Recent Projects

Abundant Safari

Launched in 2012, Abundant Safari is is a self-guided adventure through environmentally abundant landscapes in Iowa City. Complete fun missions and win prizes by visiting all sites on the safari.

Start your adventure by visiting the Abundant Safari website.

The project was funded through grants from the Community Foundation of Johnson County.

Personalized Journal

Each site features a unique sign post where a rubbing can be made in your personal journal. Journals are available at several businesses in Iowa City or you can download and print a journal.

Abundant Safari Journal



Chauncey Swan Edible Landscaping

From start to finish, you can watch this edible landscape emerge during educational sessions at the Iowa City Farmers Market.

In cooperation with Iowa City Parks and Recreation, we are implementing edible landscaping in two beds at Chauncey Swan Park, home of the Iowa City Farmers Market.

Informational Publication

Landscape design and plant information: View the publication

Chauncey Swan Park Handout

  • Plant pictures
  • Information about each plant
  • Bed design
  • Benefits of edible landscaping
  • Basics of emulating ecosystems



Edible Shrubland

Berries and herbs are tucked between existing shrubs in a sunny area along Washington Street.

Edible Shrubland

Edible Forest Understory

Many edible plants can thrive deep within this shady area and along its sunny edges.
Edible Forest Understory


Chauncey Swan Park: 410 E. Washington Street, Iowa City (directions)

2012 Educational Session Schedule

Saturday, June 23 9 - 11 am Shady corner bed Starting a new garden bed
Wednesday, June 27 5 - 7 pm Sunny bed Planting blackberries and sunny-loving herbs
Saturday, June 30 9 - 11 am Shady corner bed Planting woodland edibles
Wednesday, July 11 5 - 7 pm Sunny bed Designing self-maintaining plant communities
Saturday, July 28 9 - 11 am Shady corner bed Making compost tea
Wednesday, August 1 5 - 7 pm Shady corner bed Inoculating the garden with edible mushrooms
Saturday, August 4 9 - 11 am Shady corner bed Plants for wildlife and habitat health
Saturday, August 11 9 - 11 am Sunny bed Sowing fall greens
Wednesday, August 15 5 - 7 pm Sunny bed Build a natural log bench


Thank You

We live in a wonderful community. Thank you:

  • Iowa City Parks and Recreation and the Farmers Market for understanding the value of edibles into our public landscape.
  • IVRC&D and the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs for their generous donation to purchase plants.
  • Iowa City Earl May, Iowa City Landscaping, and Wapsinonoc Gardens for their generous donation of plants.
  • Volunteers who have helped and will help implement the gardens.


Iowa City Parks and Recreation Iowa City Farmers MarketIowa Valley RCDIowa Department of Cultural AffairsIowa City LandscapingEarl May



Nature Explore Residential Playscapes

Child DesignBackyard Abundance is leading a national pilot study in partnership with Arbor Day Foundation, Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, and Abundant Playscapes to bring Nature Explore Classrooms to residential landscapes. Six residents in Iowa City, Coralville, and Ely were selected to participate in the study. The families represent a wide diversity of children’s ages, landscape sizes, neighborhood characteristics, and yard attributes.

The outcome of the year-long study will be educational workshops and materials targeting residential homeowners who want to increase the skills and wellness of their children and grandchildren.

Study Process

The study is composed to three phases that take place August 2011 through August 2012.

Family interview

Phase I: Design
In August and September 2011, each family was interviewed by a landscape architect (Tony Malkusak), ecological designer (Fred Meyer), and educator (Mary Crooks) to understand their goals and vision for their playscape. Infrastructure and planting plans were created to meet the diverse desires of the family.

Phase II: Implementation
Implementation of the playscape infrastructure will take place in October and November 2011. Abundant Playscapes is providing material lists and coordinating the activities. Construction will be completed in fun-filled weekend sessions with the help of friends, family, and community members interested in supporting and learning about the effort.

The majority of the plantings will take place in March and April 2012. Backyard Abundance will provide plants lists and coordinate the planting sessions.

Family InterviewPhase III: Observation
Observation of the families and children takes place throughout the study and forms the foundation of the qualitative research.

At the beginning of the study, each family was asked a series of questions to assess their desires and level of understanding of these playscapes. They will be asked the same questions at the end of the study to gauge shifts in their vision and understanding.

Formal observations of children playing in the playscape will be documented by trained observers. The skills children are learning and their relationship with the space will be thoroughly documented. Positive and negative aspects of the designs will be recorded as input into the educational materials.

Family interviewMeet the Families

The story of each family, along with pictures and their landscape design, can be found in the Backyard Chats blog: View the blog.

About Nature Explore

Nature Explore is an innovative collaboration between Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation to create dynamic, nature-based play and learning spaces where children of all ages thrive. Research-based and field-tested principles provide a foundation for the design of these beautiful environments.

Family InterviewNature Explore playscapes are being built across the country in response to the growing disconnect between children and nature. They include interactive elements such as musical instruments made of natural materials, climbing structures, wooden blocks, small waterways, garden areas, and natural materials for building and creating art. These beautiful environments are typically created at schools and childcare centers. Backyard Abundance is helping bring them to residential landscapes.

Learn more about how these landscapes increase the skills and wellness of children:
Go to Children's Resources

Sponsors and Partners

Thank you to our sponsors and partners for contributing to the success of this project.


 Nature ExploreAbundant PlayscapesForever GreenNew Pi