Courtin’ in the Courtyard

June 8, 2012 § 2 Comments

Leigh Gross Day, a professional photographer and one of Susan’s closest friends, created this composite picture of a lovely young woman being wooed over tea by a dapper gentleman in the courtyard of the Lawrence House. The image comes from a book of photos and poems by Mrs. Day entitled Borderland and the Blue Beyond published in 1908. The photo not only gives us a look at the styles of the day, but we can get a glimpse of the multiple plants that adorned the yard at that time. A team of volunteers is attempting to bring back to the Dana-Thomas House the natural beauty that surrounds the couple.

Under the leadership of Susan Helm, 12 to 15 University of Illinois Extension Service Sangamon-Menard Master Gardeners have been researching, planting, and maintaining the long neglected vegetation in the yard this spring. They have planted a butterfly garden, an herb garden (near the kitchen door, of course), and two new trees–a weeping Japanese maple and a sumac tree. As a result of the team’s research into what plants and flowers were grown in gardens 100 years ago, visitors now see hosta, ferns, estilbe, lilies of the valley, and forget-me-nots in various beds around the property. Small plaques identifying plants and trees will be placed throughout the yard.

To achieve this, the Master Gardeners have partnered with multiple individuals and organizations. The Dana-Thomas House Foundation is the primary financial supporter of the project. The staff at the Jens Jensen designed Lincoln Memorial Garden provided plants and technical assistance for the butterfly garden. Guy Sternberg from Starhill Forest Arboretum aided in the selection of the trees.

Gardens are always a work in progress, and this project is no exception. The team plans to improve the soil in the beds and to continue the weeding and maintenance tasks. Future projects include yet another partnership. The Land of Lincoln Water Gardening Society has agreed to fund the repair of the cracks in the reflecting pool and the purchase of heirloom water lilies. The Master Gardener team also envisions re-planting the perimeter beds with flowers and greenery similar to those in the Leigh Gross Day photos. When the replication is complete, the courtyard will be the perfect setting for a 2012 romantic encounter. Tea and rabbit are optional.

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§ 2 Responses to Courtin’ in the Courtyard

  • Richard Herndon says:

    Roberta, did you notice that the third (right side) panel in the triptych of photos is actually a drawing and not a photograph?

    • susanandme says:

      Yes I did. You’ll notice I use the words composite and images in the post. This was her way of achieving what we can now do with wide angle lenses although this is not a realistic picture of the courtyard. The other thing I found interesting was that both Leah and Susan hand colored their photos. The Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library has some of Leah’s books (with some photos by Susan). They are fascinating!

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