Garden Tours: LarryR, Larry Rettig: I love places and gardens with a history.

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Garden Tours:  LarryR, Larry Rettig

By Sharon
December 3, 2011

It's to Iowa we travel this week, to visit the gardens of Larry Rettig and his wife, Wilma. I've been fortunate, I met Larry's Amana Colonies garden face to face earlier this year. I wandered those garden paths for days and every day I found something new. Let's take a look at these unbelievably beautiful Iowa gardens.

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Name: josephine
Arlington, Texas (Zone 8a)
Hi Everybody!! Let us talk native.
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frostweed
Dec 3, 2011 7:40 AM CST
Thank you for showing us your beautiful place and telling us all about it. Smiling Thumbs up
Josephine.
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Name: Sheila F
Fort Worth TX (Zone 8a)
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Sheila_FW
Dec 3, 2011 9:36 AM CST
Very special gardens and plants, thanks for the tour Larry!
Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
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LarryR
Dec 3, 2011 11:18 AM CST
Thanks Josephine and Sheila! Glad you enjoyed the tour.
Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Dec 3, 2011 2:43 PM CST
Larry, thank you for the tour through your beautiful gardens! It looks like a very special place.

Wow, Sharon, I would imagine it to be even more beautiful in person. How nice that you were able to visit. thank you for showing the peony and poppy, they are so pretty & hard to grow down here!!
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
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Sharon
Dec 3, 2011 3:03 PM CST
It was a lovely place to visit. I could have spent an entire summer there and not seen all of it. Every day I found something new.

I keep saying I'd fit right in that little cottage . . .
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Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
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LarryR
Dec 3, 2011 6:53 PM CST
Just say the word, Sharon. It's got a gas furnace and water. Of course, you'd have to share the space with lawn mowers, wheel barrows, and garden tools. Big Grin

Christine, thanks so much for your words of appreciation!
Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
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MaryE
Dec 4, 2011 8:55 PM CST
What a treasure! Thank you for taking us on the tour! I went looking online to read the history of the Amana colony, very interesting! You didn't say if either your family or that of your wife were part of it.
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
More ramblings at http://thegatheringplacehome.myfastforum.org/forum54.php
Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
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Sharon
Dec 4, 2011 9:13 PM CST
Let me answer this one, Mary, then Larry can grade me on my answer.

The Amana people lived the life of isolation, making do with what they had and what they could provide by working together, for over 70 years. But due to various events, by 1932, the old isolated religious order came to an end. Society changed, phones, transportation, those kinds of things brought outsiders into the Amanas; those same things took the Amanans outside. Economic changes were a factor as well, and there was some social unrest among the younger members. A lot contributed to the 'Change'.

But to answer your question, yes, both families were a part of the Amanas, having been born into it. Its "purity" ended shortly before both Larry and Wilma were born, so they grew up from the beginnings of the 'Change'.

It is a fascinating story, the way of life is amazing and something everybody would benefit from knowing. I keep learning new things every day, even though I tried to memorize everything I was told when I was there.

I hope Larry comes along and answers your question and adds to my answer, but I also want him to grade mine. I am always a little unsure of my answers about the Amanas. It's a sense of history, of well being, of living as a group instead of an individual and it's hard to explain. But I love hearing about it, and seeing the amazing architecture and learning the 'why's' of everything. Amazing place, wonderful people. I could talk about it for days.
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Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Tip Photographer I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Composter
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LarryR
Dec 4, 2011 9:34 PM CST
Hi Mary--Thanks for your kind comments! Yes, my wife and I are native Amana folks. That's already somewhat of an anomaly for our generation. There's been a lot of moving away and intermarriage.

As teenagers, my wife and I wanted nothing more than to get away from this place. Nothing to do, everybody knows everybody else's business, the usual teenage complaints. The longer we were away and the older we got, the more we began to appreciate our heritage. By the time we reached our late 30s, we found ourselves actively seeking ways to return. We made it back in 1977 and love it! Smiling
Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!
Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Tip Photographer I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Composter
Foliage Fan Garden Photography Houseplants Hybridizer Organic Gardener Cat Lover
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LarryR
Dec 4, 2011 9:40 PM CST
Ooops, we crossed, Sharon. You get an A+! Thumbs up You must have read at least portions of my book, because I don't remember telling you some of the history you recited. Big Grin
Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!
Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
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Sharon
Dec 4, 2011 9:45 PM CST
I keep going back and reading more and more, but you did tell me lots of things, and remember, I'm a sponge, I soak up info when I want to. Green Grin!
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Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Tip Photographer I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Composter
Foliage Fan Garden Photography Houseplants Hybridizer Organic Gardener Cat Lover
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LarryR
Dec 4, 2011 10:58 PM CST
Yes, you do. It's a remarkable and precious gift. Thumbs up
Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!
Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Ferns Daylilies Irises Cat Lover
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Sharon
Dec 4, 2011 11:07 PM CST
Larry, I was thinking, I don't remember seeing a sewing machine anywhere, not even in the museum. Did the women sew clothing by hand?? Surely not. I must have just missed seeing one.

