CEDAR RAPIDS — Tommy the cat — his full name is Tom Selleck, but he mostly answers to Tommy — posed on a garden bench at Teresa and Randy Dusil’s garden on the outskirts of Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha on Wednesday.
If he acted like he owned the garden, that’s because, in a way, he does. The Dusils have multiple themed garden beds spread across their one acre property, and the bench Tommy favored is in the middle of the cat garden.
The Dusils’ garden is one of six stops on the Master Gardeners of Linn County Garden Walk happening July 13.
Visitors can stop at each of the participating gardens anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to see a range of gardening styles and learn about the plants and methods used in each. Gardens include the Nilsson garden, which uses terraces to garden a sloped yard, the Pearson garden, with a water feature and bird sanctuary, the Pohl garden, with a vegetable-focused urban farm, and more.
The garden walk, which in the past cost money to attend, will be free this year, as a way to give back to the community, organizers said. The Master Gardeners, administered through the Iowa State University Extension, is a trained volunteer program dedicated to sharing gardening education with the public.
The Dusils both became Master Gardeners about 10 years ago, after their son left for college. Teresa is director of operations at Meth-Wick Community, and Randy is retired from a career in construction management.
“I’m just interested in plants, and I love being outside,” Teresa said.
When she signed up for Master Gardener classes, Randy decided to join her.
“I looked at it as a lifetime learning opportunity,” he said. “You’re always learning something new.”
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Their gardening efforts have been a part of that lifelong learning ethos. When they moved into their house in 1996, it was on a field off a gravel road in rural Linn County. The road is paved now, and more houses have filled in around them. The property has filled in, too. Trees they planted 20 years ago as saplings now tower over their house, providing shades for beds of hostas.
The hostas came from their previous home. They transplanted about a dozen with them, one each of different varieties, and they’ve been dividing them since then, so now ample beds are spread around the house.
Other plants also have been split and propagated over the years, such as a bed of coral bells with soft pink leaves in front of the house.
Throughout their garden beds, annuals such as petunias intermingle with perennials like spirea, lilies and yellow flowering loosestrife. Multiple varieties of hydrangeas grow around the house, and along one side of the yard a trellis supports climbing purple clematis blooms.
Two beds support swaying common milkweed. The Dusils said they haven’t seen caterpillars on them this year, but as they were showing the bed a monarch fluttered up on cue to alight on a nearby flowering bush.
Each bed has a theme. Along with the cat garden bed — which includes a headstone for a late cat, Rudi, who died in 2017 — there are garden beds dedicated to other former pets and to hobbies like golf, with one bed featuring a golf bag filled with potted plants and golf shoes planted with succulents.
Garden art is prolific around the yard; many of the themed beds started with a piece of garden art and grew from there, Teresa said.
“Almost everything is something someone gave me,” she said.
The couple are Chicago Cubs fans, so one bed is dedicated to the team, with all red, white and blue flowers. Randy is an Iowa State fan, so another bed is complete with all Cyclone red and yellow blown glass art and red and yellow flowers. Teresa was quick to point out a “House Divided” sign in another bed — she supports the Hawkeyes.
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One of Randy’s favorite areas is the vegetable garden, where he grows a bounty of vegetables, from sweet corn to tomatoes, peppers, herbs and other produce. Tommy the cat helps keep the rabbits at bay, though he wears a bell, Teresa said, to give birds a chance.
The bed includes straw bale gardening supporting cucumbers, as well as a pumpkin patch he planted with his grandson. Each fall, they have enough pumpkins so all the children in the family can carve one. The seeds they scoop out are saved and refrigerated to replant the next spring. “It’s satisfying to see the blooms, and when it’s harvest time, it’s satisfying to get the rewards,” Randy said. “We usually have enough to pass on to others.”
The yard is designed for entertaining, with a fire pit Teresa built on one end and a children’s play set on another, where a host of grandchildren and nieces and nephews regularly congregate.
The play set is functional, but still has a touch of garden whimsy; on one railing hangs a planted garden box. It came from her parent’s house, Teresa said.
“My dad probably built those before I was born. Now they have a place,” she said.
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If you go
• What: Linn County Master Gardeners Garden Walk
• When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 13
• Cost: Free
• Details: (319) 447-0647, extension.iastate.edu/linn/news/2019-garden-walk
• Dusil garden: 2812 Chester Ct., Cedar Rapids
• Nilsson garden: 3601 Terrace Hill Dr. NE, Cedar Rapids
• Pearson garden: 5420 Plainview Dr. NW, Cedar Rapids
• Chadima garden: 1816 Washington Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
• Hansen garden: 401 Cottage Grove Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
• Pohl garden: 1101 25th St. SE, Cedar Rapids
Other upcoming garden tours
• Tour an elegant urban garden: 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, 2040 Rochester Ct., Iowa City, free, details at backyardabundance.org/tour.
• Project GREEN open gardens weekend: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 13 and 14, free, maps with more than 30 participating gardens available at sponsor businesses and the Ned Ashton House, 820 Park Rd., Iowa City; details at projectgreen.org.