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Annuals Garden

Season 2020: “Celebrate Good Times”

Come and Celebrate With Us!

If you missed a special occasion while staying at home this spring, come and celebrate with us!  The Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens offer numerous photo opportunities and plenty of wide-open spaces for social distancing.

Celebrate good times, come on! (Let’s celebrate)

As the Dubuque Arboretum observes its 40th anniversary in 2020, the annual flowerbeds depict 16 other special occasions. Our theme, “Celebrate Good Times,” borrows from the lyrics of the Kool and the Gang recording “Celebration.” Coincidentally, that song hit the charts in 1980, the same year the DABG was founded.

Flowers in appropriate colors and shapes, supported by a few props, serve as clues to each celebration depicted. For example,

  • a shamrock surrounded by green parsley and basil represents St. Patrick’s Day, while
  • assorted flowers spill from a clay pot cornucopia in honor of Thanksgiving
  • a star of red vinca surrounded by blue-and-white picotee petunias reflects the Fourth of July, and
  • a “birthday cake” trimmed in red begonias is topped with candles of yellow, flame-shaped celosia
  • a pink begonia heart encloses a sentimental Valentine’s Day message written in purple alyssum — and
  • look out(!) … the April 1 bed may fool you

Our gardens also commemorate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, It’s a Girl! and It’s a Boy!, May Day, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, weddings/anniversaries, and graduation.

Drivers passing the Visitor Center can view a rainbow of celosia, pentas, marigolds, petunias, and vinca in alternating arcs of red, white, and yellow. The upper McKay plaza flowerbed commemorates the DABG’s anniversary with a large number “40” composed of white begonias framed by carmine-red wave petunias.

So, whatever else you may have missed this year, there are still flowers …

— Kennie Harris 


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 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:

  • “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.




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