Saturday, November 29, 2014

Postcards From the Past

Last week, I wrote about collections for my garden column that I write each week for our local newspaper, the Paulding Progress. Gardeners collect plants, certain genera of plants, garden tools (such as hoes), and old garden books. I do the former and the latter, but I used to collect something else.

Long before I ever knew or even thought about becoming a gardener, way back in the sixth grade, I collected postcards. Cheryl, my best friend at the time, and her family were antique buffs and I often went with them on their journeys to local antique dealers to look for treasures. I often came home with odds and ends of things, but always more postcards to add to my collection.

I still have that collection, kept in a shoebox and stored in a closet, but now and then I get it out and look through it for a certain postcard that pops into my memory for some reason or another. A couple of weeks ago, as we were cleaning out the attic over the garage, another box was found - a box of old family photos and memorabilia from my mom's side of the family.

Found amid the pieces was this postcard, addressed to my great-grandma. A friend of hers had sent  greetings from Belle Isle in Detroit, depicting the Horticultural Building. The postmark was dated August 31, 1920. My great-grandma would have been 28 years old at the time.

I knew Great-grandma Gertie, and so did my girls, though I doubt they remember much about her. She died in 1988 a little over a month away from her 96th birthday.

World Cup of Gardening

Though I don't live that far from Detroit (2½ hours), I've never been to Belle Isle, and I'm not familiar with it, but finding the postcard piqued my interest. Next summer, I hope to attend the first World Cup of Gardening event to be held on none other than Belle Isle, located in the Detroit River.

This premier gardening show, running from June 16-21, 2015, is expected to be world-class, showcasing ten 1000-square-foot gardens designed and built by internationally acclaimed landscape artists from around the world. There will be educational opportunities, vendors, entertainment and diverse food offerings.

More information about the show can be found on the official website as well as in this brochure.

Belle Isle National Park

The 982-acre park, which is the largest island park in the U.S. and on the National Register of Historic Places (so designated in 1974), was designed in 1883 by the famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.

Photo by Elizabeth McMillan/Wikipedia CC

The Horticultural Building, also called the Conservatory, was begun in 1902 and completed in 1904, when it opened to the public. Originally a wooden structure, the frame was rebuilt with steel and aluminum in 1949.

In 1953, it was renamed the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, after Ms. Whitcomb donated her collection of 600 orchids. It is the oldest continually operating conservatory in the U.S. and is open to the public at no charge.

A bit of a mystery though, is the Lily Pond. Online sources tell me that it was not a part of the original design and that it wasn't constructed until 1936. This postcard, clearly postmarked 1920 would suggest that "a" lily pond existed long before that.



RobinL said...

I lived in the Detroit area for 25 years, and still have family there, most especially my children and grandchildren. So I sure hope to make it to the World Cup of Gardening, if my lousy knee allows! Should be a good time.

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