Land donated: the beginning

I thought it was about time someone did something for the ol' town. So many take so much from Dubuque, but leave so little behind.”


In 1975, “Mac” Marshall (1894-1977) donated 51 acres of land -- 36 acres of meadow and about 15 acres of walnut timber -- to the City of Dubuque with three stipulations:

  • that the land would always be used as a park
  • that he could reside in the farmhouse whenever he wanted
  • that city government begin developing the land within a year


Tri-State Garden Club formed

In 1976, Jim Schwarz formed the Tri-State Garden Club with the purpose of establishing a botanical garden in Dubuque and learning about gardening together. Also, at that time, Frank Hardie had an interest in establishing an arboretum. A collaboration began.


City leases 16 acres of land

The Dubuque Parks Department initially leased 16 acres of Marshall Park to seven Tri-State Garden Club members (Jim Schwarz, Gene Heinemann, Mel Gottschalk, Ambrose Hoeger, Marlyn Bausman, Jack Frick, Frank Hardie) with each member contributing $20. These visionary volunteers started it all by planting the trees, bushes and plants, and erecting fences and arbors.

The first officers of the association:

  • Frank Hardee, President
  • Jim Schwarz, Vice-President
  • Mel Gottschalk, Secretary
  • Ambrose Hoeger, Treasurer

At the time, there were just two structures on the property:

  • Marshall's farmhouse
  • an old hay barn with a lean-to cowshed

The Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens had begun.


Nurseries donated plants + barn renovation

  • Several nurseries donated rose plants.
  • Rosarians were Ambrose and Dottie Hoeger and Mel Gottschalk.
  • Klehm Nursery (in Rockford) donated 109 peonies and 50 varieties of hostas.
  • Water was carried in gallon jugs to water the plants.
  • Renovation of the barn into a visitor center began. Ron Jungers was the designer and constructor of the project.


Volunteers began to build and plant

  • Gene Heinemann quickly became the leader of the ongoing projects. And Gene and Jim Schwarz took many plant and tree acquisition trips.
  • Volunteers built a rail fence; planted bushes and trees; drilled a well; gutted and remodeled the barn; and removed the old cow shed. [Photos below.] Gene Thompson and Bill Vandewill were major players in the outdoor projects.
  • The first 8 raised annual beds, edged with wood, were planted.
  • The Jodi Bausman Memorial Garden was created with prairie grasses, wildflowers, and old garden roses: Prairie Garden
  • The barn loft was roughed in and restrooms were completed.
  • The interior of the barn was gutted and a floor was put in as well as a view deck.
  • July 4, 1982, brought 100 cars to the first fundraising event!

Frank Hardie, first Dubuque Arboretum Association President.


Leadership + Greenhouse + Plantings

New officers were elected:

  • Gene Heinemann, President
  • Ted Kopper, 1st Vice-President
  • Dave LaRue, 2nd Vice-President

Membership grew to 144.

A greenhouse was added on the south wall of the Visitor Center. Jim Schwarz (in charge of growing) donated the greenhouse.

More plantings were added:

  • 8 more raised annual beds
  • 7 perennial beds (the lower perennials)
  • Lilac bushes
  • Conifers on the berms
  • Northern-grown azaleas

Visitor Center Greenhouse (exterior). Top left: Gene Thompson; top right: Jim Schwarz.

Visitor Center Greenhouse (interior).


Volunteers + More Plants + A Wedding

Volunteers Ambrose Hoeger and Mel Gottschalk were spending about 60 hours per week (each) tending the rose garden.

We were designated by AARS as an All-American Rose Garden Selections Public Display Garden.

Hard-core volunteers came to work sessions twice a week, doing what was needed indoors and out.

The McAleece Center was built.

Donations from local businessmen and others were published in the newsletter under the "Good Guys Directory" as givers of good gifts.

Some members planted special gardens:

  • Fred Spahn's Iris Collection (along with Dick Froehn).
  • John Beren's Gladiolus.
  • Gene Coffman's Viburnums.

The first wedding was held in the Arboretum.


Visitor Center created

After completely renovating an old barn into a visitor center for guests, a new foundation was poured in 1985, and a porch, offices, restrooms, and a meeting room were created. Ron Jungers designed and spearheaded this construction and went on to build the wedding gazebo and round shade structure in the Hosta Garden.

In June, the third annual Tri-State Lawn & Garden Expo was held featuring mini-workshops, live music, and food.

A recognition dinner honoring volunteers had to go to two sessions (Noon + 5:30p) because there were so many!

