Monday, November 12, 2007
About our gardensMy wife Wilma and I are native-born Amana folks whose gardens have appeared in local and national publications, have been featured on the Internet, and are listed with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. We grow over 300 varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, and vegetables. Since 1986, we have maintained a seed bank that preserves vegetable varieties brought from Germany via Ebenezer, New York, to the Amanas in Iowa. I am also a historian, a musician, and an artist. My book on Amana is available to garden visitors, as are, on occasion, produce from Wilma’s organic vegetable garden, seeds from the seed bank, or plants from the flower gardens. Go to the Hammered Botanical Prints tab for a sampling of these unique prints.
Cottage–in–the-Meadow Gardens, located in South Amana, Iowa, is in the National Register of Historic Places, as is all property comprising the seven villages known as the Amana Colonies (//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amana_Colonies). The Garden's historic aspects, primarily its hardscape, are regulated by the Amana Colonies Land Use District Board, a zoning commission that seeks to preserve the historic character of the villages.
Our gardens include many historical features:
• Site of the first structure in South Amana, a log cabin purchased from the pioneer farmer, C. E. Whiting. The cabin was moved to this site on skids to house the Amana workers who began constructing the village in 1856.
• Brick residence, built in 1900, retains its original charm and is flanked by two restored woodsheds and a wash house that has been converted into a semi-greenhouse with minimal alteration of its architectural integrity.
• Trellising on the west and south sides of the residence, originally restricted to supporting grapevines. (See reference to utilitarian fruit trees below.)
• Rabatte on the north side of the residence. A Rabatte is a raised bed, approximately five to six feet wide, running along the foundation of many Amana residences. It was introduced into the Amana landscape by one of its residents, Joseph Prestele (1796-1867), former gardener for the family of King Ludwig of Bavaria. Mr. Prestele is known for his beautiful botanical lithographs. (See Van Ravenswaay, Charles, “Drawn from Nature: The Botanical Art of Joseph Prestele and His Sons,” Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C., 1984.)
• Restored daycare cottage for South Amana, dating from the old communal system and constructed in 1869.
• Seed bank of antique vegetable varieties brought to Iowa by Amana settlers (brochure available).
• Asparagus bed (bordering the vegetable garden) over 100 years old.
• Flower beds dating from the mid-to-late 1930s.
• Rock borders consisting of rocks from many different states collected on vacations between 1940 and 1975 by former resident, Mrs. Carrie Geiger Shoup (much to the consternation of her husband, Herman).
• Large arbor constructed in the Amana style, dating from the pre-1932 communal era.
• Vista of the Iowa River Valley that has remained essentially unchanged since the area was settled by the Amana Society in the 1850s.
• A working cistern that collects rainwater from the roofs of the residence and from the adjoining woodsheds and washhouse. It is used during the growing season to water a large array of potted plants situated throughout the gardens and in the wintertime to water a collection of tropicals within the residence.
Other historic plantings of interest:
• Vegetable garden approximately 100 years old. Organic and no-till techniques are practiced.
• Flanders Poppy (Papaver rhoeas; see photo on front of brochure), brought to the Colonies from fields in Flanders, Belgium, by a handful of young Amana men who had volunteered to fight in World War I (even though the Amana inspirationist religion embraced pacifism).
• Yellow species tulips (Tulipa sylvestris), brought to South Amana during the move from the Ebenezer community in New York by relatives of the William Zuber family.
• Tiger Lilies (Lilium tigrinum) that date to the early 1940s.
• A silvery lavender Lilac that dates to the mid-1950s.
• A Victorian sultana (Impatiens walleriana sultanii variegata), now quite rare, with variegated grey-green leaves and pink blossoms, 24-30” high and almost as wide.
• Old rose varieties, several of which stem from plantings in the 1930s and-40s, and one stemming from the old communal era.
• Fern beds that date to the early 1900s.
• Peony beds that date to the early 1950s.
• Fruit trees integrated into the landscaping, the remnants of an old Amana dictate that plantings must above all be utilitarian and not “frivolous.”
• A small orchard that includes a Mirabella Plum (practically unknown in this country), brought from Germany first to Ebenezer and then to Amana and propagated exclusively by grafting; and an apple tree, propagated by tissue culture from the last surviving--and now deceased--apple tree planted by Jonathan Chapman (Johnny Appleseed).
• An ivy bed, started in 1962 by Larry from a sprig in Wilma’s wedding bouquet.
• A pussy willow tree, started in 1984 by Larry from a willow branch in the funeral spray on his mother-in-law’s coffin.
• Small fish pond installed by Mr. Herman Shoup ca. 1935.
• Three fountains: One cascades water into the fish pond. Another consists of two old barrel halves, with water cascading from the top half into the bottom half. The third is composed of a terra cotta jar, from which water cascades into a series of small bowls and then into a large basin. This fountain is solar-powered.
• An old wash kettle, buried in the ground and filled with miniature cattails (Typha minima).
Many of the plantings are organized into garden rooms. Some mimic the angularity of the Amana architectural style, while others seek to soften it. The gardens contain over 300 varieties of plants, some gardenworthy newcomers to the horticultural scene among them. Visitors to the gardens frequently comment on their beauty and tranquility.
Main entrance to our flower gardens:
Monday, November 12, 2007
A section of our vegetable gardenSome of these plants are in our seed bank.
Monday, November 12, 2007
My favorite lilacThis lilac is about 50 years old. It has wonderfully twisted and gnarled branches. Its silvery-lilac blossoms cover the entire bush every spring, despite the fact that the old wood has never been removed.
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