Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Archive for February 2010

To Make A Prairie

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 To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do,

If bees are few.

by Emily Dickinson

Earlier this week I compiled a list of new plant material for our prairie garden in the northeast corner of the Children’s Garden and it made me anxious for spring!  Have you visited this lovely spot?  (Photo is from a popular liatris bloom in the prairie garden.) 

After a closer look, you will realize native plantings like this one hold so much beauty in their colors, texture, size and wildlife habitat.  I enjoy watching the plant colors span the color wheel as the season progresses, starting in the pastel pinks and purples in the spring and ending in fiery reds, browns and yellows in the fall.

We will talk about prairie basics in another post.  Today I wanted to mention one of the new plants I hope to introduce to the prairie garden.  Lupines are one of my favorite perennials, with their striking whorled spike flowers and delicate foliage (in many ways, similar to false indigo).  I hope to introduce wild lupine, Lupinus perennis, into our prairie garden.

A few things to know about lupines:

  • Lupines can be grown from seed but for best germination results, the seed must go through scarification.  This is just a fancy term for scratching the seed coat with a knife or piece of sandpaper.
  • Lupine plants will need a year to acclimate before they put on a real show.
  • It is best not to transplant lupines, as they have a long taproot.  They grow best in well drained soil.


Do you enjoy the look and feel of prairie plantings but don’t have the space in your home garden?  I encourage you to incorporate natives or similar plants into your flowerbeds.  For more ideas, check out this wonderful article from Fine Gardeninghttp://www.finegardening.com/27-perennials-with-long-lasting-appeal.aspx

See you in the gardens.


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

February 24, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Intern at The Arboretum!

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The Arboretum is now accepting applications for a 2010 Children’s Garden Intern.  This is a tremendous opportunity for someone interested in horticulture, botany, natural sciences and/or education.  He/She will gain valuable leadership and management experience … all while working in the beautiful outdoors all summer!

If you know someone who might be interested, please pass along the below information.  Applicants must turn in a cover letter, resume and 3 references by April 1, 2010.





The mission of the Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens is to enhance the quality of life for all individuals through horticulture.  We seek to enrich life by nourishing and sharing the beauty of the natural world, the joy of gardening, knowledge of plants and the diversity of our world.

Internship Format

The internship will run for 12 weeks with flexible beginning date mid May and ending date mid August.  The intern is required to work 40 hours per week, including some weekend and evening hours.  Compensation is $9.00 an hour.

The intern will work directly with the Director of Horticulture to explore daily duties and activities of a public garden setting.  He/She will also interact daily with Arboretum volunteers and the general public.

Children’s Garden Intern

The Children’s Garden was designed for playful and engaging education, meant to be more than just an active playground.  The garden supports field trips, Arboretum programs as well as stands alone for independent exploration.  The plant material, themes and wildlife should entice children of all ages as well as accompanying adults.  The garden currently includes a Railroad Garden, Dinosaur Dig, Prairie Garden, Compost and Soil Lab and Peek-a-boo Forest.

The main responsibilities of the Children’s Garden Intern will include:

  • Developing and maintaining an annual display to showcase fruits and vegetables of the Iowa garden with accompanying youth programs and educational interpretation that will rotate throughout the season.
  • Incorporating new plant material into the Prairie Garden, catalogue plant material and develop accompanying educational interpretation.


Who can apply?

The intern must be 18 years or older with a strong interest in horticulture, natural sciences, botany and/or education.  He/She must be able to perform physical labor outdoors in all weather conditions and posses a valid driver’s license.

Expectations and Qualifications

The intern is expected to participate fully in the daily operations and activities of the garden with maturity, curiosity and kindness towards all Arboretum visitors and volunteers.  He/She must be self motivated and willing to work as part of a team.


For more information, please contact Mollie Luze at director@cedarvalleyarboretum.org or (319)226-4966.


For more information about The Arboretum, please visit http://www.cedarvalleyarboretum.org.

The application deadline is April 1, 2010.  Please send a cover letter, resume and 3 references to Mollie Luze at director@cedarvalleyarboretum.org.  


See you in the gardens.



Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

February 16, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Going Green to Save Green: Let Mother Nature do the work.

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This article was printed in the Cedar Valley Business Monthly February edition — enjoy!


Reducing energy costs is on all our minds.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the typical family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills with a good chunk of that being on wasted energy.  However, as a nation we are beginning to catch on to the long-term benefits, especially to our wallets, of improving energy efficiency.  We see advertisements throughout the media for home do-it-yourself projects and for upgrading to more energy efficient appliances. 

