The Grounds

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Overview

The grounds of the Longnecker House consist of a roughly 80 x 400 ft corner lot extending from a standard street front to a perennial creek that forms the border of the back yard on the border of a city park, with an elevation change of about 20 feet from front to back.

Two established city bicycle routes pass by the property.

Front Yard

Original Form

The grassy boulevard is interrupted by several street signs, and a fire hydrant. There is a granite plaque in the sidewalk marking the house's place on the Architectural Tour route.

The front sidewalk is 5 feet wide and generally in good condition apart from two sections with severe pitting near the fire hydrant.

Lining the sidewalk are 4 evenly spaced medium-sized red cedars of similar age but not similar shape, having obviously been variously sculpted over the course of time. It is hard to see on the old overhead photos available at the Iowa Geographic Map Server, but it seems that 4 small trees are visible on the image from the 1930s, which would make the 4 cedars roughly 80 years old.

The sidewalk to the front door has a curved deflection revealing the past location of a very large tree just to the east, which is also revealed in the lean of the oaks that line the front drive. There is a depression in the yard to the west of the sidewalk closer to the house where there was, evidently, another large tree in the past.

The yard is lined by 3 burr oaks along the driveway to the east, and the neighbor's line of young spruce trees along the west. There is a cement base for a flag pole under one of the oaks.

Mature, slightly overgrown yews form a foundation planting at the base of the porch on either side of the cement front stairs (which replace original cracked stone steps visible in a c. 1908 photo) with wide, stone railing. On the west end of the yew plantings, the yew on the end has grown vertically higher than the front porch and has interesting, peeling red bark.

Changes so Far

Some over-shaded peonies have been transplanted around the flag pole base.

Large leaf hostas have been transplanted around the base of the tall yew at the west end of the porch. The foundation yews are being gradually trimmed back.

A forsythia, which suffers from deer, and a clump of transplanted lilacs now lie along the west side of the yard.

A cluster of 3 gingko sprouts was planted in the shadow of the lilacs, but the shade was not sufficient to protect two of them from the summer heat. And the last survivor may have been claimed by deer in the fall. Spring will tell.

Future Plans

Plant the "triangle" of boulevard at the corner of the intersection with annuals/perennials to match the plantings near the Frank Lloyd Wright house up the street and inside the park.

Plant a weigela in the curve of the sidewalk.

Consider a geometric Victorian flower bed in front of the porch to the west of the sidewalk.

A ramp from the front steps to the west side of the porch would be nice for disabled access.

West Side Yard

Original Form

The yard along the west side of the house drops about 8 feet mostly from the dining room bay back. Upper level foundation plantings consist of a mature mock orange (which is a little too close to the porch and the tall yew) and a mature Persian lilac. A large standard lilac was crowded between the mock orange and Persian lilac.

Wild cucumber vines and Virginia Creeper and a few wild grapes volunteer along the foundation as well.

The downslope along the house is planted with common day lilies which struggle to bloom and suffer from deer and wild cucumber overgrowth. A mature burr oak grows among the day lilies and leans over the house to a fair extent. There are some pagoda dogwood samplings struggling also.

Along the west property line is the neighbors mature crabapple, a young mulberry (which always has bland berries), and transplanted lilies of the valley along a low rock retaining wall on the neighbor's property which confines a planting bed of river stones, hostas and a large mature spruce. Farther back along the west property line is a cluster of three young white pines on the neighbor's side, and a young-ish black cherry tree. The mossy, grassy yard between the house plantings and the property line plantings curves down the slope in a way to suggest that it is flowing down the hill.

Changes so Far

The large standard lilac that was between the mock orange and Persian lilac has been split into three clumps and planted along the west property line. The second of the transplanted lilac clusters is now between the crabapple and the mulberry/spruce tree.

A cluster of 3 gingko sprouts was planted in the shadow of the lilacs, but it is unclear if they survived the final nibble of deer.

Some lilies of the valley and day lilies have been transplanted along the neighbor's stone retaining wall and down the slope to the black cherry to define the flowing path down the hill.

Future Plans

Shift the mock orange a little away from the porch and the tall yew

Rock garden with shade-loving woodland flowers and pond on the slope next to the house.

Improve the ground covers

Replace the tasteless mulberry with a Mountain ash (planted farther from the spruce)

Pulley bird feeder set up from the porch

East Side Yard

Original Form

The east side yard starts with the 5 foot-wide planting area between the front drive and the retaining wall along the street into the park. Currently, the strip contains the regrown hedge that the previous owners tried to remove c. 2015 and .

The hedge strip widens under the basketball hoop at the end of the driveway next to the front porch. This area was planted with day lilies and some over-shaded peonies that hasn't been transplanted to a more sunny spot yet.

On the east side of the house, the area between the side path and the house is thickly planted with lilies of the valley with a few jack-in-the-pulpits and a couple of volunteer gooseberries. Virginia Creeper climbs the sandstone foundation.

The area between the side path and the retaining wall was previously a giant wildflower patch with a large covered sandbox. The flowers include yucca, columbine, "bluebells", milkweed, chives, tulips, etc.

The north border has a clump of trailing junipers draped down the retaining wall.

Changes so Far

Some rescued hostas have been located along the driveway.

The area between the side path and the retaining wall is now a rectangular yard with a wildflower border (although some yuccas keep poking up through the grass).

A couple of Autumn Joy sedum have been added to the wildflower border.

Future Plans

Roses, lilies, columnar juniper, bridal wreath spirea - on top of the retaining wall

Transplant the remnant peony to a more visible spot

Plant some ornamental heirloom vegetables in the wildflower border, maybe some prickly pear cactus, hens & chicks.

Plant something along the base of the retaining wall - probably day lilies.

Need to do something with the corner of the back stairs/retaining wall - columnar juniper? rhododendron?

Upper Back Yard

Original Form

From the garage to to the park gate.

Changes so Far

Future Plans

Lower Back Yard

Original Form

From the park gate to the creek. Tends to flood a bit...

Changes so Far

Future Plans