Biorenewables and sustainability are focus of Reiman Gardens tour

AMES, Iowa -- The recent explosion of television and newspaper reports on biofuels, sustainability and "going green" has many scratching their heads.

What are these plants? Where do they grow? What do they look like?


While most all current ethanol is made from corn, Miscanthus (shown here) shows great promise as a potential source of biomass for making ethanol in the future.

The plants that Iowans read about, but may never have seen before, are the subject of a Biowalk Tour hosted by Reiman Gardens and runs through the rest of the summer.

The self-guided tour introduces guests to many of the varieties of plants that are in the news, such as switchgrass, bluestem and others. The tour is included with regular Reiman Gardens admission.

"The purpose is to expose people to the plants that are being talked about for use as fuels and other things," said Aaron Steil, education and plant collections coordinator at Reiman Gardens.

In addition to biorenewables, guests will also have an opportunity to see "green" garden practices at work in the new Sustainable Rose Garden. In this garden, the roses are hardy and disease-resistant and require no spraying and little labor to thrive. According to Reiman Gardens, these practices are better for the environment and also save on labor costs and spray expenses.

Steil says that in the first two weeks after the new garden was planted, the fungicide use was cut in half - just by eliminating the spraying of this garden.

But Steil said the most innovative thing about the Biowalk Tour is the program, or lack of one.

"The really fun thing is, your cell phone is your guide," he said.

"When you're on the tour, you can call a number on your cell phone and hear about the plants you're looking at."

The idea, said Steil, is that rather than print thousands of brochures about the plants and the tour, you can get all the information you want through your phone.

"We're the first in Iowa to use this approach," said Steil. "And we're excited about it. No printing, no waste and all in the theme of the exhibit -- sustainability."