Posts tagged historic

Taste of Heritage Gardens in Iowa City

         The Johnson County Master Gardeners will host their 14th annual Taste of the Heritage Gardens on Wednesday, July 22 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Plum Grove Historic Site, 1030 Carroll Street in Iowa City.

        For a suggested donation of $5, attendees will receive a taste of 19th recipes for soups, salads, vegetable dishes, breads, drinks and desserts prepared by the Master Gardeners. In addition, the audience will be entertained by the Senior Center Horn band, and there will be guided tours of the gardens and 1844 Lucas house.

         There will be a drawing for door prizes and recipe booklets will be available. Free parking is available on site.

         The proceeds from this event go to garden maintenance and Kirkwood scholarships. In case of bad weather, the event will be held at Building C at the Johnson County Fair Grounds. Further information is available at 351-4903.

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“Screaming for attention” Chinese chestnut

Chinese chestnut (photo, Brucemore)

Chinese chestnut (photo, Brucemore)

   Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, shares the following about an amazing tree on the Brucemore grounds:

     It’s time.  It’s blooming.  Brucemore’s Chinese chestnut is screaming for attention.  The first clue that the flowers on this magnificent specimen are present is the unmistakable aroma mingling through the landscape; earthy and spicy.  This perfume emanates from the chestnut’s canopy, which is covered in clusters of long chenille like tendrils resembling skinny hairy

Chinese chestnut in bloom (photo, Brucemore)

Chinese chestnut in bloom (photo, Brucemore)

fingers or spidery legs.  Approximately 50 foot tall and 50 foot wide, this low branching, wide spreading habitat makes it a great shade tree and, purportedly, an ideal climbing tree, though I do ask that you don’t climb our trees when visiting.

     The chestnut worth noting is standing among younger chestnut specimens. Due to this particular tree’s location in the area of the first orchard as well as its apparent age, estimated from the trunk diameter, height and spread of the tree, this is likely one of the oldest Chinese chestnuts in Iowa, if not the nation. Chinese chestnuts were introduced to the United States by seed in 1903. The original Douglas orchard, planted circa 1909, was in this location.  This was also the location of the Sinclair orchard, the estate’s first family.

    With consideration given to these facts and estimates by tree experts over the years, I feel confident about the age assumption and willingly share the information.  I encourage all to visit and view this majestic specimen, especially during the time of year when the Chinese chestnut drapes its branches in pungent, blooming finery.

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Inspiration from living landscape history

Clematis at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Brucemore photo)

Clematis at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Brucemore photo)

The following is from Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:

     I am in a constant state of wonder and awe at Brucemore; every direction I turn stimulates the senses. The birds’ twittering in the wisteria vine mingles with a slight scent of early blooming clematis growing along the grape arbor.  New growth is making its appearance throughout the gardens, as vividly illustrated by the lime-colored sprouts starkly contrasting against the dark green of existing foliage on the old Norway spruce.  Here on the Brucemore grounds, the new and old, past and present are demanding attention, clamoring to be experienced and shared.

     In an effort to appease my senses but also to share Brucemore’s role in American landscape history, I am leading a historic landscape tour. Wear walking shoes and bring a water bottle, this tour will cover a lot of ground and encourage discovery of this quiet, park-like space in the middle of Cedar Rapids.  Brucemore’s 100 years of Prairie landscape history, paired with the burgeoning spring plants, will make for an inspiring hike. Woven into the trek through the 26 acres of grounds will also be discussion of plants (mostly natives), theories of the original design, Brucemore family stories, and issues pertaining to current preservation and property use.

 Brucemore’s Historic Landscape Tour

Tuesday, May 26 & Thursday, May 28 at 6:00 p.m.  and Saturday, May 30 at 10:30 a.m. at Brucemore, 2160 Linden Drive SE.

Admission is $10 per person and $7 per Brucemore member. Please call (319) 362-7375 to register. See: www.brucemore.org

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Technically, it’s still winter

Several warm and sunny days this week might make us forget that winter is still with us, officially, at least, until Friday. Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, sent the following about this time of year:

Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  

 

 

 

   From the Brucemore Gardens

 

   The lengthening of the days and the warmer temperatures make me want to go outside and get back to gardening along with the rest of the grounds crew here at Brucemore. We have pruned all the deciduous trees and grape vines. The lawns and garden beds have been raked and the orchard will be pruned this week. While failing to pull the greenery used for holiday decorating out of a still frozen container, a somber realization dawned on me: it is still winter and there is a good month left before the real gardening can begin, and before we know it, the whole growing season will have passed by in a blur of continuous activity.