But don’t forget about going green to save a bit of green – let Mother Nature help reduce your energy costs.

We cannot control the temperature drops in the winter or spikes in the summer, but we can help control the environment surrounding our home with landscaping. 

In its simplest form, landscaping is living insulation for our home.  In the winter, landscaping can help reduce the loss of heat from our home.  Likewise, in the summer months, it can reduce heat absorption into homes by blocking the sun’s penetration.  We can accomplish this by using woody and herbaceous plant material in our landscape in the form of shade, windbreaks and foundation plantings.

The benefit of using deciduous trees as shade trees is that their large canopies shade the roof of your home in the summer but then also drop leaves in the fall so that the sun can heat your home throughout the winter months.  To take best advantage of the shade, plant trees on a location of your property that will provide shade relief during the warmest time of the afternoon.

Beautiful examples of shade trees you can see first-hand at The Arboretum include maple, oak, buckeye, honeylocust and hickory.  With so many excellent varieties available, it is important to consider the space available.  In large expanses, a majestic oak would be just right while in a small backyard, such a large tree would look disproportionate. 

Also, planting quick growing trees is often not in your best interests.  Quick growing often equals weaker wood that is liable to break in wind or ice storms and is often more susceptible to disease and insects.  Examples of weak wooded trees in Iowa include silver maple and many varieties of birch.

Other benefits of planting shade trees in your property include reducing heat from surrounding paved areas, preventing soil erosion and improving air quality.  It truly is a win-win situation!

Instead of a fabricated fence, why not try a living windbreak instead?  Many large shrubs lend themselves quite nicely to windbreaks that provide privacy and a more natural backdrop to your property.  At The Arboretum we have used a large collection of arborvitaes to help protect our rose garden from the harsh elements.  You can also find a lilac hedge along our main road that is lush throughout the season and delivers an enticing sweet smell in early summer.

Foundation plantings are the shrubs, small ornamental trees and herbaceous plant material found directly around your home.  Fortunately, there is a greater variety of plant materials and design ideas available today than our overgrown, unruly evergreen foundation plantings of the past!  If you would like to see shrubs with a variety of texture, color, proportion and seasonal interest, I encourage you to visit the arrival gardens found just east of The Arboretum’s parking lot.

Want to try something a bit out of the ordinary and still provide some insulation for your home’s exterior?  Consider growing vines such as clematis, climbing rose or trumpet vine on a trellis.  Or consider growing espaliered fruit trees along your house.  Espalier (i-spal-yer) is the French pruning technique of training the trunk and branches of the fruit tree to grow in one plane.  To see espaliered fruit trees, visit the entrance of The Arboretum’s rose garden, where a variety of fruit trees have been trained to grow flat along the cedar fence.

Along with reduced energy bills, there are many other benefits of a planning your home landscaping with energy efficiency in mind.  Plantings can decrease noise pollution by muffling the sound.  They can also increase your property values.  Trees, shrubs and herbaceous material provide a wonderful natural habitat for wildlife and don’t forget the many health and well-being benefits you can receive by working outdoors.

For more gardening tips and hands-on ideas, please visit The Arboretum.  The Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens is dedicated to providing a beautiful green space and instilling a plant connection in our community that will fuel all of our futures. 

See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

February 15, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Purple Power

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I have purple on the brain this afternoon.  Since moving to the Cedar Valley in June 2008, I have learned to embrace UNI Panther athletics.  This was no overnight transformation as an Iowa State graduate and longtime fan!  But with the men’s basketball current winning streak, it’s fun to wear purple and gold.

A few of my favorite purple annual flowers are (from left to right) hollyhocks (Alcea), angelonia (Angelonia) and morning glories (Ipomoea).

But my all-time favorite purple flower is the perennial false indigo (Baptisia) with its beautiful structure and multiple season charm.  In the spring, bright green shoots pop up from the ground looking similar to asparagus.  The lupine-like flowers bloom late spring amongst delicate, light green foliage.  Once the flowers fade, they give away to dark brown seed pods that will stand on the plant through the rest of the season.

My favorite variety is Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke,’ a hybrid of Baptisia australis and Baptisia alba.  The foliage is more of a gray-green with almost charcoal stems.

False indigo can be difficult to establish because of its large taproot and will often take three years to fully acclimate.  But once established, it is very drought tolerant and can handle poor soils.  After blooming, plants may spread out and might benefit from staking.   False indigo can also be pruned to create more compact, full plants.

See you in the gardens.

Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

February 5, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized