The birds were singing and the aroma of sweet blossomed trees was enticing as we went for a walk in Helen Langreck’s little piece of paradise outside of Ft. Atkinson last spring. Helen explained about each of her exotic trees she has gotten to grow here in Northeast Iowa. Helen loves trees and has many stories of how each tree arrived in her and husband Ed’s yard. They have such a wide variety of trees that they may even have one of each type known to grow in Iowa and few unusual ones too.
As we enjoyed a stroll through the orchard, past the different rock, vegetable, wild flower, lilacs, spring daffodil, rhubarb, and rock gardens, past Ed’s raspberry patches, we walk past trees some unusual looking trees. As Helen pointed to her mountain alder, tamarack, mountain oak, buckeye chestnut, horse chestnut, cork screw willow, redbud, and Eastern Wahoo trees, it was easy to tell this knowledgeable women has been growing trees for a very long time, and probably Ed has become a pro at trimming her orchard of exotic trees when he’s not restoring old tractors.
Decorating her landscape, Helen had her son Kenny weld iron rods on a pole and Ed painted them green, while Helen found large colored glass bottles to hang on the rods. You will find two special iron/glass sculptures at their home. Also, there is a variety of wind chimes and birdhouses hanging in their trees. Inside their house is a delightful collection of prisms hanging from the windows in the dining room.
Her redbud tree blossomed out in pretty purple, arches across the pathway between rock gardens, was a transplant from her sister in southern Iowa. Her sister Rose, not long before she discovered she was in the late stages of cancer gave her weeping willow transplant in 1998 and it has thrived and grown huge, and holds a special place in her heart. Helen smiles as she retells the story of when their daughter Diane discovered a seed from a cottonwood tree, and they carefully planted and tended it and now is an adult tree as well is their daughter. Daughter Kathy and husband Lee brought home a tree on their honeymoon in 1997 and now proudly stands among the other trees.
Some of the other trees growing in the Langreck’s yard and orchard are maple, oak, plum, choke cherry, apple, pear, weeping willow and black locust.
Many of the trees were transplants or bought locally quite a few years ago and under Helen’s green thumb have made their acreage a haven not only for them, but for birds and wildlife alike.