I remember all the weaving apparatus. I remember everything about the man who made the rugs. I remember the wooden spools, I remember the wooden furniture, I remember every room of the gallery, but I can't remember seeing a sewing machine, not even a treadle. I think that's odd, because surely there was one.

It should have been in the museum where the death clothes are.
I just can't remember.
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Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Tip Photographer I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Composter
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LarryR
Dec 5, 2011 12:46 AM CST
Now that you mention it, neither did I. I know that individual homes had treadle machines when I was growing up. I'll check this out, but my best guess is that all the sewing was done by the village tailor. Women did needle work in their spare time, especially after the evening meal. I don't know if they did any mending.
Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!
Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
Be yourself, you can be no one else
Charter ATP Member Region: Oregon Farmer Enjoys or suffers cold winters
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MaryE
Dec 5, 2011 8:04 AM CST
Thank you, Sharon. What book?

Larry, I can see that growing up with a mix of the old ways being replaced by the new, plus the pull of seeking freedom and adventure as most young people do, leaving the colony would be new and exciting. Being drawn back to that place where life was more predictable and secure would also be strong as you matured and realized the uniqueness of the place. Have many others who left as young adults returned to their roots as well?
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
More ramblings at http://thegatheringplacehome.myfastforum.org/forum54.php
Name: Sharon
Calvert City, KY (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Master Level I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Ferns Daylilies Irises Cat Lover
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Sharon
Dec 5, 2011 8:24 AM CST
It's a book that Larry wrote entitled "Amana Today"; he'll have to tell you about it, Mary. I don't know if copies are still available.
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Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Dec 5, 2011 8:44 AM CST
The history is all so interesting.
One of my favorite heirloom tomatoes is the Amana Orange, a beefsteak tomato with wonderful notes of citrus and very flavorful.
One of yours, Larry?
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Tip Photographer I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Composter
Foliage Fan Garden Photography Houseplants Hybridizer Organic Gardener Cat Lover
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LarryR
Dec 5, 2011 11:54 AM CST
Sharon, here is a response from the director of the Amana Heritage Museum regarding the sewing machine question:

Now that's a real good question....
And the answer to a real good question usually involves some speculation
and equivocation.
The village tailor as far as I know made only men's clothing. He
definitely used machines. Women generally did sewing for the family at
home, but there were also communal sewing rooms where other sewing was
done--like for example funeral clothing and for Tagloehner.
In our oral histories, the women talk about using sewing machines both at
home and in the sewing rooms. But that's late--in the 1920s. I really
don't have any idea how early sewing machines were introduced. I
understand they were fairly common in American homes by the 1880s, so
it's possible Amana had sewing machines already in the 19th century. We
do have Amana sewing machines in our museum collection. One is on display
in the rug weaving exhibit in the schoolhouse. I'll do a little more
research on those we have to see if we can come with any dates.
So the simple answer to the question "Did women in communal Amana have
sewing machines in their homes?"
"Yes."
Lanny
Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!
[Last edited by LarryR - Dec 5, 2011 11:54 AM (+)]
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Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Tip Photographer I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Composter
Foliage Fan Garden Photography Houseplants Hybridizer Organic Gardener Cat Lover
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LarryR
Dec 5, 2011 12:06 PM CST
Mary, unfortunately, my book, written in the early 1970s, is out of print. If you're interested in a copy, they sometimes show up at estate sales. I can also check with family members and friends to see if they have a spare copy.

My wife and I are among the few who have returned to the Amanas. Occasionally, when the economy is not doing well, a few folks return to live with family members while they seek employment, but at some point, they usually leave again.
Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!
Name: Larry Rettig
South Amana, IA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Tip Photographer I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cottage Gardener Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Composter
Foliage Fan Garden Photography Houseplants Hybridizer Organic Gardener Cat Lover
Image
LarryR
Dec 5, 2011 12:17 PM CST
Thanks for your comments, Christine. Unfortunately, the Amana Orange tomato is the subject of a continuing controversy. It is not an heirloom variety, nor is it associated with the Amanas. It was bred by a hybridizer in Florida. He named it Amana Orange, simply because he had visited the Amanas and had an enjoyable time here. What he apparently didn't realize is that the Amana name is trademarked, so he's using it illegally. The Amana Society corporation owns the trademark and has contacted him, asking that he stop using the Amana name. Eventually, since the tomato resembles heirloom varieties, it was called an heirloom in error. As far as I know, the hybridizer has not made any effort to correct either problem.
Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it. --Margaret Roach (Thank you, Sharon!) Notes from the Garden: Articles of interest on all aspects of gardening
Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens: Come on in and take the tour! Check out the photos!

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