I live in Hibbing, and I’m a gardener. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed my gardens as you motored down Third Avenue West.
I started gardening in earnest approximately 18 years ago. Before that time I had the obligatory, back door annual flower garden.
Through friends and with the help of the Chisholm Hibbing Garden Club, I learned about perennials, grasses and roses. I learned about zones and what will grow in northern Minnesota.
I toured gardens in the area and learned that gardeners are friendly and generous. They easily give advice, plants and seeds. They want to share the knowledge, beauty and joy of gardening.
Soon I was digging up ground, the entire length of the yard on both sides, along the garage, alongside the house. I discovered my Hibbing yard consisted of 6 inches of topsoil and then red clay.
I learned about dirt and amending the soil. I started buying dirt by the truckload and reveled in having my very own dirt pile. Then I added tiers to those long gardens with garden timbers and dug up free-standing areas and outlined them with garden timbers.
I employed my son and my husband in this work, and although they were good sports, they didn’t share my excitement. I live on a small lot in Hibbing, and I soon ran out of backyard.
I wanted to tackle the front yard, but I was timid. I knew there would be no way of hiding a bad decision or a planting gone wrong. Again, friends and gardeners encouraged me and some showed the way with their own front yard gardens.
I finally worked up the nerve to turn my front yard into a garden and decided to outline it with rocks, which involved scouring the woods for rocks. I also decided I needed some big rocks for focal point and interest. This got a little crazy even with two strong men to help out.
After I laid out the shape of the garden, I put the men to work. They quickly discovered this was beyond the scope of possibility. It was time to call a professional with a bobcat. It was also too far to cart the dirt around from the back of the house, so we had a truck load of dirt dumped in the front yard.
Despite my trepidation, the front garden was a success — not only did I love it, but I discovered my neighbors did too. My gardens had become very public, and the feedback was positive.
It wasn’t long before I had the entire other side of the front yard made into garden also — to heck with leaving any grass; who needs grass?
I like to think I am creating community and connections with the gardens and with community comes peace. People stop by and comment, encourage, compliment or ask a question. Mothers with strollers, people with dogs, bicyclers, the curious and the friendly. I encourage them to look around and ask questions; just don’t pick!
Gardening is always an experimentation, and sometimes, even when you do everything right, a plant might not live or it might live for years and then one year not come back in the spring.
I like to think that with every failed plant comes the possibility of something new. Gardens teach us to let go and to accept what we can’t change.
Stick with what your neighbors grow; experience is the best teacher.
Some tried and true for sunny areas are Asiatic lilies, day lilies, phlox, monarda, coneflower, rudbeckia or black-eye susan, iris and bulbs such as tulips and daffodils.
For shaded areas, hostas are great and there are so many to choose from. Astilbes are shade lovers as are lungwort, ligularia and bleeding heart.
If you have the space and are feeling adventurous, try roses. Just make sure you buy a rose bred for the northern climate, those that are Minnesota hardy. The University of Minnesota Extension website is an excellent resource. www.extension.umn.edu/garden/.
Gardens are magical, peaceful and restorative. They can be a place of reflection, restoration and rest.
Gardening can bring balance to a chaotic life. Call me crazy, but I love to weed. I love the smell of dirt, the feel of it and the connection it gives me to the earth.
Weeding is a mindless job that frees, relaxes and de-stresses me. It allows me to step away from machines and screens and distractions.
I find that tending my garden tends my soul.