Remember that box of photos and other stuff at the historical society? Well, my Nancy Drew sleuthing skills found more gardening clues there.

There are two large Crimson King Norway maples at the front of our yard. If you’re at street level, they visually align with each end of the house, flanking the yard and framing the house.

The one near the drive, one of the larger trees on the property, has been a focal point since we moved in. It has a twin, and I found it hidden among a tangle and deep overgrowth at the edge of the front woodland. I was excited to notice it, but disappointed that it had been forgotten, probably for decades, in the neglected tangle.

Our very first first project was opening up the area and sight lines around that edge of the yard and removing the invasive brambles. Now that tree is easily visible as part of the vista as you look up from the driveway or down from the house.

The mystery is, I’ve always thought they were too large and mature to have been planted when the house was built. Yet, they seem to have been placed purposefully. Was there a house there before ours? No. And after finding the garden blueprint in the earlier post, I was even more mystified about why neither of these trees, nor the towering catalpa next to the house, were marked on the plan.

In the short visit to the historical society, and the rushed review of the contents of our house’s records, it started to make sense.

Clue number 1: The undated photo above. It confirms two things. First, that the design in that garden blueprint did get planted. I was surprised to see the shrubs at the front of the house because when we bought it, there was nothing at all, and the ground has none of the characteristics of cultivated land. Secondly, the tree at the bottom of the drive is one of the twin maples, since pruned to grow more upright and keep branches clear of the drive. The other tree, in the foreground, is no longer, but I saw it in a 1980s photo of the house on the historical society’s website. It would have been majestic if it were still around.

As for those shrubs, there was nothing there when we moved in. But in just one year, the little plantings you see in the 2018 winter photo have already started to grow a lot!

The view in the winter of 2018.
Similar view from our window, during a snowstorm in 2018.

Clue #2: Letters of recommendation and landscape photos from Lewis Valentine & Co, marked Ardmore, PA. Research finds that this is a speciality landscape company with expertise in providing full-grown trees to estates (DuPont), gardens (Longwood) and academic institutions (University of Notre Dame). There was even a photo of the delivery company. Seems our maple trees were probably installed as large specimens.

And so our little mystery is solved, or so it seems. It also resolves a question about three towering Eastern Red Cedars behind the house. Their placement has always looked intentional and they’re as big as the maples.

While we will never know for sure the history of this garden, we’ll continue to sleuth for clues.