• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Peony displays before and after bloom

NORTH LIBERTY– Johnson County provides one of those lesser known, but most wonderful, places to visit; the North Liberty Ridgewood Cemetery. While many go to sit on the old hillside benches and remember family and friends, many go to experience one of the most extensive plantings of peonies most will ever see. It’s especially meaningful in May when the peony display is at its finest. They are absolutely beautiful with many varieties of old pioneer multi-colored flowers and that distinct and wonderful smell.
A very special reward is the visible colonies of ants on the unopened peony buds, nature’s way of giving them food while performing the necessary task of helping those buds open. How can one not be impressed with that miracle alone?
A lifetime Canadian fishing friend is buried here. How he is missed. The old Scales Bend Road Ellenberger brothers are resting there beside one of the more magnificent monuments. Many other pioneer North Liberty families: the Ranshaws, the Stoners, the Youngs, the Meyers, the Greenes, the Alts… are remembered in Ridgewood Cemetery, buried among those gorgeous peonies blooming to celebrate their lives.
The scenic resting place of so many of our forefathers is further enhanced by the cemetery’s location high on the south-sloping hill. The panoramic view of North Liberty and other distant communities with the five visible water towers, including the Amana Colonies, can be seen. The view of house outlines reflecting in the valley ponds below add significantly in the early morning sunrise or late afternoon sunset.
Adding to the year-round beauty are family members and friends honoring their loved ones with additional special wreathes and flowers. Some are very creative. There are always community groups providing a time to reflect and remember by holding special services on Memorial and Veterans Day. Looking south over the steep hill from the main entrance down a row of flags placed by the North Liberty V.F.W. on Memorial Day is more than special– it’s prayerful.
Early morning visitors to the cemetery are rewarded with some special wildlife treats, such as numerous nesting eagles and ospreys getting an early start to building nests or foraging for their young. Stick around until mid-morning to view the turkey vultures arising from their overnight resting on the sunny south slope of the Coralville Dam. Visitors can witness their amazing ability to catch the wind currents and glide endlessly over the wooded hills and pastured valleys. It offers a much more positive perspective of the homely bird.
Adding to the wildlife scene is likely a flock of pelicans or geese silhouetted against a sunrise or sunset. There is always a variety of both flying to contrast the ground wildlife of the woods bordering the nearby Coralville and Macbride lakes.
The cemetery is spectacular in another unusual way, viewing fireworks among the peonies. Cars line the narrow cemetery roadways at dusk on the Fourth of July to view numerous fireworks displays from the south communities nearby; Solon, West Branch, Amana, Coralville, Iowa City, Hills, Tiffin and even Riverside and Lone Tree. A burst of light can also be experienced from behind and above the tree-tops, from Cedar Rapids, Marion and Swisher. There is not another location where such a variety of pyrotechnics can be viewed.
You are encouraged to visit the beautifully maintained North Liberty Ridgewood Cemetery, high on the hill on Scales Bend Road, just north of town. Take time to remember what’s important in life… and smell the peonies.