Making the Desert Blossom
Housing was of course of immediate concern but planting trees and shrubs and flowers went right along with home building and often preceded it.
The original ranch houses were clustered around the spring and the trees and shrubs already established were almost all in that area. Soon, however, the town began to take shape with the planting of numerous trees and shrubs on the various home sites.
One criticism that has been made of the wholesale housing projects of recent years is that they do not allow for individual differences in house plan and landscaping. That criticism could not have been made of this particular development project, if it can be so categorized. Each homeowner planted according to his own tastes and ideas of landscaping or in many cases without any plan, leaving the finished effect pretty much to chance, which method has a certain charm of its own.
However there was a degree of uniformity in one respect. Certain trees, shrubs and flowers were characteristic of this early period. probably because of availability, adaptability to climate, soil and water conditions, and because the settlers brought the plantings they were familiar with from their former homes. Soon the ditch banks were bordered with cottonwood and willow trees and the ubiquitous Lombardy poplar so characteristic of early Mormon pioneer settlements wherever they might be. Every yard had its box elder trees for shade and tamarack used commonly as a hedge plant. Each home also had one or more old-fashioned purple lilacs and some yellow shrub or June roses, so called for their habit of blooming once a year in June. The perennial they planted were old-fashioned purple iris which they called flags, clumps of the pinkish white flower they called Bouncing Betty and almost every yard had a few hollyhocks to add color in July and August. Another pleasant feature of many homes was the "summer house", a vine-covered arbor that offered an outdoor retreat protected from summer sun and wind. This prototype of the patio was made by training fast-growing vines, hops, Virginia creeper,: honeysuckle or other, over a framework of wooden posts and/or wire.
These plantings were more or less common to all. Their flower gardens which almost everyone had were somewhat more diverse and allowed greater opportunity for individual expression. This flower garden might have been as simple as a sweet pea covered fence or a bed of sweet William or black-eyed Susans or it might have been a large plot filled with a variety of kinds and colors.
To a child growing up in this rural pioneer environment there were many places of charm and enchantment. In the north end of town the irrigation canal, commonly called the "big ditch", ran through the lots in front of the homes on the west side of the street. A long row of poplars with a few cottonwoods and willows bordered the canal for two blocks shading the homes and yards from the harsh Nevada sun. The yards behind the tree lined canal took on their own individual character and appearance.
Beyond her lawns Aunt Ann Reid had an old fashioned flower garden in view from her kitchen window with pinks, calendula, which she called marigolds, larkspur and snapdragons, with windows filled with geraniums, petunias and shamrock.
A rustic bridge with a hewn log railing crossed the creek and led into the Robert Reid home. The two story house that had replaced the adobe rooms was screened from the street and the utility yard by a tamarack hedge. Within this enclosure were two spacious lawns, a favorite gathering place for the young people of the town. A large flower garden at one end of the north lawn, lilacs, yellow roses, iris and tubs filled with pansies, pinks or black-eyed Susans completed the picture.
It was generally conceded that Delle Ivins' flower garden with its variety of blooms and riot of color was the finest in town which was a matter of some community pride. The Ivins home at its permanent location on the stream on the east side of town was a place of magic. Screened from the street by a dense hedge of wild roses and tamarack, a long path bordered by roses and honeysuckle led to the house. Behind the border on either side were the lawns, more shrubs, and the famous flower garden. The house with its large porch was shaded on either side by more trees and shrubs including a large white lilac on the south that stood near a vine covered summer house.
On the east, in addition to the poplars growing on the creek flowing by the back door were the more exotic locust and catalpa trees-truly a place of magic.
To the south on the next block and the opposite side of the street was the Wakeling home, a bit of old England transplanted into the Nevada desert. Allen Wakeling Sr., every inch the English gentleman, kept his hedge and shrubs neatly clipped in the semblance of a formal garden. In this setting, the picturesque old rock home with its deep flower filled windows behind lace curtains had all the beauty and charm of Allen's and Ann Elizabeth's native English countryside.
Another place of rustic charm and mystery for a child was the Whitehead home on the original ranch site near the spring. Thomas Judd had built a large two story house which the Whitehead family lived in but the original log and rock ranch houses remained. These, along with a dense growth of wild roses, willows, marsh grasses and water cress in clear running water, with mysterious little paths leading into delightful little nooks and crannies made exploring an adventure. At one time Dolph Whitehead put in a dam and diverted the stream into a pond that became the "old swimming hole" to people of all ages. A number of large trees grew around the pond and along the ditch banks but the one that lent character and distinction to the place was a large weeping willow on the bank of a little stream near the main ranch house. In 1961 Gertrude Gubler (Ervin), daughter of Bishop Albert Gubler, present owner of the property, wove a history of the town around the history of the old tree. She won the county contest and a savings bond for her essay. In it she states that James R. Withington, who acquired the property in 1873, planted the tree. A quote from the essay captures the atmosphere of the old place with these words, "Every summer when its graceful, green branches appear, the willow tree is truly beautiful. For close to a century it has impressed the lives of many."