THE POOL HOUSE GROUNDS
© D. Gorton
The Pool House sits on 3/4 of an acre tucked into the center of the city. Bounded by privacy fences, it embraces a swimmer's pool, brick patios and walkways, herb gardens, a summer kitchen garden, and flowers everywhere.
The extensive brick patios and walkways are made of Egyptian Bricks, made in neighboring Murphysboro. Until 1968 they paved Walnut Street. That year the bricks were removed for "modern" pavement. The Brown family, the story goes, were vacationing in Alaska. They came home to discover a huge pile of bricks in their side yard. Leo Brown, it turned out, had a use for the bricks. So over the next several years, his children's high school friends spent their summers laying bricks around the newly built swimming pool and creating driveways, patios, and paths on the then-undivided property.
Egyptian bricks were used to pave the areas around the Panama Canal, eradicating the mosquitos that spread yellow fever and allowing the Canal to be completed.
In a dedicated herb garden and scattered around the grounds you can find a wide variety of herbs growing for your cooking pleasure: Greek and Mexican oregano, chives, marjoram, tarragon, winter savory, peppermint, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
For more than a century the east lot has been a vegetable garden. Our mix of vegetables varies from year to year. Tomatoes, peppers, and squashes make up the regulars; we sometimes plant okra, eggplant, various lettuces, melons, potatoes, and other vegetables. Guests may help themselves to produce in season.
In early spring the central "Woods Garden" bursts with native early spring ephemerals including several varieties of trillium, shooting stars, celadon poppy, Jacob's Ladder, Solomon's Seal, bloodroot, bluebells, and masses of white violets. Daffodils, tulips, peonies, and Siberian and bearded iris festoon beds on all the borders. Flowering crab apples and cherries dance in spring breezes. Japonica, climbing and bush roses burst into bloom.
In early summer, the berms and borders bloom with Asiatic and day lilies, catmint, bee balm, butterfly weed, purple and prairie cone flowers, black-eyed Susan, Coreopsis, Queen Anne's Lace, bee balm, yarrow, peppermint, and other native plants. The golden chain trees, magnolia, Virginia Sweetspire Little Henry, and other flowering bushes continue the displays.
As summer progresses the bedding plants take center stage - salvias, zinnias, marigolds, petunias - old reliables that tolerate Southern Illinois heat and humidity.
Fall brings native purple asters and a chrysanthemums that we found naturalized in the old gardens.
In winter the yew hedge, boxwoods, and massive holly take center stage.
Of course we feed the birds, and as the winter progresses they flock in - goldfinches on the thistle seeds, house and purple finches, cardinals, starlings, an occasional bluejay, doves, downy and other woodpeckers. After a couple of hard freezes flocks of robins descend on the holly tree. An occasional flock of cedar waxwings devour the juniper berries.
In the spring birds nest everywhere: cardinals and robins hide their nests in boxwoods and vines, wrens inhabit the birdhouses, ruby throated humming birds sip nectar from the bee balm and salvia. With two broods, there are several weeks during the spring when we dodge fledglings trying out their wings as their parents anxiously chase away our Aussie and keep us at bay.
Our Aussie keeps most four-legged critters away, but red and gray squirrels nest in our 50-year old oak tree, raiding our bird feeders, teasing the pup, and providing general entertainment. We have occasionally seen families of raccoons washing their hands in the pool and possums trotting along the back fence.