"HIGHLIGHTS OF HISTORY" FOR GILFORD STEAMER’s May 20, 2004 ISSUE
FLOWERS ARE PART OF HISTORY
It’s springtime, and the lilacs are in bloom!
Over the years this has been a beckoning to the historically curious to tramp the fields, that not long before had been blanketed with winter’s snow, and to search for some cellar holes.
Usually the quest takes us off the beaten paths, to remote areas where the stout of heart had ventured, perhaps some 150 to 200 years ago, to clear the land and set down family roots. As time passed, the offspring moved on to greener fields or to the lure of city life.
The house, barn and out buildings may have succumbed to the passage of time, but the cellar hole remains with vintage lilacs still blooming next to where the door of the dwelling used to open to the comings and goings of now long-deceased occupants.
Drawn by an irresistible urge, we walk around the perimeter of the cellar hole, look for whatever may have survived -- shards of pottery, a rusty pail -- and try to imagine what life there must have been like. We come upon stone walls that not only indicate the land had been cleared to farm but also that this bounty was then arranged to keep cattle both in and out.
Also, we often come upon a grove of maples and a patch of land thick with lily plants -- like the lilac, purposefully cultivated many long years ago.
The wild asters and field daisies are but green shoots at this time of year but will burst forth with pleasurable colors and fragrances to be surpassed only by wild roses that now are but mounds of arching brambles that tear at our clothing if we heedlessly venture too near.
These remnants of abandoned farms are part of history, just as are the botanical remnants of our Victorian Age.
World wide travel during the 1800s exposed travelers to plants of different countries and continents. Of course, samples had to be brought back home, and this added to the varieties available and used especially in gardens in urban areas and in well-to-do households. The popularity of tulips was a financial bonanza for the Netherlands as these bulbs came to be part of so many gardens around the world.
Restoration of an historic building more often than not also extends to interest in the outside plantings that give the building an appropriate setting.
This was true with Gilford’s historic Rowe House, a c. 1838 Greek Revival Cape which Benjamin Rowe made of bricks fired on site. The Rowe House Committee not only attended to the details for the building’s interior and exterior restoration, but also worked with landscape architect Tim Jordan to plan for the details of a vintage garden -- a plan that still awaits implementation.
Throughout history many native species have come under threat of vanishing from existence. Some are classified as "rare" or "endangered" while others have already disappeared. This is true not only of fauna but also of flora.
It is understandable then that in 1900 the New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS) was formed. It is the nations s oldest institution dedicated to the conservation of wild plants. Its stated purpose is to promote the conservation of temperate North American flora through education, research, horticulture, habitat preservation, and advocacy."
The Society’s botanical garden, "Garden in the Woods", is located in Framingham, MA, where woodland trails meander over 45 acres, past vistas of wildflowers, ferns, shrubs, and trees. As an accredited museum devoted to the conservation of temperate North American flora, the Garden displays more than 1,600 varieties of plants, including over 200 rare and endangered species. Across the glacially-sculpted terrain of rolling hills, ponds, and streams, an abundance of wildflowers and other plants flourish in a series of specially designed gardens.
Thompson-Ames Historical Society has arranged a Saturday, May 22nd field trip to "Garden in the Woods". Although the field trip is limited to 15 participants, there are still a few openings at this time.
Plans for the day include car-pooling, leaving Gilford at 7:30 a.m., and taking along lunch and beverage in order to picnic on the premises.
Marge Muehlke, who is in charge of arrangements, suggests, "In addition to bringing your own lunch and beverage, come prepared for insects, sun, rain, hot/cold weather, and do wear appropriate shoes. Also, a fanny pack would leave both hands free for taking notes and photographing plants."
She added, "After the 10:00 a.m. guided tour, there will be time to do additional observing on our own, to visit the nursery and purchase seeds and plants, and to look at other educational information displayed in the education building."
Further information about the Society and its garden is available on the Society’s website www.newfs.org.
A $10 charge, payable in advance to Thompson-Ames Historical Society, is being assessed to reimburse the Society for the required deposit which it prepaid.
For further information or to preregister, please telephone ThompsonAmes Historical Society at 527-9009.