Iowa City’s Project GREEN brings summer’s best gardens to the fore with Open Gardens Weekend on July 13-14, 2019.
The newly minted event is the creation of Beth Cody, who was inspired by the success of similar tours in other communities. “The new Open Gardens Weekend will give residents and guests a chance to visit numerous private Iowa City gardens and public spaces and enjoy some family-friendly activities,” she says. “It should be a fun and inspiring weekend of beautiful gardens!”
More than 30 private gardens and numerous public gardens are featured on this inaugural tour. Some gardens are tiny, while others are massive, and styles encompass formal, English, Asian, cottage, and modern features. These splendid and rarely seen private gardens include ornamental, vegetable, rock, native, and wildflower plants, as well as decks, patios, pergolas, water features, and garden art.
“We are delighted to bring this type of tour to our area,” says Cindy Parsons, Project GREEN co-president. Garden enthusiasts can tour at their own pace after picking up a map from one of 11 garden sponsors. Visitors can see gardens when an “Open Garden” sign is posted. If there’s no sign at a listed address, the garden isn’t open at that time. All visitors are asked to sign the Visitors Book at each garden with the number in your party and the town you’re from.
Visitors can pick up maps from any of the local sponsors: Cat Clinic of Iowa City, Chad Burtch State Farm, Hills Bank, HyVee, Iowa City Landscaping and Garden Center, Lenoch & Cilek Ace Hardware, Rindy Inc., Tallgrass Business Resources, University of Iowa Community Credit Union, Urban Acres Real Estate, and U.S. Bank.
Last year, the city’s horticulturist and Assistant Superintendent of Parks Tyler Baird began planting gardens that encouraged visitors to sample items. It was only natural that Iowa City visitors are once again invited to pick from the garden beds planted with herbs near City Hall at 410 E. Washington Street.
More public spaces featured on the tour are located along the Washington Street Corridor, from Clinton to Governor; the Capitol and Dubuque street parking garages, including a special lower level Secret Garden; and gardens on the north and south sides of the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center on Gilbert Street featuring a Children’s Discovery Garden and another Outdoor Edible Classroom.
Three Johnson County Master Gardener projects are highlighted on the tour: the gardens at Plum Grove on Carroll Street, the historic home of Iowa’s Territorial Governor Robert Lucas, Ecumenical Towers on Washington Street, and the Demonstration Garden at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.
Parsons invites guests to the Open Gardens Weekend Ice Cream Social that will be held at the Ashton House, 820 Park Road, after the tour on Sunday from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Project GREEN organizers and volunteers, known for inspired, resourceful approaches to green spaces, anticipate the event growing each year and featuring more gardens in other locations throughout Johnson County.
The all-citizen volunteer organization, Project GREEN (Growing to Reach Environment Excellence Now) was launched in 1968 as a byproduct of Citizens for a Better Iowa City. Some of Project GREEN’s projects can be seen along Iowa Avenue, Dubuque Street, Melrose Avenue and Highway 6. In Iowa City, the organization’s work was highlighted during the city’s urban renewal years with the creation of Blackhawk Mini-park and improvements in College Green Park. In recent years, the nonprofit has donated to Terry Trueblood Recreation Area and maintains the Project GREEN Gardens at the Ashton House.
Since Project GREEN was launched in 1968, the nonprofit has funded nearly $2.2 million in local beautification projects. The organization celebrated 50 years of service to the community in 2018. Organizers are planting 50 trees for its 50 years at Ashton House.