Outreach & Events: Fall 2019

Esther Jordan, Communications Specialist

Horticulture Night, July 25, 2019

Our annual Horticulture Night continues to be a highlight of the summer here at the West Central Research and Outreach Center. We estimate that 1,500 visitors came to the Horticulture Display Garden for our 49th annual event, which was held on Thursday, July 25, 2019.  Guests traveled from across the state of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. 

Despite the threat of thunderstorms and rain, large crowds of Master Gardeners, home owners, flower enthusiasts, and families came to the Horticulture Display Garden for horticulture education, farm tours, vendor booths, and live music.  

One of the visitors to Horticulture Night was Harvey Lange, who lives in Florida and is a representative from Syngenta Flowers. Syngenta has participated in our annual flower trials for several years, and they’ve been impressed with our work here at the WCROC. 

During Horticulture Night, Harvey was interviewed staff from the Stevens County Times, our local newspaper. Harvey reported “I’ve seen all kinds of gardens from Penn State to Colorado State, this (referring to the Horticulture Display Garden) ranks in the top 10%” Coming from a plant breeding company representative who travels around the world visiting other botanical gardens, this truly puts a rather large feather in our hat! 

Demonstrations and presentations during Horticulture Night ran on the hour, allowing 45 minutes for each talk. The horticulture night planning committee put together an amazing educational event which included the following presentations and speakers:

  • Vines of All Kinds, with Mike Heger, Ambergate Horticultural Consulting
  • Living Mulches for Your Garden, with Steve Poppe, WCROC Horticulturist, and Andy Petran, owner of Twin Cities Berry Company in Farmington, MN
  • What’s Eating my Vegetables? with Annie Klodd and Natalie Hoidal, U of MN Extension
  • Managing the Ten Common Vertebrate Pests, with John Loegering, Professor Wildlife Ecology, U of MN Crookston
  • Containers for All Seasons, with Heidi Heiland, owner of Heidi’s GrowHaus and Heidi’s Lifestyle Gardens in Corcoran, MN
  • Holy Hostas Batman! with Jodie Ramsay and Julie Schroer, owners of Jean’s The Right Plant Place in Perham, MN
  • What’s Bugging You in Your Garden? with Jeff Hahn, U of MN Extension
  • Busting Common Soil and Garden Myths, with Joe Storlien, St. John’s University
  • Annual Flower Tour, with Alisha Asleson of BFG Supply Co.

Stone balancing at Horticulture NightIn addition to horticulture presentations, we also offered tours and other opportunities:

  • Demonstrations of organic weed control using a grit weeder
  • Activities included watching a stone balancing artist at work, seeing a working bee hive, and matching plants to their seeds
  • Hayrack farm tours of the WCROC
  • Cow milking demonstrations in the WCROC dairy parlor
  • Golf cart tours of the Garden
  • Sandridge Gardens, Morning Sky Greenery, Miltona Greenhouse, Good to Grow Trees, Plantastic, and Jean’s Right Plant Place had wonderful plant selections available for purchase
  • Sunset Yoga in the Garden
  • Live music provided by the Tri-State Band
  • Stevens County 4-H Food Booth

We rely on the assistance of MANY individuals to make Horticulture Night happen; we wish to thank the staff, faculty and students at the WCROC, Steven’s County 4-H, Steven’s County Master Gardeners, UMM Police, UMM Facilities Management, Regional Fitness Center, Steven’s County Fair Board, Tri-State Band, Dacotah Bank, Riverview Dairy, and the many volunteers that gave of their time and energy.

Donor & Volunteer Appreciation Event

As a way to thank and honor our donors and volunteers, we hosted an appreciation event and dinner on Tuesday, August 27.  Guests were welcomed by Steve Poppe and horticulture staff, and treated to a picnic-style catered meal, followed by keynote speaker, John Ball from South Dakota State University. John is a dynamic speaker on tree health, and understanding tree diseases and pests. His talk, “Going native may not be our future – lessons learned from the emerald ash borer” delivered insightful thoughts to our current tree challenges. 

Our recognition program highlighted several individuals and/or families that contributed to the enhancement of the Horticulture Display Garden: Tom Holm, David and Sara Thronsedt, Dale and Jonette Engan, Gay Ekberg, Karl and Linda Retzlaff, and Brent and Ingrid Barnstuble. 

