Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Boardwalk

As part of making the site handicapped accessible, a boardwalk was installed along the lake, from the pudding stone spring on the east to the dock on the west. Several benches along the walk provide places to view Boy Scout Island, to watch the wrens, to read a book or to eat your lunch.

I'm working with the site naturalist to add native plants along the walk so visitors can see the wildflowers in Wildflower Woods up close. There is quite a fall display. Near the spring and the seep is a large stand of rather rare pink turtlehead or Chelone obliqua speciosa. Because these plants require consistent moist soil, the loss in the wild is due to wetland habitat destruction. I'm planning to dig a few starts from the edges and add more along the walk.

Gene had a special fondness for fringed gentians. Judith Long in her biography of Gene Stratton-Porter writes:
"During her plant hunting expeditions, Gene Stratton-Porter was always on the lookout for rarities. She was especially interested in finding a fringed gentian, a dainty violet-blue wildflower that blooms in late summer."

As part of a development-related rescue effort, four fringed gentian plants were donated this fall. They settled in happily next to the turtleheads even though they were in full bloom. I am pleased that they have set seed now.

Next to the fringed gentians and across the boardwalk is a large planting of first year Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), which I started from seed last spring. Next fall, I hope there are large stalks of bright red flowers. I received seven great blue lobelia plants (Lobelia siphilitica) last spring as part of the construction project and planted them next to the Cardinal flower. They bloomed and reseeded this fall.

There were already lots of other fall-blooming wildflowers along the boardwalk, such as Joe-Pye weed, jewel weed, milkweed, small shade goldenrod and asters. Here are some pictures I posted last spring of wildflowers in this area. We will continue to add native plants as we have them available and to remove non-native invasive plants such as lily of the valley and vinca.

Come enjoy the boardwalk. Bring your wildflower and bird guides, binoculars and lunch. Of course, if you want to volunteer in restoring this area of Wildflower Woods, just let me know!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dedication of Camp Big Island

Here's a nice article in the Sunday Journal Gazette about Camp Big Island or, as the locals call it, Boy Scout Island. It is directly across a small inlet from the site and can be seen from the window in the parlor, which Gene called her "million-dollar window" because of the view. You can see part of the site across the lake in the third picture of the chapel amphitheater. We are very pleased with the conservation of this unique natural place.

The staff at GSP has been hard at work following the mandate to "spruce up" the site in anticipation of the dedication of Camp Big Island this Wednesday, attended by several dignitaries including the Governor. It has been a challenge sprucing up 120 acres, the Cabin and Visitor Center, the one acre garden, and new construction sites with erosion fabric still in place, especially since there are only one full-time, 3 part-time, and 1 every-other-weekend employees. (A year ago there were 3 full-time and 6 part-time employees.) So I better head off to work to trim the shrubs and trees in the area of the dedication ceremony.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Late August Garden

I just gave two visitors from Wisconsin a tour of the Cabin and gardens, and they asked about this blog! I'm glad it inspired someone to visit, as they passed through this area on the way to the renowned genealogical library in Fort Wayne. Of course, they assumed nothing was in bloom because I haven't posted for a while (not really).

This garden totally amazes me sometimes. We have not had rain for weeks and it has been hot. Most gardens are bedraggled, but this garden still looks great. Pumping lake water through the irrigation system several times a week helps, but so does the use of Indiana native plants and heirloom annuals.

Last week we were visited by Kathi, marketing maven from our head office in Indianapolis. She posted several pictures and some information about Gene on her blog. Here's a sample.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Garden Tours during Chautauqua Days

Gene Stratton met Charles Porter on Sylvan Lake during a Chautauqua. Every summer we celebrate Gene's birthday during Chautauqua Days, as celebrated by the town of Rome City. This Saturday and Sunday afternoon, I will be in the garden to give informal tours and there will be free birthday cake in the Vistors Center. Cabin tours will be available for a nominal fee.

