Birds and Bees, Flowers and Trees

The Eastcliff grounds, resplendent with plants and sculptures
The Rogers Rose Garden at Eastcliff, looking east to west, then west to east
One of the Kentucky coffee trees
Mo and Lida loved the snow

Over the eight years I lived at Eastcliff, almost every morning when I was in town I would walk down the back stairs, through the small storage room, and let the dogs out the back door onto the terrace to go run in the yard.

I never tired of the beauty of the gardens. In the summer I would often pause to watch the bees in the flowers. The echinacea, salvia, and particularly the allium, were abuzz with activity. It would delight me that I would first see only the flowers themselves, then as I watched for movement, a great variety of the bees would appear. I loved the wild bees as much as my sweet honeybees (perhaps visiting from Marla’s house), and I think I even spotted a rusty-patch bumblebee in the Eastcliff gardens. I was glad that bumblebees are so gentle, as otherwise our dog Lida would have been stung in the nose several times.

Bee friendly, and friendly bees

The first and third planting beds each had a pine tree when we moved in, but they became overgrown and were replaced with two Northstar cherry trees each. The center bed is resplendent with Summer Waltz roses. Both Northstar cherry trees and Summer Waltz roses are University of Minnesota introductions.

Pine tree, before it grew too big
Emily and Ophelia, enjoying cherries in 2019
Summer Waltz Roses

Some of the other University of Minnesota plants in the yard include Latham variety raspberries across the lawn by the dog graves, Northern Lights azaleas, a Honeycrisp apple tree, a Haralred apple tree, and honeyberry bushes.

The terrace includes three beautiful Kentucky coffee trees. Since the Eastcliff trees were planted, the University has introduced True NorthTM, which is a male Kentucky coffee tree with the benefit of no pods to pick up. Alas, the Eastcliff trees (Stately Manor) have pods.

Left: The Haralred apple tree in the front yard had so many apples I was afraid the limbs would break. It then went to alternate year bearing, producing no apples one year, and a large crop the next.
Center: Honeycrisp blossoms. I asked for the Honeycrisp tree to be planted outside the back fence, along Otis Avenue, with the idea in mind that neighborhood children could help themselves.
Right: The first year, the tree produced only one apple, but it was big and perfect.
Woodchuck planted their millionth tree, a ginkgo, at Eastcliff.

The planting area to the south, outside the garden room, now includes iris from my mother’s garden. I also planted a spring of Lady Henley rose, named for my mother’s grandmother, among the roses by the pool, and it has survived (although not thrived) despite its Tennessee provenance.

The loss of trees

Trees have life cycles, like all living things, but loss is always hard. There was a big old oak tree that was leaning precariously. It had to be removed during the terrace renovation in 2004. I have read it described both as a “grand old bur oak that stood for nearly a century,” and a 200-year-old bur oak. Suffice it to say, it was a big, beautiful old tree. A landscape plan from 1961 showed this tree as a twenty-two-inch oak next to a twenty-four-inch elm. (The inch measure refers to caliper. A twenty-two-inch oak is an oak with a diameter of twenty-two inches when measured five feet above the ground.) The elm was gone and the oak was thirty-inches wide in 1987. Dutch elm disease wiped out many of the Minnesota elms; some of the boulevards were then lined with ash trees. Three ash trees were listed on an old Eastcliff site plan, but they were gone before emerald ash borers arrived in 2010. Several birch trees at Eastcliff were lost to the bronze birch borer in the last decade. These losses remind us, as is true in many areas, diversity is vitally important.

The 1961 plan shows a Japanese yew near the pool that remains there today. (It is a spectacular spreading tree.)

The plan also shows a three-inch diameter pine (shown below) in the center of the back yard. A 1985 plan shows this tree had grown to ten inches in diameter, but in 1995 it was still ten inches. This tall, thin tree was hit by lightning in 2011. (I heard the bang; the next day I saw a chunk of bark on the ground and the sap dripping down the tree). The tree survived lightening but eventually succumbed to lack of nourishment as its roots burrowed into limestone.

Photo of Markell and Edward Brooks with Rusty is courtesy of the Brooks family.

Pine tree c. 2000, as seen from outside the fence (The photos are imprinted 2000, but the loose photos were in an event file for the 1996 Garden Party.)
Norway maple in 2017, with close-up showing the hole where baby woodpeckers could be seen

A Norway maple in the front yard fell during a thundersnow in January 2018. We had seen baby woodpeckers in a nest in in hole in the trunk the previous spring, evidence that it was partially hollow. These baby woodpeckers add the birds to my page title “Birds and Bees, Flowers and Trees.” We also used that title for a Friends of Eastcliff Garden Party that included special “guests” from the University’s Raptor Center, University bee research, and University tree and plant specialists.

