United States of America, Iowa, Linn, Cedar Rapids
Ortberg Gardens at Forest Hill (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
The Greek Revival house had an interesting history, having been cut in half and moved from its original location to this one and one-third acre hillside lot in 1929. The gardens, lawn and trees installed by previous owners had been neglected by the time the current owners took possession in 1997. Clearing the weeds from a semi-shaded circular bed uncovered the original hosta and peony garden planted by the Armstrong family circa 1930. The owners added limestone edging and a large iron urn as a focal point, along with spring blooming daffodils, trillium, bleeding heart, blue bells, pulmonaria, and allium, which are followed by astilbe, wild ginger, hydrangea, and turtlehead (chelone) in summer. Flower beds are more casually planted with heirloom varieties of hollyhock, foxglove, feverfew, peony, iris and sweet William, mostly in shades of pink, purple and white. A boxwood hedge planted years before provided seedlings for other hedges that complement the formal style of the house. Shaped boxwood, boxwood in containers and trimmed hedges or limestone walls define garden rooms.
The sunny backyard was redesigned in 2003, adding a limestone retaining wall to divide it into two levels with a fountain on the upper level. A small part of a glass conservatory that was about to be demolished was acquired and attached to the garage, and is used in spring for starting heirloom vegetables and flowers, then used for dining in summer when the trees have leafed out and shaded the room. Winding paths connect a formal herb garden with an antique finial as its focal point, three raised vegetable beds next to the house, the greenhouse, a rose arbor at the entrance to the backyard, and sun and shade perennial and biennial garden beds. Antique containers and ornaments as well as a bench found at a flea market that may have sat outside this house nearly a century ago relate the gardens to the late Victorian style of the house.
Persons associated with the garden include Samuel G. and Anna Cooper Armstrong (former owners, 1903-1929); Anna Cooper Armstrong (former owner, 1929-1948); Frank B. and Margaret Armstrong Race (former owners, 1948-1986); Walter J. and Maureen K. Hale (former owners, 1986-1993); Robert and Joni Hilton (former owners, 1993-1997); Charles A. Dieman (1873-1937) and Ferdinand C. Fiske (1856-1930) (architects, 1903); Theodore Stark & Sons (builder, 1903); E.W. LaPlant (house mover, 1929); Mondanero Concrete (landscaping, 2003); Larry Lorenz (construction, 2008); Chalupsky Nursery (landscaping, 2002, 2014); Mitch Odell (garden assistant, 2010-2012); Stanley Wrobel (construction and garden assistant, 2013-2015).
The folder includes worksheets and photocopies of articles and historic photographs.
This property is featured in "Caretakers of the Classics" by Nancy Anderson Hedberg, published in The Iowan, Spring 1989, pp. 25-27; "Farewell to a Dream Home" by Dave Morris, published in The Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 2, 1991; "Master Gardens" by Molly Rossiter, published in The Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 8, 2008; "A Living Canvas" by LuAnn Brandsen, published in Midwest Living, July/August 2015, pp. 58-63