The Fall Festival brought out visitors for demonstrations, tours, entertainment, artists, children's activities, goodies to eat, and garden produce to purchase.


GARDENER magazine features the DABG

The cover of THE GARDENER magazine was a full-color photo of the Botanical Gardens. Ambrose Hoeger wrote the cover story, a 2-page article with many black-and-white photos promoting the Dubuque Arboretum.

A map of the gardens was produced for visitors with ads on the back for 26 different Dubuque businesses.

The fourth annual Tri-State Arboretum Expo featured four different musical groups playing in the Gazebo on each of two days, 9 different educational programs, food, and fun.

Below: Gottschalk Tri-Level Water Feature (left); Rose Garden in Summer (right).


First burnoff + more plantings

The first prairie burn-off of the Jodi Bausman Memorial Prairie Garden (pictured just below) took place in April.

The DABG Library received 50 books in memory of Larry Taylor.

250 Oriental and Asiatic lilies were planted.

Jim Schwarz donated more than 300 new hostas.

In September, we celebrated "Arboretum Days" with food, a raffle, a Sundown Mountain ski pass, a bake-and-craft sale, a magician, and face painting.

In November, "Ambrose and Dotty Days" brought volunteers out to help winterize roses (pictured below at left). Aerial view of Roses in Summer (pictured below at right).


Waterfall + more plantings + technology

Many woodland wildflowers were planted by John and Cheryl Schwind.

New Perennial Gardens (above the Rose Garden) were created.

A new scented Geranium Collection was planted between the parking lot and roses.

Volunteers began construction of the Waterfall Gardens, a 9-foot waterfall (Marlyn's Falls). The amount of rock is amazing.

Several Scout projects cleared trails and constructed bridges. The Sea Scout Cadet League and several parents helped clear brush, trees, and branches for a new service road at the top of the gardens.

New Perennial Gardens were planted above the Rose Garden.

The office acquired a computer, requiring better heating and air conditioning in the building. Mary Coffee was then-secretary to Gene Heinemann.

The Arboretum is growing: we recorded 150 volunteers, 35,000 visitors, and 28 weddings.


Greenhouse + trellises + deck + porch

A greenhouse was added to the side of the McAleece Building.

Trellises were added at entrances to the Hosta Shade Garden and the Jodi Bausman Memorial Garden.

The Visitor Center deck and Hafeman Veranda were completed.


Amphitheater + Music in the Gardens + Veterans Memorial

The Packard Pavilion Amphitheater was built by Ron Jungers.

Music in the Gardens (our free Sunday concerts) began.

The All Veterans Memorial was dedicated.


Sounds + an Herb Garden + pools + water lines + a greenhouse

  • Sounds in the Garden: 9 outdoor speakers were added. A gift from Delores Petrakis in memory of John Petrakis.
  • a Formal Herb Garden was created.
  • Quiet Pools with benches were finished.
  • Water lines were extended to the Veterans Memorial and the Dubuque Noon Lions Club Playground.
  • Construction began on the big greenhouse behind the McAleece (30’ x 48’ x 18’). Completed in 1993.


Japanese Garden planning + a Butterfly Garden + the Herb Society of Dubuque

Jim Grady spearheaded this garden.

  • Hoichi Kurisu, from Portland, Oregon, came to help design a planned Japanese Garden.
  • A raised butterfly garden, like one seen in England, was constructed in the annual bed area.
  • The Herb Society of Dubuque began.


Japanese Garden construction began

The first phase of the Japanese Garden was underway with major excavating to shape the pond area and begin building peninsulas and three waterfalls. A well was drilled for the waterfalls and pond.

APPROVED + BUILT: Visitor Center expansion

A new 24-foot addition was added to the west side of the Visitors Center. It now houses the Garden Room, upstairs offices, a conference room, and basement storage.


Two "firsts": a conifer collection + HerbFest

  • The Walter Conifer Collection (more than 400 dwarf and rare conifers) was donated as a memorial by the Walter family of Illinois.
  • The first HerbFest was held.


A second Conifer Collection was added + more construction

  • Dennis Hermsen donated 154 conifers to complement the Walter Conifer Collection.
  • Construction began on a large-equipment storage building (Cleary Building, located behind the McAleece building) measuring 50’ x 98’. Completed in 1997.


Another storage building was constructed

The Tri-State Garden Club erected a 24’ x 24’ storage building in the northeast corner of the grounds.


Roses + McKay Memorial Plaza

  • Marlyn Bausman took over as Head Rosarian. There were 900 rose plants by that time.
  • McKay Memorial Plaza was constructed. The porch and steps were rebuilt with stone. The parking lot was enlarged and