Sculpture on the Eastcliff grounds: 1) Seated Figure by John Rood, 2) The Moon by John Rood, 3) Continuum by Katherine Nash, 4) Untitled sculpture by Charles Biederman, 5) Landscape with Lakes by John Rood.
Left: Eastcliff site plan 1960,; Right: Old landscape drawing of the lily pool from the Brooks era

Looking at the site plan of the grounds from 1960, note the indication of a pool in the terrace. This shallow pool was removed in the late 1980s. The upper terrace became brick, and the flagstones from the original terrace were used to continue a patio into the yard.

Two decades later, the flagstones had become dangerously uneven. In 2004, thanks to donor support, the terrace and patio were replaced with the current terrace.

The terrace before and during second renovation, 2004 and 2005
The Eastcliff swimming pool
Looking out through the pool gate

From 1968 to 1974, there were between two and four Moos teenagers in the house at all times. The pool and the tennis court were used heavily during those years. Friends would come over and stay all day. They would play tennis, cool off in the pool, then play more tennis.

With the three older Moos children together in high school, they had big pool parties for their friends. Grant recalled a friend whose father was a psychologist at the University coming to a party and jumping naked off the top of the pool house into the pool. Conversely, Kathy remembers great times talking about Kierkegaard and eating cucumber sandwiches.

Newspaper clipping is from an article by Grant Moos titled, “Before the renovation: when Eastcliff got that lived-in look” (Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 17, 1988). See Families post on this website.

Our dogs loved to sneak into the pool. When Mo was having issues with his knees and back, we even encouraged their swimming. I was sorry that the pool didn’t get more use.

We had pools in our previous two homes, and a pool builder in Delaware gave me advice that helped my attitude. He said he opened his pool at the beginning of April and closed it at the end of October. (May to September is much more common.) I suggested he must love to swim. He said he never got in; he loved the pool as landscaping. A body of water is a soothing site. The Eastcliff pool adds beautiful landscaping for outdoor events, even if we never had time to swim in it.

Left: The oval garden was formerly a tennis court, so it seemed appropriate when the dogs played there with a tennis ball. Center: The lion head fountain reflects the original fountain in the garden room. Right: Ornamental hops grow next to the fountain.
Photos above by Karen Kaler. Photo below of the grapevine is courtesy of am photography.

The old fence between the pool and tennis court was covered by one huge grapevine. When the fence was removed, the vine was bent to grow the opposite direction over the pergola that was added in the 1987 renovation. (Since there is just one vine, the fruit doesn’t develop.) Between that walkway and the pool is a rock garden added by the Brooks family after the swimming pool was built.

Walking along the sidewalk under the pergola past the pool, you approach the back corner of the yard. The tennis court was in this corner, and it was replaced by an oval garden in 2005. There is currently a hedge of ninebark bushes defining the space of the former tennis court. There was formerly a line of (mostly dead) tall juniper bushes that were replaced with the ninebark. This change was inspired, in part, by an incident at an event.

We had an evening donor reception in June. A couple whom I had never met before asked me where the dancefloor was—an unusual question. The event was held mostly outside and it was a lovely evening. At the end of the event, a friend (KC) went to the back of the property to call her partner on her cellphone. As she stepped into the oval garden, a couple emerged from the bushes. The woman was pulling down her dress and the man was zipping up his pants.

Most guests had left at that point, as we were past the stated timeframe, so the waitstaff and I saw the couple that I recalled as the dancefloor duo, making a hasty retreat. No one knew the couple, but Nick Bantle and Curtis Hajek, who were serving, said that the man and woman were both eager to try a glass of each wine available. Looking at the guestlist, I thought I remembered the names on their pre-printed nametags, and looked for images online of the names I recalled. The couple named on the guestlist are both tall and slim, and she hair. The couple in the bushes were both short, with dark hair. Party crashers! Not who we expected to entertain at Eastcliff.

Several years later I met Paul, the fabulous faculty member whose name was on the nametag. I asked if he recalled planning to be at an Eastcliff event, and not being able to attend. As he began to apologize. I laughed and told him his nametag was quite active that evening.

Halloween at Eastcliff

One of the most fun events we had in the Eastcliff yard was a Halloween Party for faculty and staff families. The Yudofs had a yearly party with a haunted house, as described in Eastcliff: History of a Home.

Most discussions of Halloween in the Twin Cities include the warning that in could snow. There was that blizzard! There was a Halloween blizzard! It was in 1991, but still worth regular mention—because it actually was quite unusual. We had outdoor parties in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Great weather every time.

Goldy’s parents; Minnesota apples

In 2016, Eric and I dressed as Goldy’s parents, and Goldy dressed as a little kid. In 2017, we and the volunteer event staff all dressed as University of Minnesota apples. None of us was an actual apple, rather we dressed as the names. In photo, from left to right are Fireside, Honeycrisp, Regent, Sweet Sixteen, Honeygold, SweeTango®, renowned apple breeder Professor James Luby dressed as himself, FrostbiteTM, State Fair, Prairie Spy, SnowSweet, and Beacon.

Left: Eastcliff staircase with pumpkins, Right: Eastcliff in miniature dollhouse staircase with pumpkins

Please note: The above text was edited from Eastcliff: History of a Home due to lack of space. It is intended as a supplement to the book.

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