 

In my haste to hurry up and get busy, I realized that I had almost missed it again—the experience, the wondrous process of late winter merging into spring. With every rain drop and ray of sunshine, change is taking place. We all know this but rarely take the time to observe and enjoy. This year I vow to observe and enjoy with total presence, and I will stay conscious and aware during every season and transition of the year. Through Cindy’s blog, (thank you Cindy) I will share my experiences and offer tips and ideas for you to use in your own gardens.

 

I encourage you and yours to participate wholeheartedly also. Come visit the Brucemore gardens and grounds to experience the seasons this year. Our gates are open during regular business hours, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and often from dawn to dusk. Stroll the grounds, formal gardens, pond, timber, and orchard. Stop by the children’s garden to pick up a monthly activity sheet, which offers suggestions for additional nature study opportunities.

 

I would love to hear what you are doing also!  Please feel free to send me any suggestions, ideas, or tips from your own gardens and explorations.

 

Deb Engmark

Brucemore Head Gardener

2160 Linden Dr. SE

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403

deb@brucemore.org

www.brucemore.org

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Organic oasis in Cedar Rapids

   In November 2007, I wrote a Gazette article:   http://tinyurl.com/dl5seb  about Sheree’s Skin Care Studio, where owner Sheree Ramm had been operating in the Guaranty Bank Building in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Sheree Ramm inside new location of Sheree's Skin Care Studio

Sheree Ramm inside new location of Sheree's Skin Care Studio

   

 

 

The studio specializes in organic skin care products and treatments. Lotions, peels, makeup and other items are made with naturally grown organic fruits, herbs and vegetables and are safe for sensitive skin. Sheree notes that the products are gentler than artificial ingredients found in most  products in stores.  A great source for people who not only care about what they’re putting in their bodies, but on their bodies.

    But like most downtown businesses, even though her studio was on the fifth floor, Sheree was affected by last June’s devastating flood. The building remained closed while Sheree scrambled to find another place to open. She found temporary quarters in the historic Ausadie building, 845 First Ave. SE, and then this winter, moved to another historic building. This weekend, Sheree had an open house at her new site, the Calder House, at 1214 Second Ave. SE.

    Besides an enthusiasm for her organic products, Sheree has an appreciation for historic buildings and found the cottage house a perfect fit for her business.

 

Here is what she shares about the site:

Sheree's Skin Care Studio (at left)

Sheree's Skin Care Studio (at left)

     

 

   Built in 1868, the building is a 2-story gabled cottage house similar in scale and materials, built by the same builder, Charles Calder, as its twin at 1216 2nd Ave SE. The house has a stone foundation and brick walls. This rare brick building and its twin next door are both very well-preserved and are the oldest residences in the historical district. Both are among the oldest standing houses in Cedar Rapids. The integrity of the building is in excellent condition.

Charles Calder came to Cedar Rapids in 1851 with his family from central New York state. He made his fortune in real estate and land speculation and was termed, “among the heaviest property holders” in the city at the time of his death in 1890.

  Like many flood-affected business owners, Sheree could have moved out of town, but chose to stay in Cedar Rapids. As the city begins a “buy local” campaign, remember those who have been hit with the double whammy of the flood and economy.

 

Sheree’s Skin Care Studio is by appointment only. Hours: 10-5:30pm, Every other Sat 9-2pm
Closed Sundays and Mondays.  

 

Contact: Sheree, who is a Licensed Esthetician, at:  (319) 551-4876 or (319) 365-7000. More can be found on her Web site at:  www.shereeskincarestudio.com

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Ghost of Christmas Past

Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore mansion in Cedar Rapids, wrote the following about decorations of Christmases past:

 

The Christmas tree, the holly wreath, the sprig of mistletoe, and the Christmas bells were the four most “distinctive Christmas decorations” noted in a December 1907 issue of The Garden Magazine.  Stumbling upon this publication the day after the staff and volunteers completed holiday decorating at Brucemore allowed for some interesting comparisons between the times.

