Monday, July 23, 2007

Gene Stratton-Porter State Historical Site & Gardens - Rome City, IN

Romie and I spent the weekend in Kendallville, Indiana, attending the annual Midwest GeoBash get-together of geocachers. It was great seeing old caching friends and meeting some that we'd previously only known online. We did some caching of course, and logged our 500th cache find (over three years) by the time the 'Bash was over.

As we were traveling up State Road 3 and I was looking at the map, I realized we were going to be very close to the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historical Site. There were two caches to be found there, but I was most excited about seeing Gene's gardens and possibly getting to see fellow garden blogger earth_girl again. She is overseeing the restoration of the gardens there and I met her back in February when Mom and I attended the Home & Garden Show in Ft. Wayne.

Saturday morning, I called the site and asked for Martha. She just happened to be there, which she told me she "never is," so our meeting was meant to be! A little while later, we were hugging each other in greeting, and taking a leisurely stroll through the gardens.

Living where I do, Gene Stratton Porter (1863-1924) is familiar to me, but in case you've never heard of her, she was a naturalist and recorded her observations in her writings and photographs. She was the author of twelve novels,
seven nature books, two books of poetry, several children's books and numerous magazine articles. Copies of her books have been sold more than any other American author's works. Eight of her novels were made into movies.

Gene's home near Rome City encompasses 125 acres, ten of which were originally owned by Gene and her husband. The property overlooks Sylvan Lake and is heavily wooded, with trails for exploring. The gardens are a beautiful sunny island in the middle of the Wildflower Woods, and showcases many of the natural treasures that Gene strove to preserve.

We walked through the long arbor, covered with kiwi vine and wisteria and in the shade of that arbor, you could look in any direction and see the various beds of native and 'tame' plants, many original to Gene's gardens. Below our feet was the original flagstone walkway paved with stones chosen by Gene herself.

At the entrance to the arbor, there is a stone in the shape of the state of Indiana. Martha shared details of the past work and future plans for restoration of the gardens.

We walked past the small garden pond which had oodles of green frogs sunning themselves among the lily pads, through the woods, down to Sylvan Lake.

We saw a beautiful view of the lake and Forget-Me-Nots were in bloom on one side of the path and Spotted Jewel Weed (orange) and Pale Jewel Weed (yellow) were blooming on the other.

Martha had a surprise for me. There was a tree that I'd noticed earlier, as it had unusual veining in the leaves and I commented on it. Martha told me it was a *somethingicantremembernow* and that it was one of the things they knew Gene had planted herself. Martha walked me over to the Garden Shed and showed me various pots filled with small plants that had been gleaned from the gardens. There were some saplings of *that tree* and she offered one to me. I chose the largest one, of course, since I'm not getting any younger and any tree I plant now needs as much of a head start as it can get.

I appreciated this gift more than Martha may know, although she's a gardener, so she might know after all. I love being able to go through my garden and see those special plantings that were gifts from friends or came from unique places. This tree would be both. In return, I will be putting together packets of seeds from my own garden plants to share with Martha for the gardens there.

Romie went golfing during the time I visited the gardens, and I knew he would love them, so we plan to return at a later date so he can see the beauty of this place. I wouldn't put it past him to ask if the cabin is for sale. He's always dreamed of living in a cabin in the woods by a lake and this would fit the bill quite nicely.

Gene and her daughter Jeannette are both buried here.

Red Spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis)

Tiger Lilies

Works by Gene Stratton-Porter

  • The Song of the Cardinal, 1903
  • Freckles, 1904
  • At the Foot of the Rainbow, 1907
  • A Girl of the Limberlost, 1909
  • The Harvester, 1911
  • Laddie, 1913
  • Michael O’Halloran, 1915
  • A Daughter of the Land, 1918
  • The Keeper of the Bees, 1921
  • Her Father’s Daughter, 1921
  • The White Flag, 1923
  • The Magic Garden, 1927

Nature Books

  • What I Have Done with Birds, 1907
  • Birds of the Bible, 1909
  • Music of the Wild, 1910
  • Moths of the Limberlost, 1912
  • Birds of the Limberlost, 1914
  • Homing with the Birds, 1919
  • Wings, 1923
  • Tales You Won’t Believe, 1925

Poetry and Essays

  • After the Flood, 1912
  • Morning Face, 1916
  • The Fire Bird, 1922
  • Jesus of the Emerald, 1923
  • Let Us Highly Resolve, 1927

Not listed on the Gene Stratton-Porter Historical Site website, is Strike at Shane's. According to Amazon:

A recently discovered work of Gene Stratton-Porter, this work was a prize winner in the American Humane Society's contest of 1893 and was published anonymously. It is the fictional story of the Shanes, a farm family of Indiana in the late 19th century.

Photo of Gene Stratton-Porter from NACS website

In addition to her blog, The Good Earth, Martha maintains a blog about the Gene Stratton-Porter gardens, called GSP Outdoors.

EDIT: I think the tree that Martha gave to me is a Cornelian Cherry Tree, which is in the Dogwood Family (Cornus sp.)

Martha has confirmed that the tree is indeed a Cornelian Cherry. So I'm not senile yet. Whew!

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