BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – A cooler, breezier Sunday afternoon turned into the perfect setting for a tour around area homes where art and gardening came together.
The Fort Madison Area Artists Association’s annual Garden Tour was held Sunday afternoon at six different locations in Lee County. Three of the venues were homes in Fort Madison and three others were out in the county on Green Bay Road and on 175th Street.
Vic Pierrot and his wife Rose put on a summer display of quilts, some of which were created by Rose herself, as part of the tour on Green Bay Road. In addition to some fully bloomed landscaping on the homestead, the Peirrots also showcased a functional shed adorned with vintage and modern tools and one playhouse fit for a houseful of kids.
“My mother and great-grandma, that’s where the quilts have come from. Some have come from auction, but two I made. The gal that did the embroidery on one is here. Each one is individual and has its own story, I guess,” Rose Pierrot said.
She said they had been asked for the past couple years to be part of the Garden Tour and finally were able to host the event, after conflicts got in the way in the past.
Peirrot has lived in the house since 2001 in a previous marriage, and the past three and half years after marrying Rose after both of their spouses had died in the same week.
Vic said the homestead has been in the family since his grandfather, who was born on a farm in Hamilton, came over to Green Bay looking for work in the 1920s. He found work on a farm and ended up marrying the farmer’s daughter. His grandfather raised his family in a home he built on the current property. Vic’s father then built a new home on the property and took the original home down.
When Peirrot’s father died, they tried to sell the home before Vic decided to purchase the home himself. After an electrical fire heavily damaged the home, everything but the studs had to be rebuilt.
Three generations of quilts with a variety of themes from farming to patriotic dotted the Peirrots’ property as visitors meandered about, getting a feel for the art and the landscaping.
At the home of Wayne and Mary Starnes in the 1400 block of Avenue F in Fort Madison visitors were able to tour the Starnes’ backyard which has landscaping and shrubbery surrounding three sides of the lot with a garage on the fourth adorned in vibrant summer colors as well.
Glassblower Jim Topic was on hand hanging globes he had created himself in his workshop gallery and studio in Nauvoo. He also showcases some interesting globes that resemble flames on candles. He said at some point he’d like to offer them wired up to solar squares to make them look like real flames.
Topic said he enjoyed being part of the tours.
“I like to incorporate the glass in the garden. I like the glass in nature because the light changes. You look at some of the colors and you get that situation where the light changes and you get a whole different look and feel to the glass as the light changes, even as the seasons change,” Topic said.
“There’s nothing like a bright piece of glass in your garden when you know it’s a dull winter day and the sun comes out and you get this pessshhH! and you get this spark of light.”
Topic said he has a garden of his own and likes to work it and experiment with the glass and light.
The Starnes’ property also showcases bamboo on the west side of the property and some Canadian Hemlock.
The tour ran from noon to 4 p.m. and after a slow start on High Point, visitors began to show up and look at the new peaches beginning to show on a peach tree on the south side of the property owned by Chuck and Barb Wilkens.
The property has been with the Wilkens for 16 years. The owners weren’t on the property for the tour, but Chuck Wilkens displayed many of the antique chairs he’s refurbished. A fenced-in garden with the peach and apricot trees also housed a variety of vegetables. After observing the vegetable garden, most visitors moved along the rear timberline to catch a view of barges and recreational boaters from about 300 feet up the bluff.
Ralph Stuekerjuergen brought his zoom lens for some pictures over the bluff and then toured the rest of the homes along the tour path.
Pat and Janelle McCrabb, in the 2000 block of 337th Avenue, featured red rhubarb that had been transplanted from Janelle’s mother’s yard in Dubuque. The property also houses more than 15 varieties of heritage roses. Gin Lammert and Carlene Atwater were on hand to document the season in paint.
Dean and Sue Mabeus had a regular crowd in the 1600 block of Green Bay Road just about a half-mile from the Peirrots. The former home of Dean’s Produce is now just land for family and friends. Boar goats and an old smokehouse were also highlights for those who stopped along the highway for a visit. Scotts Miracle Gro raffled off products while Curt Swarm was showcasing metal sculptures.
In the 3500 block of 175th Street, Ed and Jim Lemberger put their organic winery on display. Wine and cheese pairings were set out for visitors as well as a variety of produce including tomatoes, peppers, melons, and gourds, along with strawberries and blueberries.