Balsam was recommended as the best variety of tree when decorating for Christmas and the best way to adorn it was not to overload it.  Pyramidal trees with short lustrous green needles striped with silver underneath were also popular in 1907 because they “give the impression of a recent light frost.” The month-long holiday season at Brucemore makes these natural, heavy-shedding, historic trees impractical for the mansion, and the temptation to over-adorn is irresistible in such a grand home.  I am not sure any of the staff has the ability to practice the “less is more theory” during the holiday season.

Holly was referred to as the most important decorative Christmas material, the most desirable was English holly with as many berries as possible. The most distinctive way of using holly was in the form of wreaths; the best wreaths were those faced with berries on both sides, “so that when they were hung in the window they would give pleasure to those passing by as well as the family indoors.”

As for the beloved holiday mistletoe tradition, in 1907 it was thought that “because it is not pretty in itself, one sprig of mistletoe is enough for most people.” This is a statement as true today as it was over 100 years ago.

The final “distinctive Christmas decoration” of 1907, the Christmas bells, are absent from the décor of 2008.  The traditional sleigh bells that we appreciate for their own magical sound were not the bells that the magazine referenced. In 1907, “Those big red bells of tissue paper that fold up like a stocking have now become almost a national institution.”  Who knew?

            Families in 1907 were concerned with their holiday budgets much like families in 2008.  According to the article, “The cheapest way to decorate is to collect native material, especially branches of evergreens.”  However, they urge the reader, “not to take any evergreens that do not belong to you without the owner’s approval. It is a gross violation of the Christmas spirit to cut down cultivated conifers on other people’s grounds.” 

            I encourage you to look to nature when decorating this holiday season.  Go forth and use your imagination and homegrown ornaments.  If you are questioned about your holiday aesthetic, cite deep American cultural traditions.  This method allows for creativity until the seed and plant catalogs start to arrive.  I too urge you to remember the Christmas spirit when collecting your greenery.

From the Big house at Brucemore may all comfort and cheer be yours this holiday season! 

 

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Poppy Quest

  

 

Kathryn Armstrong Johnston and her daughter, Helen.

Kathryn Armstrong Johnston and her daughter, Helen.

 

  Kathryn Armstrong Johnston lives in Hammond, Indiana, but a search for heirloom plants that her grandmother grew is centered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

   A story about Kathryn’s efforts ran in the Sunday, Aug. 10 edition of The Gazette.

   Her grandmother, Esther Armstrong, lived at Pleasant Hill in Cedar Rapids where she gardened most of her life. Kathryn is looking for anyone with offspring from the pink poppies that Esther grew. She kept seeds from the poppies in a jar and often gave them to friends.

  

   Some side notes not mentioned in the article: Kathryn’s  father’s mother, Lorine Johnston, also was a dedicated gardener in Coral Gables, Florida.  Her mother had a garden in South Carolina while they were growing up, and several of her siblings also were gardeners.  Her grandmother’s younger brother, Preston Davis, wrote a memoir about growing up in South Carolina at the turn of the century.  He self-published it for friends and family, and to his surprise, it was bought by prominent libraries and historical societies around the country, and went into a second printing.  Part of the reason is that he describes in detail the plants his mother grew on their property, which is very valuable for those maintaining historic homes and gardens.  Her Uncle Preston later lived in Virginia and was well known for his camellias.

 

   Part of Kathryn’s inspiration for her search was a friend from a very old New England family (descended from witches and judges at the Salem witchcraft trial) whose family has their own bean, which they use for Boston baked beans. She got to eat some Pottle beans when she visited at spring break.

 

   Kathryn’s husband took pictures of her and daughter at their home in late July.  The phlox were from her grandmother’s garden.

   “I do not have a model garden myself, but I can dream,” she notes.

   Their daughter, Helen, was named after her grandmother,  Esther Helen Armstrong.

 

   If anyone believes they have pink poppies descended from Esther’s at Pleasant Hill, send a note to me at: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com or add a comment to this blog and I’ll make sure Kathryn gets the message.

 

   An additional note: Kathryn found a photo of a pink poppy similar to her grandmother’s at: www.OneStopPoppyShoppe.com

Check out their Web site for an amazing array of beautiful poppies.

 

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