There was not a lot to interest me on this year's Outagamie County Master Gardeners' Garden Walk. This garden feature takes the prize, however, for creativity, originality, and repurposing. Not only was the pattern beautiful and unique, the use of the Neenah Foundry-produced iron work nearly sets itself apart as a piece of art. The Neenah Foundry may be one of the last bastions Old World craftsmanship more commonly seen in buildings built early last century.
The gardener in this garden had retired from the foundry and has a brother still working there. Neenah Foundry is known to ex-pat Wisconsinites as the sewer cover manufacturer for the world. I have had the unusual experience of being far from home and look down at my feet to find a manhole cover stamped "Neenah". I would venture to say most people have no idea what a "Neenah" is. The "Neenahs" have their own FaceBook page.
While many covers are purely utilitarian; some are highly ornamental, and chances are made at the Neenah Foundry. Along with municipal street tree tree guards, they do a job...beautifully.
These inground tree guards, officially named tree grates by the foundry, in this case are three inches thick about 3' by 4' and weigh 425 pounds. Tree guards are the upright structures. Unlike cement sidewalks and stone pavers, tree guards purposed in this way are highly permeable. Meant to have consecutive ring knocked out as the street tree grows larger, many start as half or a quarter of a rectangle or square with a small curved corner.
This is such a good idea.
The homeowner told me because they are a dark cast iron they are sort of a heat sink in the winter accelerating the snow melt. Yet, in summer, they have not been too hot for bare feet, at least so far.