IOWA CITY — It’s tea time any time in Iowa City these days.
Planters throughout the city feature a variety of tea-making plants including French thyme, lemon grass, passionflower, rosemary, chive, lavender, calamintha, Anisse hyssop, black-eyed Susan and St. John’s wort. The plants, which are free to be picked and used by passers-by, is a continuation of the city of Iowa City’s efforts last year to put edible plants such as cherry tomatoes and kale in the planters.
“People really responded well to them,” said Tyler Baird, assistant superintendent of parks, of last year’s planter offerings. “We wanted to continue with the edible theme again this year.”
Baird said several edible themes were kicked around before city staff decided to plant tea in the planters this year.
“I was probably drinking tea when I was thinking about it,” he said. “Tea is versatile. There are a lot of different plants.”
The planters serve a dual purpose, Baird said. First, anyone can harvest the plants and make themselves a cup of tea to enjoy. People who see and enjoy the planters also can learn about the sort of things they can grow in their own backyards. Before introducing the edible plants last year, Baird said the city planters featured unique plants such as eucalyptus.
“It’s always been a goal of ours to not only create something that’s visually appealing, but to create something that’s noticeable and gets a reaction from the public,” he said.
The edible plant idea had been bouncing around in the back of Baird’s mind since he started with the city about four years ago. He said he was inspired by the work of Backyard Abundance, a local educational nonprofit that has done projects throughout the community including community gardens and the Edible Classroom at the south side of the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center.
“It feels great when we can provide something for the citizens,” Baird said.
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Baird said the planters require only basic maintenance, including a little bit of weeding and watering that crew would have already been doing this summer. He credited the city workers who had the tea plants ready to debut over Mother’s Day and graduation weekend earlier this month and have since been maintaining the plants.
The planters are located throughout the city. Baird said there are six at City Hall, two at the Irving Weber statue downtown, six near a shelter in City Park, nine at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Center, two by the lower level entrance of the Robert A. Lee Creation Center and three on Market Street between Linn and Dubuque streets.
Baird said the city plans to continue with the edible planter theme next year. Ideas include herbs or a salsa garden theme, he said.
“We plan to change it around every year,” he said.
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