Today is National Public Gardens Day, an effort to bring awareness to the importance of wide open, green spaces in our lives. Even in Iowa, we sometimes need to get away from it all.

Public gardens provide that respite. Justin Hancock of Des Moines, is senior garden editor for the Better Homes and Gardens’ website,

He says this special day recognizes the quiet, beautiful getaways that allow us to decompress from the stress — and they also may spark ideas for our own yards. “It is a celebration of green public spaces around the country,” Hancock says. “Botanical gardens, arboretums, all of these places you can go to get away from urban environments, to get inspiration for our own landscapes and to see new and cool plants from around the world.” So what’s the difference between a public garden and a public park? For starters, the public garden has an organization behind it, Hancock says, with an administrator and a plan.

“There’s staff specifically for that garden,” Hancock says. “A lot of them do research there. A lot of them bring in plants from around different areas to see, this is how they’ll do here. They may have breeding programs so they’ll create their own new varieties. A public park space is just a public park space, maintained by the city. It doesn’t have its own particular staff.”

If you haven’t been to a public garden in a while, he says now’s the time as there’s a special promotion underway for Iowans. Hancock says, “The three botanical gardens participating this year in Iowa are the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University, the Des Moines Botanical Center just outside downtown Des Moines and the Iowa Arboretum in Madrid.”

If you visit and fill out the simple form, you’ll be able to print off a voucher for free admission to any of the three Iowa treasures.