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Iowa City Press-Citizen
Project GREEN makes neighborhoods bloom

With thoughts of frost far behind, new and returning gardeners are preparing to get back to nature and get their hands in the dirt.

Hundreds flocked to the 43rd annual Project GREEN fair Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to pick out the perfect plants for their gardens and support the beautification of Iowa City.

More than 200 volunteers worked at the event selling plants, transporting purchased items and giving advice on caring for everything from trees to shrubs to orchids.

“Our goal is to beautify the city, in this case through the neighborhoods because people are going to take these home and put them in their yards,” said Diane Allen, co-chairwoman of the Project GREEN steering committee. “It just improves the quality of life to have beautiful surroundings.”

In addition to decorating yards, funds earned through Project GREEN are funneled back into the community through various landscape projects aimed to make Iowa City beautiful, from decorating the city’s entrances to working with schools.

This year, the program pledged to donate $75,000 to fund the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area Capital Project, which is scheduled to be completed next year.

Ginalie Swaim, 61, who was pushing a cart full of assorted plants for her yard, has been coming to the Project GREEN fair for more than 20 years.

“The plants are incredibly healthy, they are very affordable and perhaps most important, Project GREEN does great things for the community, so I want to support it,” Swaim said.

Swaim said her yard changed from a shady yard to a sunny one after a tornado came though town so she had to make changes to what she normally plants.

“The people are particularly helpful; they tell you exactly what the plants need to be happy,” Swaim said.

Project GREEN invited the Eastern Iowa Orchid Society to the event for the first time this year. Although orchids were new to the event, only a handful of the original 80 orchids were left midway through the sale.

“They have a bad reputation, but they are not as hard to grow as many people think,” Eastern Iowa Orchid Society President Andy Coghill-Behrends said.

The society works to educate the public about orchids, conserves native Iowa species of orchid and competes in shows.

Reach Alesha L. Crews at acrews@press-citizen.com or 887-5414.