, Envy zinnias, and green and cream petunias.

“Munchkinland” features a tiny chair and bench so that children can sit in a flower garden to have their photo taken or look through a storybook depicting Dorothy and Toto’s adventures. Excerpts from the original book are provided in some of the flowerbeds.

Flowers are our main focus, of course, so Dorothy’s gingham pinafore is represented by alternating squares of white alyssum and blue ageratum. A bone for Toto is formed from white begonias bordered with wishbone flowers (Torenia). Black sweet potato vines twine around a tomato cage to symbolize the cyclone that swept Dorothy out of Kansas, and a caladium plant in a basket stands in for the hot-air balloon that brought the Wizard to and from Oz.

Uncle Henry’s pigpen (which Dorothy fell into at the beginning of the movie) features a plump pig among lavender petunias and troughs of moss roses. Auntie Em’s vegetable garden is planted with small zinnias and miniature sunflowers as well as radishes, lettuce, carrots, red cabbage, and cauliflower.

Our poppy field is composed of cosmos, which bloom longer than poppies and won’t put anyone to sleep. And although a rainbow was not part of the original story (but rather an invention of MGM), one flowerbed displays arcs of purple salvia, blue ageratum, green parsley, yellow marigolds, salmon zinnias, and red velour petunias, along with partial lyrics from “Over the Rainbow.” 

In addition to the 16 theme beds, annual flowers fill at least 10 other gardens, for a total of more than 5,200 individual plants, all grown on site beginning in February.  Seeds were planted — and seedlings later transplanted — by volunteers and cared for in our two greenhouses until they could be planted outside the week of May 17, 2021. Some flowers needed in especially large quantities were grown from purchased plugs. Many additional flowers, which must be sown in case of a “crop failure,” are given away to donors and volunteers after all the flowerbeds have been safely filled for the season.

Visitors also enjoy viewing:

  • our unique varieties of coleus, which are started from cuttings each fall and planted around a tree just outside the Visitor Center in the spring.
  • our dahlia collection. This year our dahlia collection (started in the greenhouse every March from tubers saved over from the previous fall) has been moved to the foot of the brick path for better accessibility.

First-time visitors

First-time visitors can easily find the annual display gardens because they are located next to the Visitor Center. The DABG grounds are open from 7 a.m. until dusk, seven days a week. There is no admission charge, and parking is free.

— Kennie Harris

Photo credit: Deb Lovett 


AAS Display Garden

AAS-Corporate-LogoEvery year the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens looks forward to receiving sample flower seeds or plugs that have been named All-America Selections based on their garden performance in tests conducted throughout the United States.

  • Season 2021. All-America Selections named three 2021 ornamental winners for the Heartland region. Now on display in the small AAS display garden at the base of McKay Plaza are a dark-red coleus called ‘Main Street Beale Street,’ a tall celosia in ‘Candela pink,’ and a bicolored (yellow and red) zinnia. Filling out the rest of that bed are Tidal Wave Red Velour petunias, an
    AAS winner from 2015. 
  • Season 2020. There were no AAS floral winners in our region in 2020.
  • Season 2019. Several 2019 All-America Selection flowers are on display in the bed at the base of McKay Plaza outside the Visitor Center. They include Garuda gold and Big Duck yellow marigolds, Holi scarlet zinnias, Mega Bloom Polka-Dot vinca, Baby Deep Rose nasturtiums, and an extra-large red begonia, with chocolate leaves, that is supposed to grow 30 inches high or more.
  • Season 2018. Several 2018 All America Selections were showcased in the AAS display garden, located at the base of the McKay beds: Queeny Lime Orange zinnias, Mexican heather, ornamental peppers in Onyx Red, and Super Hero Spry marigolds. In addition, recent AAS winners from 2017 appeared in other beds, including Evening Scentsation petunias, Supra Pink dianthus, and vinca in Orchid Halo and Pink Halo.
  • During Season 2017, the two small beds at the upper and lower ends of the plaza, one in sun and the other in shade, exhibited All-America selections (AAS), including 2017 winners Asian Garden Celosia and bi-colored pink EnduraScape™ Verbena.
  • The 2016 AAS-award-winning bedding plants included two types of geraniums (‘Brocade Cherry Night’ and ‘Brocade Fire’) and the first-ever lavender-colored salvia, called ‘Lavender Jewel’. 
  • Season 2015. AAS also kindly sent Pink Flame Bounce Impatiens and Spreading Shell Pink Sunpatiens, both 2015 winners.

Many of the flowers in the other annual beds are also previous AAS winners, as noted on their identification stakes.

We hope visitors to this summer’s gardens find a lot to smile about!

[ Article by Kennie Harris. ]

About the Dubuque Arboretum Annual Gardens

What lends more cheerfulness to gardens than annual plants?

For a show of pure color, few plants can measure up to the contribution of annuals in a garden.

Annuals-500x339-WThe Annual Gardens in the Dubuque Botanical Gardens are easily spotted. As you approach the Visitor Center, you’ll come upon a vast area of large and smaller beds bursting with color. Without doubt, you have reached the annual beds!

As you make your way along the pathways in this area, you may notice that the majority of these beds follow a theme. Each year a different theme is designed and carried out by members of the Green Team. Garden volunteers and patrons sometimes get into the spirit by suggesting themes for upcoming years. Recent themes included:

  • Celebrate Good Times(2020) commemorated the Dubuque Arboretum’s 40th anniversary in 2020 with the annual flowerbeds depicting 16 other special occasions, including Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, It’s a Girl! and It’s a Boy!, May Day, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, weddings/anniversaries, and graduation!
  • Once Upon a Time” (2019) featured 16 signature flowerbeds, each designed to symbolize a classic children’s story or rhyme.
  • “Stars & Stripes” (2018) featured broad stripes of burgundy, blue, and white and filled the entry bed, starring Victoria salvia, angelonia, vinca, petunias, and ageratum.
  • “How Sweet It is!” (2017) was a confectionery of annuals. Cherry pink, lime green, lemon yellow, and luscious lavender were the colors of 2017’s annual bed theme.
  • “Let the Sunshine In” (2016) featured cheerful shades of yellow, orange, and rose brightening the annual flower beds.
  • “Victorian Sentiments: Say It with Flowers” (2015) reflected the popular Victorian custom of communicating special meanings through flowers.
  • “Fiesta in Red, White, & Green (2014) showcased thousands of annual flowers and foliage plants in gala shades of red, white, and green.
  • “Monet Inspiration” (2013) painted the beds in a profusion of pinks and lavenders and whites reminiscent of Monet’s Giverny.
  • “South of the Border” (2012) displayed a palette with bright yellows and oranges and reds.

Coleus. Many of the coleuses in the beds near the geraniums are grown from cuttings each year. They are dubbed “Mary’s coleus” after a volunteer in the Visitor Center who has supplied us with cuttings of special varieties of coleus from her beds. 

Annuals-in-Greenhouse-500x375-WBecause annual plants …

  • grow from seed,
  • flower,
  • produce new seeds, and
  • die during a single growing season

… they are ideal for providing changing color from year to year in gardens.

Greenhouse activities. Dubuque Botanical Garden volunteers can be found in January in the greenhouse — packets of seed in hand! — ready to start the germination process. During the early months of each calendar year, thousands of annuals gradually fill two greenhouses as volunteers upgrade seedlings into pots ready to be planted in mid-May.

The devotion of volunteers and the cycles of nature are abundantly displayed in the Annual Gardens.

[ Description provided by Mary Reuland. ]

Learn more about planting annuals in our video tutorial section.




Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial