Monday, May 20, 2013

Here comes the bridalwreath

Spiraea, also called bridalwreath (actually Spiraea prunifolia --- I think), is a tool from the landscaping kit of our grandmothers that doesn't seem to get too much respect these days. But back in the day when nearly everyone in the Midwest had a front porch, there was a good chance this import from the Orient would border it, flank it, obscure it or in some other manner be located nearby.

That's still the case at the Stephens House, and with storms in the forecast I went out late Sunday afternoon to take a few pictures before the wind and heavy rain arrived. Isn't it beautiful?

The alternate name, bridalwreath, probably results from cascading branches that when in full bloom resemble the trailing parts of an elaborate bride's bouquet.

The somewhat unruly nature of the shrub probably is what makes it less popular these days. Although it does need to be trimmed judiciously after blooming, it is best left shaggy and really isn't designed to be clipped into a hedge shape --- that upsets the bloom pattern, the principal reason for planting spiraea in the first place. On the other hand, if allowed to go out of control to the point it starts to take over a building, spiraea generally will survive and bounce back from being cut to the ground.

The other staple of vintage landscaping at the Stephens House is a constantly expanding sea of old-fashioned ferns along the north side of the building. For some reason years ago the decision was made to plant some sort of new-fangled landscaping shrub among them. Maybe some day the newer shrubs, planted as part of a memorial I believe, will pass to their reward and can be replaced with the other staple ferns call for --- lilacs.


I was a tour guide in a previous incarnation, so the appearance of a vehicle with Utah license plates always brightens my day. This generally means I get to wax wise on the intricacies of the Mormon Trail across Lucas County --- and as is happening more often this days, direct or guide folks to the new memorial in the Chariton Cemetery for Elder Freeman Nickerson. If you follow this blog, you'll remember that we dedicated that monument last summer.

So shortly after the Utah-based vehicle pulled into the museum drive Friday and I had dazzled its occupants by telling them exactly what they were looking for without being asked, we were off to visit not only the monument but also the site of the (unmarked) Nickerson party graves in old Douglass Cemetery a mile east. The were headed for a Daughters of Union Veterans convention in Illinois, so didn't stay long, but it was fun anyway.

Here's something to keep in mind if you visit the monument. It bears a small metal plate into which is inscribed a "quick read" or "QR" code. If you have a smartphone and the right free ap, you can scan the code and download the story behind the monument. Of course I didn't have the camera along Friday, but here's what the code looks like.


Finally, if you're a follower of the adventures of Mary Ellen, you'll want to know that she arrived safely last night on the shores of beautiful Cass Lake after a nine-hour marathon through rain and wind and minor flooding. She'll probably be tuning up the motorboat today getting ready for the daily communte to Star Island where she'll be spending the summer (the last, she claims) as food services director at Camp Unistar.

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