Oasis of the Gardens

FLower at Central Gardens of North Iowa
By: Jim Sholly – CLEAR Project

Central Gardens of North Iowa gives visitors a chance to experience a serene piece of nature by placing a bit of greenspace inside our concrete jungle. Beautiful gardens showcase flowers that have been cultivated from all across the nation into a collection of the most vibrant colors and designs. While all of these varieties have a time and a place, there is one garden that has a special place in my heart: the prairie wildflower garden. In the heart of Central Gardens lies a collection of wildflowers native to North Iowa. Vibrant yellows from the Golden Alexander to bright blues and purples found in the Spiderwort and Beardtongue help create a mishmash of colors in this wild looking area. While many folks find the chaos of a prairie patch out of place for such a controlled series of gardens, it serves a major role in the landscape that is often overlooked.

Native prairie flowers offer an important food source and migration rest stop to many pollinator species. Bees and butterflies feed primarily off of pollen and nectar, found in great abundance in the wildflower bed. This area of prairie is an oasis in the garden when it comes to our pollinators, as many of the cultivars that fill the plots across Central Gardens have been cultivated to not produce pollen or nectar as a means to tame and control how they are spread. The same genetics that were sought out to create such beautiful plants has taken away what our native insects need to survive.

In addition, several species of butterflies are extremely particular in which plants they use to lay eggs.  For instance, the beautiful Monarch Butterfly will only lay its eggs on a species of milkweed.  Once hatched, the caterpillars eat the leaves of the milkweed plant and retain the toxins in the leaves into their adult form, making them poisonous, or at least foul-tasting, to birds and other insectivores.  By providing the small area of wild prairie grasses and wildflowers, Central Gardens is working to save and promote the very pollinators that are a symbol to many as the mark of a great flower garden.

If you would like to find out more about how adding native prairie flowers to your own landscaping can add new colors to your flower bed, as well as help protect our lake and our pollinators, please check out www.clearproject.net.

Central Gardens Hires Groundskeeper

Sixteen-year-old Drake Tiedemann, a junior at Northwood-Kensett High School, has joined Central Gardens as a groundskeeper for the summer. Drake’s grandparents, Merlyn and Julie Tiedemann, brought Drake along with them to work in the gardens early this season and his enthusiasm and spirit was readily apparent. After just three visits, he was asked if he wanted to work here.

Drake works under the tutelage of his grandfather, Merle, a devoted groundskeeper himself, and together they tackle lengthy job lists nearly every day. When asked how he likes working with his grandpa, Drake eyes lit up above his face mask and he said, “oh, I love it! It’s the best!” Drake enjoys being outdoors and appreciates the beauty of the Gardens. He participates in wrestling and cross country during the school year. Welcome Drake! We’re glad you’re here!

Central Gardens Announces Successful Capital Campaign

The Central Gardens Board of Directors is pleased to announce the completion of a successful capital campaign that was launched in 2019 in anticipation of the Garden’s 20th anniversary in 2020.  Originally the campaign set a goal to raise $220,000 to fund twelve upgrades to the grounds, all slated for completion by the end of the 2020 season.

“The north Iowa community’s response has been overwhelming, and we are pleased to announce that the total amount raised was nearly $350,000,” indicated board treasurer Ann Grochala.  “What’s truly exciting is not only surpassing our goal as we did, but also being able to contribute half of all monies raised to our permanent endowment, as per board policy, ensuring Central Gardens’ existence in perpetuity.”

Work on many of the twelve projects has already been completed or is in process.  “We’ve already added a significant number of trees and shrubs to the 8th street side of the property, all designed to create a significant sound barrier between the Gardens and the street,” indicated Bob Rennebohm, Central Gardens board member and registered Landscape Architect who drew up plans pro bono for the Upgrade effort.  “The fountain at the main entrance has been remodeled, there are new welcome banners hanging from four lampposts on 8th street, the Ceremonial Lawn has had new irrigation and drainage systems installed, new finials have been mounted on the pillars at the south gate, and a new arch and a sliding gate feature at the south entrance will soon be added,” Rennebohm noted.

Other projects include the addition of a sign at the northwest corner of the property, new lighting at the south corner, on the Nature Education Pavilion and throughout the grounds, ground drainage corrections at the Mother Earth Workshop, development of a plant identification system, and enhancements to the water feature at the top of the stream adjacent to the Ceremonial Lawn.

Because the original goal was surpassed, other projects previously relegated to the wish list can now be completed.  Two of the major ones are relocating the mulch pit to the east side of the activity lawn and adding a new garden and seating area just south of the cutting garden.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a formal community celebration has been delayed until 2021 when all of the improvements will be on display.  A listing of all donors will appear in the Mirror-Reporter and the 2020 Central Gardens Annual Report.

The board wishes to thank honorary co-chairs Paul Barnds and Shawn Sabin, Gary and Diane Laabs, and Corine Hadley for their guidance, generosity, and fund-raising efforts.  Thanks also goes to John Severtson and Kirby Schmidt, community fund-raisers.

“This successful campaign will ensure that Central Gardens of North Iowa will continue to be a premier destination and community asset for the next twenty years,” commented board vice-president Becke Dorenbush.  “We are so grateful to all the businesses, individuals, foundations, trusts, and public entities that supported our efforts.  In spite of these uncertain times, north Iowans have recognized what an important role Central Gardens plays in providing a place of respite and beauty for so many.”

Volunteer Appreciation

Central Gardens truly reflects its many volunteers whose care and nurturance pour over the gardens each day. Over one hundred volunteers have given countless hours this season. Have you taken time to notice the small details? Leveling of hardscape, pruning, planting, deadheading, watering, mowing, garbage detail, cutting flowers, arranging flowers, closing and opening the gates each day, repairs, fixing fountains, digging plants for plant sale, fundraising for garden party, contacts to vendors, getting the mail and correspondence, guidance for HUGS team, painting donation box, marketing, organizational skills, leadership, social media and the list goes on and on. As a small token of appreciation, we hosted a a Volunteer Appreciation on Sunday September 13 honoring these individuals. We value the in-kind donors to our event- Michael’s Cookies, Lake Liquors Wine & Spirits and Cookies, etc.

Volunteers have these characteristics in common: they have a fearless approach, have infinite patience, they can think creatively, eager to take initiative, stay humble about their work, driven by passion and can work in teams. We are blessed to wonderful volunteers. They have been the backbone of Central Gardens for twenty years! If you’re interested in finding your spot to volunteer at Central Gardens, contact us today at info@centralgardensnorthiowa.com.