Through careful planning, Iowa City woman’s garden blooms from early spring to late fall

By Dorothy de Souza Guedes, correspondent

A  towering hydrangea nearly a dozen years old stands tall at the corner of Janis and Rip Russell’s front porch; lime green spring blooms turned a warm, rosy mauve late in summer.

It is surprisingly quiet for a home near the residential heart of Iowa City except for occasional shrieks and chatter from Dickens, a large cockatoo. He’s holding court inside the house, waiting for Janis — she’s his person — to take him upstairs for the evening.

Dozens of identical, side-by-side perennial grass plants soften the chain-link fence along the Russells’ driveway. It’s a short walk around back to the patio that opens up to the surprise of a glorious urban oasis.

The back garden is brilliant with color in early September, even though Janis doesn’t plant anything special for fall. Three- and 4-foot annuals such as sturdy zinnias, plumes of celosia and climbing petunia complement perennial globes of gomphrena and spikes of salvia and veronica that bloom well into fall.

Janis plans for constantly blooming beauty and cut bouquets rather than food.

“It’s kind of like being a conductor of an orchestra,” she said.

The music begins as tulips, daffodils and grape hyacinth poke through sun-warmed soil and happily announce that spring has arrived. Those early blooms quietly give way to bushy, fragrant peonies. Then the first of the 40 varieties of climbing clematis vines — the clay soil is perfect for clematis — begin to flower, late-blooming daffodils, too.

The first flush of roses burst into color and fragrance as peonies begin to fade and other varieties of clematis climb high, then bloom. Soon the glorious scent of Asiatic lilies wafts through the garden, the flowers lasting for two weeks on their sturdy stalks even when cut for bouquets.

A chorus of 200 daylilies begins as roses continue to bloom in the background. As those flowers fade, annuals strategically placed to cover flowerless foliage grow to their full height and burst into color that lasts for months.


The seasons-long color begins with weeks of fall planning, wildly scribbled notes filling page after page in Janis’ garden notebook.

Planning a Garden

Throughout the spring and summer, Janis had noted what bloomed when and how well the plants grew and bloomed.

“I want to remember all of this come next spring. That’s why I write it down,” Russell said.

She looks at the colors and decides what she wants to change for the following year. For example, her tentative plan for 2021 includes less yellow near the patio due to “overachieving” plants. She hasn’t decided what to plant in their place.

She’ll probably rearrange the zinnia area behind the garage and find a new orange seed. She bought zinnia seeds from a new company, and the color, although pretty, wasn’t true to the label.

“When I plan any colors, I want my color there,” she said.

Sometimes, she’ll cut a bouquet and walk around the yard, eyeballing it, deciding

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White House says Iowa should close bars in 61 counties to fight coronavirus


Gov. Reynolds’ ‘Step up, mask up’ approach encourages Iowans to continue proper social distancing and wearing of masks.

Des Moines Register

Federal experts told Iowa officials this week that although the state’s coronavirus pandemic has stabilized to a degree, Iowa continues to have one of the worst outbreaks in the country.

The White House coronavirus task force sent a report Sunday saying Iowa had the third-highest rate of new cases in the country over the previous week. That ranking was a dip from a week earlier, when Iowa had the nation’s steepest rate of new coronavirus cases.

The White House experts have been sending weekly reports to state officials, advising them on how to curb their coronavirus outbreaks. The Iowa Department of Public Health released its copy of the Sept. 6 report to the Des Moines Register on Wednesday.

The latest report says Iowa saw 189 new confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the previous week. That rate was down from 232 per 100,000 the week before, but it remained more than double the national average. 

The White House experts recommended requiring Iowans to wear masks in cities and counties where students or teachers in kindergarten through high school have been infected. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has rebuffed such recommendations, saying that although she recommends Iowans wear masks in public places, she thinks mandates are unenforceable.

The report also says “bars must be closed” in 61 counties. 

The new federal report says testing shows 32 Iowa counties and 12 metro areas were considered “red zones,” up from 28 counties and 10 metro areas the week before. A red zone is defined as having more than 100 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents and seeing more than 10% positive results among people being tested for the virus.

Twenty-nine Iowa counties and nine metro areas are listed as “yellow zones,” according to the report, meaning they had between 10 and 100 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population and saw 5% to 10% positive results among people being tested for the virus.

More than 95% of Iowa hospitals had daily reports of confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients last week, the report shows. 

Reynolds last month ordered bars closed in six Iowa counties, but she allowed restaurants to stay open. A Des Moines Register spot check found that despite Reynolds’ order, numerous Des Moines restaurants were allowing customers to sit and drink without ordering food, and some bars were remaining open by offering food but not requiring customers to buy it.

The new White House report says Iowa should reduce restaurant capacity to 25% of normal in red zones and to 50% capacity in yellow zones. The report also says the state should use rapid testing equipment to monitor infections among teachers, nursing-home staff members and emergency first responders.

Tony Leys covers health care for the Register. Reach him at [email protected] or 515-284-8449. 

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Joe Biden best choice for Iowa workers who want a fair shot

Bill Gerhard, Iowa View contributor
Published 6:00 a.m. CT Sept. 7, 2020


Joe Biden speaks at the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO’s annual convention on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 at Prairie Meadows Hotel in Altoona.

The Des Moines Register

I will admit to being dismayed by the efforts of the Reynolds administration here in Iowa and the Trump administration nationally to weaken essential protections for our workers.

Since it became a federal holiday 126 years ago, Labor Day has been an opportunity for Americans to recognize the men and women who keep our nation moving forward and those that fought to ensure our workplaces are safe.

Labor Day 2020 holds a special significance this year as the health pandemic continues to rage and impact communities across Iowa. As most Americans were setting up home offices and quarantining earlier this year, workers at our meat processing facilities continued to show up to work week after week in often-unsafe situations so that their neighbors would still have access to beef, pork and chicken. Today, as COVID-19 cases spike in Iowa, teachers are returning to their classrooms in what can best be described as uncertain conditions. Even setting aside the health pandemic, we have seen thousands of line workers across Iowa work around the clock in recent weeks to restore power and clean up our communities following the derecho storm that devastated the state in August.

These individuals and many others are the front-line workers we celebrate on Labor Day and, frankly, those we should celebrate year-round.  

I have been a member of the Laborers and the Building and Construction Trades Council since the 1970s. Throughout that time, I’ve been proud to stand with men and women across the state from both political parties to increase compensation for our workers, improve the safety of our workplaces, and give working families a voice when it comes to the terms of their employment. Although we have made real progress on this front, I will admit to being dismayed by the efforts of the Reynolds administration here in Iowa and the Trump administration nationally to weaken essential protections for our workers.

ANOTHER VIEW: Iowa right to work law is cause for celebration

In Washington, Donald Trump has dramatically scaled back the number of health and safety inspectors who help ensure Americans are protected in their workplaces, reduced overtime opportunities that tens of thousands of workers rely upon, and consistently sought to eliminate health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Here in Iowa, Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds decided to scrap a collective bargaining system that had worked for employers and workers alike for more than 40 years. Under their law, most public sector unions are no longer able to negotiate with employers over critical benefits such as health insurance, leave and vacation time, overtime compensation, health and safety issues, and more. If that wasn’t enough, they also passed a workers compensation bill that substantially reduces benefits for injured workers. That includes shoulder injuries that workers

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