Scales and Tales

Our Name Has Two Parts, What About Those "Gardens"?

Every year, something beautiful happens at Reptile Gardens. An army of gardeners descends upon the grounds, and transforms the winter barren flowerbeds into a fragrant sea of stunning annual flowers. Our gardeners plant over 40,000 annuals, and hundreds of perennial species as well. While many people know that Reptile Gardens is home to the world's largest reptile collection, folks are often pleasantly surprised to learn that our grounds are a botanical-lovers paradise as well.
Guests often ask our gardeners for advice and ideas on plant species selection and general care. To transform your backyard into a private oasis, our resident expert "green-thumb" David Yahne details a few favorite plant species which thrive in the Dakota climate.

"One of my all-time personal favorite plants is called Amaranthus cauditus or "love lies bleeding." This plant is an old-world species, which was quite popular in Victorian gardens and as far back as in Shakespeare's day. They were also a favorite of Colonial American gardens as well. This gorgeous plant grows to be 4 to 6 feet tall, produces large, jungle-like foliage and features crimson tassels that cascade to the ground in an exotic, showy fashion. Amaranthus cauditis is absolutely perfect for adding drama and intrigue to your garden. This annual flower blooms from summer to early fall, and prefers full-sun exposure."

Love Lies Bleeding (Amaranthus cauditis)

"Another great way to add color and diversity to flowerbeds and landscaped areas is to plant a Lobelia hybrid called "trailing dark blue lobelia". This flower is a great annual choice for the climate of the Dakotas. Lobelia tolerates full sun to part shade, and blooms continuously from planting to first frost. This flower is low maintenance, no "deadheading" required. Hummingbirds and other bird species are also attracted to Lobelia."

"Petunia lovers will be pleased to know that there is an exciting new petunia hybrid that grows to hedge-like proportions and produces abundant colorful blooms. The first "hedgetunia", Tidal Wave™ Spreading Petunia creates an extremely full plant that continues to grow until it reaches a shrub-like shape. This plant holds its shape all season, and spreads like a ground cover, expanding 2.5 to 4ft per plant. Tidal Wave ™ petunias are well suited for large containers or large landscaped areas and prefer full sun exposure."

Wave Petunias

"Great gardens are much more than what you see on the surface however. Beneath all those flower blooms and foliage are tender roots, eager to absorb nutrients and minerals from the soil. It goes without saying that healthy soil, makes for healthy plants. We here in the Black Hills of South Dakota are challenged with less-than-ideal native soil. Fortunately, compost is a natural choice to re-charge the soil, and boost plant growth. Reptile Gardens is committed to conservation; we process all of our tree limbs and similar yard waste into top-quality mulch compost for our planter beds. For information on compost availability in your area, be sure to check with your local municipality. Folks in the Rapid City area will be pleased to know that the Rapid City Landfill offers excellent quality compost at very reasonable price."

For a first hand look at the plants mentioned above, be sure to visit Reptile Gardens this season. You'll find these plant species, and so much more. Many plants here at Reptile Gardens can't be found anywhere else but their native habitat, often many thousands of miles from South Dakota. Come on out and see us this season, there is something fun for everyone!

-Ary Den Otter

24 July 2010




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Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing or go on a 3D safari. Our very own old west ghost town as numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

Don't miss your chance to Pet a Python!  Our snake handlers ar here to talk about any questions or myths you've heard about snakes. Don't forget your camera! Our pythons are very photogenic and love to photos with you!