Last Friday, I took a picture of the east garden from the attic of the Cabin. I like the photo because you can see the layout of the garden. The unfinished area in the foreground is where we are preparing to plant a shrub hedge. Gene planted over 400 shrubs around her Tame Garden.

This picture is the west gardens. There are two symmetrical gardens on the west side. These photos don't do the garden justice, so come see the garden for yourself!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tragedy by the garden shed door

Under the eaves by the front door of the Garden Shed, I've been watching a robin build a messy nest.

Whoops! What happened? Was she a klutzy mom? Did a predator get into the nest? But then why wasn't the egg consumed? Someone suggested maybe a cowbird replaced one of her eggs. I'm going to have to keep watching.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wildflowers in Bed 1

Bed 1 in the formal garden (northeast corner) has a collection of wildflowers so visitors can examine them up close. This is a cutleaf toothwort. I resisted the urge to increase the saturation so the violet edges would pop, but this shows their delicate coloring. In the woods they appear to be white.

Another favorite spring flower is bloodroot. This patch is in the garden but they are scattered throughout the woods. The name comes from the red "dye" exuded by the roots.

Can you identify this plant? It's just starting to emerge.
Yes, it is a Jack-in-the-pulpit. I'll try to post picture when it blooms.

More wildflowers blooming

The trout lilies are one of my favorite spring flowers, yellow and dark red with their trout-like foliage. Gene called them adders tongue lilies. I'd rather have a trout than an adder under foot though.

And they carpet large areas of the forest each spring and then disappear.

Sometimes the trout lilies hang out with mayapples.

The previous post showed some wildflowers by the spring. Here's another picture from the same area...a large patch of skunk cabbage.

On the way to the spring is a Virginia bluebell just starting to bloom. There is also a large patch of these flowers on the east side of the entry drive.

What's Blooming Now

This is a woodland anemone, Anemonequinquefolia.
There is a large patch of the wood anemone on the east side of the cabin.

I had not seen marsh marigolds until I started working at the site.

Here is the reason they are called MARSH marigolds. The boardwalk was built over the winter and now it is easier to see the wildflowers growing in the seep near the spring.

The hepatica just started to bloom.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

43,560 and I need your help!

The formal garden at Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site is one acre. When someone today asked me how many square feet of garden I tended, I told them one acre, having never calculated the square feet. Well, it's 43,560 square feet. That's a lot of garden for one part-time seasonal employee, especially with this spring challenge. I am so grateful for all who volunteer.

We are having a garden work day on Saturday May 3 from 9 a.m. to noon. Lunch is provided, but you need to RSVP. Volunteers will also be given a tour of the Cabin if requested. So grab your gloves and your favorite hand tools and join us for a fun, productive day.

If you would like to help, but aren't up to the heavy labor part of gardening, we have seeds that need to be put in envelopes and labeled. If you would rather spend time in the woods than in the garden, there will be some grounds projects also.

And a lot of the spring ephemeral flowers will be in full bloom!!

Am I stopping just short of begging? Good.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Talk, talk and more talk

It is cold and snow is still on the ground, but I'm thinking spring. How about you?

If you want to jump start spring, why not come to the Allen County Home and Garden Show at the Memorial Coliseum this weekend? I'll be speaking on Thursday evening at 5:00; my talk is called "Gene Stratton-Porter: Environmental Lessons from the Past."

On March 17, I'll be talking to the Seniors at Huntertown United Methodist Church (in the Third Place) following lunch. Lunch is provided by the culinary arts class from Carroll High School and my son is one of the chefs. This talk is about restoration of the garden at Wildflower Woods.

My next scheduled talk about Gene Stratton-Porter is on May 17 at the Unitarian Church's Garden Party in Fort Wayne. I'll be one of two keynote speakers, talking about "Jewels from the Past: Gene-Stratton-Porter's Formal Garden."

Do you belong to an organization that needs a speaker? Call the historic site at 260-854-3790.