Gardens Through Iowa History

Writer: Veronica Lorson Fowler

Take an Iowa garden tour through time, stopping along the way at a modest 1873 vegetable plot outside a log cabin in Council Bluffs, the fanciful grounds surrounding the Hubinger Mansion in Keokuk in the 1890s, and a charming cottage garden in Mason City in 1931.

You’ll visit all of these and more in “Iowa Gardens of the Past: Lost and Historic Gardens of Iowa” ($35, Iowa Garden Press). Kalona resident Beth Cody has pulled together 250 historic images, woven together with informative and inspirational text, that show us how Iowa’s first rustic gardens bloomed into ambitious landscapes reflective of the development of the state.

The book is a charmer not just for the illustrations and photos of actual gardens, but also for the delightfully reproduced images of seed packets, retail plant lists, nursery and garden tool advertisements, botanical illustrations, newspaper clippings, and magazine and catalog covers that help you envision the gardens of each era.

Before Iowa was a state, newcomers planted gardens around their rough, freshly built homes. You’ll see in detail the resourcefulness of gardeners as they secured seeds and plants in a land new to them.

By the turn of the century, as Iowans had more wealth and free time, their landscapes evolved to more ambitious plantings that attracted visitors from miles around.

From the turn of the century until World War II, gardens expanded. Victory Gardens gave horticulture a new importance and urgency. Enthusiasm for home gardening also created horticulture empires like those founded by Earl May, George Wallace, and the Meredith family, founders of Better Homes and Gardens.

The book continues on to the prosperity and newfound leisure time of the 1950s onward through the 1980s, the final era covered in the book.

Find the title on Amazon.

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