CEDAR RAPIDS — Garden lovers can revel in two straight days of viewing spectacular landscapes in the Corridor. The Linn County Master Gardeners’ Garden Walk is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday followed by the Project GREEN Garden Tour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 24 in Iowa City. One “mature” garden, at 4680 Rapid Creek Rd. NE, Iowa City, will be featured on the Project GREEN tour, along with nine neighbors in a fairly new development on White Oak Place. A stop in downtown Iowa City rounds out the tour to see planters created and maintained by The Downtown District Plant Project, a public/private partnership in its fifth year. Iowa City crews plant the central business district in stunning annuals and Project GREEN volunteers plant perennial plants and flowers. Five diverse gardens will be showcased on the Master Gardeners’ Walk in the Cedar Rapids/Marion area, including the gardens of Lisa Slattery, 105 Indian Creek Lane SE. More than 300 varieties of plants in 11 garden beds, including 10 different clematis vines, grace Slattery’s nearly 1-acre yard in both sun and shade.
“Everything is early this year,” says Slattery earlier this month. “Some of the things blooming now won’t be blooming for the garden walk.” Daylillies should open in coming days, replacing the blossoms of exotic-looking Asiatic lilies that peaked in early June. Giant allium are allowed to stand even after blooming, providing structure in the beds. Slattery, a master gardener since 2007, says the lack of rain also has affected the gardens, but consistent watering is keeping the beds lush and green. “I’m amazed that things look as good as they do for how dry it’s been,” she says, noting that even her neighbors have helped with watering. Two truckloads of finely ground hardwood mulch spread throughout the beds helps retain moisture and keeps weeds at bay. Antique garden art, including a colorful vase and a mosaic planter that have been in the family for decades, add interest to the beds. Slattery and her husband, Tom, have two sons who help with gardening tasks. Tossing a Frisbee out of one of the beds, Slattery says the yard is both kid- and dog-friendly. “It’s probably the only garden on the garden walk with a trampoline in the middle of it,” she says with a laugh. A patio, surrounded by a semi-shaded perennial garden, is the family’s favorite place to watch birds. Slattery grows numerous tubular flowers to attract hummingbirds, including salvia, nicotiana and foxglove. Beets, peppers and other vegetables grow in raised beds and ornamental gourd vines climb old cattle panels in the backyard. Slattery likes the unusual, including electric blue sea holly and rattlesnake master that blooms white. Like many Iowa gardeners, she also battles moles — she had a trap out earlier this month — and deer. Eight deer use the yard as a deer crossing, she says, noting that she plants dill, Russian sage, lamb’s ear and other plants that deer bypass in the yard’s perimeter. “I would never put a hosta out there,” she says. “That’s like chocolate cake for deer.” - Cindy Hadish