Beautiful flowers, plants and hidden gnomes highlight visit to Waterloo botanical garden

Searching for gnomes at Cedar Valley Arboretum in Waterloo, Iowa
A serenading gnome is one of 17 visitors can search for during a visit to the Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Waterloo, Iowa.

Where in the world is Tim…the gnome? If you look close enough, you will find him in his garden at the Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Waterloo, Iowa. Tim the Gnome is one of 17 gnomes hiding in each of the arboretum’s gardens. The Waterloo arboretum provides a beautiful area for a stroll on a nice summer day.

The arboretum makes excellent use of its 40 acres. Flower gardens feature roses and daylilies, among others. Each garden’s presentation is magnificent.

Garden in Waterloo, Iowa
The arboretum’s Welcome Garden is beautiful mix of plants and flowers, with a water fall.

It starts with the Welcome Garden with a waterfall, as well as a variety of flowers and plants. Its layout is impressive. A rabbit greeted us (or was trying to find an escape route).

Things to do in Waterloo, Iowa
Eh, what’s up, Doc?

As we started our walk around the gardens, we appreciated the thought and planning that went into creating an impressive attraction on the grounds of a community college. The Arrival Garden provided a beautiful view, featuring shrubs and bushes with flowers.

Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Waterloo, Iowa
The path leads to the Arrival Garden.

The center’s staff takes excellent care of the property and creates amazing art for visitors, including landscaped animals, such as a frog and peacock. These sculptures call the Mosaic Garden home.

Animal Art at Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Waterloo
The Mosaic Garden offers animal art.

Gnomes hide in each garden. It’s an annual program at the arboretum. We had to find my namesake, who happened to be hiding in the garden with my name. A volunteer named Tim maintains the garden, so the arboretum staff named it after him, Tim’s Garden. My favorite gnome lived in this area.

Tim's Garden in Waterloo, Iowa
Tim the Gnome.

The arboretum focuses on more than flowers and shrubs, and dedicates three gardens to trees. The Sesquicentennial Forest celebrates Iowa’s 150 years as state (1846-1996) with trees native to the state. The Shade Garden hosts hostas among its shade trees. I thought the Shade Garden was beautiful, with a couple of benches for visitors to sit and take in the view. The Conifer Garden highlights a variety of trees.

Shade Garden in Waterloo, Iowa
The Shade Garden is perfectly named, with a mix of shade trees and hostas.

Another garden I enjoyed honors foster children. The Forget-me-not Pond features koi fish among its shrubbery and flowers.

Koi pond at Cedar Valley Arboretum in Waterloo, Iowa
Koi fish can be found in the poind.

The Central Mall features plants and flowers on raised beds, which allow physically-challenged volunteers to garden obstacle-free. The area also is among the most attractive gardens. Flowers and plants surround a water fountain. At one end of the mall, a bison –covered with plants – hides among tall prairie grass and other wild grass and flowers.

Floral gardens in Waterloo, Iowa
The Mall presents beautiful floral and plant displays. The exhibits are raised to help physically-challenged volunteers.

The Rose Garden features a variety of roses and colors. The area is beautiful, with a brick entrance to greet visitors. The grounds crew maintains the area well. Apparently, the spot is popular for celebrations, including weddings. I liked that roses hug the walls of the garden.

Rose Garden at Cedar Valley Arboretum in Waterloo. Iowa
The Rose Garden is immaculate.

Day lilies line a walking path in the Stout Day Lily Collection.

Lillies at Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Waterloo
Day lilies are beautiful.

The Children’s Garden encourages a hands-on approach with the exhibits. From a house with a roof made from plants to playing with fish, kids of all ages can check out the attraction. Homemade musical instruments, such as cans and wind chimes, create unique sounds when they’re played. The garden includes a Hobbit house.

Children's Garden at Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Waterloo
Visitors can learn among the beauty of the Children’s Garden. The roof of the house consists of plants that can be used to help control temperatures inside.

Other gardens featured at the Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Garden include the Master Gardener Orchard (feature four fruit trees native to Iowa), Tall Grass Garden, Rock Garden, Herb Garden and the Display Garden (which resembles a flower when view from above).

Gazebo in Cedar Valley Arboretum
The gazebo is located in the middle of the Master Gardener Garden.

We enjoyed our 90-minute walk through the arboretum and botanic garden. I think time spent there depends on a person’s interests, so you may spend more or less time there. It’s one of the most beautiful smaller botanical gardens we’ve visited. We recommend visiting it when in Waterloo.

For additional information on the Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens – which is open through October – please visit or

Disclaimer: Thank you to Travel Waterloo for the complimentary tickets. However, all opinions and views are ours.