Tom Holm

Tom HolmTom started employment here in January of 2005 and retired in May of this year.  One of the first big projects Tom took on was construction of our new greenhouse.  We were at a point where we needed more greenhouse space with all our flower trials. This was a huge, time consuming job. Tom did an excellent job with managing the construction of the new greenhouse.  We still call it our new greenhouse to this day. 

Fifteen years ago the Garden started to take on a new design.  Many of the features you see today in the garden were just starting to take shape or were in the planning stages.  Tom’s responsibility during those years was the day-to-day management and care of those plant materials in the greenhouse, garden, grounds and research plots.  His care of those new and existing plant materials was excellent.  Tom really shined in his care of greenhouse plants and continually changed greenhouse practices to grow a quality plant. 

Another area that Tom really shined was his recruitment, management and patience with his garden volunteers. When Tom started employment in 2005 we had about 7 garden volunteers.  Through his amazing effort we now have close to 40 volunteers that have helped make the garden what it is today.  Tom was very proud of his group of volunteers and also became close friends with many of them. 

Tom was recognized and thanked for his many years of service, his attention to detail, and his quality of work to benefit the Horticulture Display Garden.

David & Sara Thronsedt

David and Sara ThronsedtDavid and Sara are from the Fergus Falls area, and have been supporters of the Garden for many years. At one point, when we were looking for new members to join our Horticulture Advisory Committee, Sara’s name was brought up – and oh boy, she was tickled pink to be asked! Sara has been instrumental on our education sub-committee, helping us to develop our Come Grow with Us education series. We certainly appreciate her enthusiasm, positivity, and her “outside the box” thinking on our Advisory Committee.

Dale & Jonette Engan

Dale and Jonette EnganDale and Jonette Engan are from the Willmar area, and they’ve given generously to our program for the past 10 years. Jonette is an avid gardener, and maintains an impressive home garden.  Her landscape design skills are truly amazing. 

Gay Ekberg

Gay EkbergGay Ekberg and her late husband, Gordon, have been friends of the Garden for many years. Gay has always been supportive of our educational events, and is a regular attendee to our various horticulture programs, including Horticulture Night. 

Last year at about this time, we were in the planning stages of transforming our Heritage Garden area.  Originally designed to be reminiscent of a 1950’s farm homestead, the Heritage Garden and surrounding area, brings to life plant materials and artifacts commonly seen from the 1950’s landscape. In 2019, we participated in a design challenge called  “Re-use, Recycle, and Re-imagine” – hosted by All-America Selections (AAS). In order to participate, we needed to create a display using AAS flowers and address the theme – Re-use, Recycle and Re-imagine.  We choose to use our Heritage Garden area for this design challenge, and had a big idea – if we could find a 2 row corn planter, we could plant AAS corn varieties behind the planter to look as though the implement did all the work. 

Word of our quest to find a corn planter spread around the West Central Research and Outreach Center. Lo and behold, our colleague and mechanic extraordinaire, Joel Ekberg, recalled there was one at his parents place – at the home of Gay and Gordon. After contacting Gay, and confirming they did indeed have an old corn planter, she generously agreed to lend us the planter. 

The 2 row planter is positioned in the Heritage Garden, with Marigold Big Duck Orange planted where the corn seeds would typically be, rows of American Dream sweet corn behind the planter, and the whole plot is surrounded by Zinnia Quenny Lime Orange and Marigold Super Hero Spry. 

Karl & Linda Retzlaff

Karl and Linda RetzlaffKarl and Linda Retzlaff have been long-time supporters of our Garden. Linda not only serves as a garden volunteer, but also is on our Advisory Committee. Because of her role as a former educator, her ideas and insights helps to strengthen our vision when it comes to providing educational programming – for children and adults. 

At our last Advisory committee meeting, we were discussing our ideas for how we could turn our Heritage Garden into our Re-Use, Recycle, Re-Imagine theme – Linda readily came forward and offered the use of an old washtub from their place to use as a flower planter. In fact, she remembered her mother using the tub for washing clothes (not holding flowers!) The tub now holds Zinnia Profusion Red, an AAS winner.  

Brent & Ingrid Barnstuble

In late May, while the students and Horticulture staff were out planting all of the annual flowers, we noticed a “new” visitor to the Garden – a large feathered variety – an Egret. He was casually hanging out near our pond; at the time, we thought nothing of it really, other than we’d never seen an Egret in the Garden before. Well, a few days later when all of the fish mysteriously disappeared out of our pond, we had one prime suspect – the Egret. 

Within a few days, Brent and Ingrid Barnstuble reached out to us – offering to donate koi fish from their own pond. Ingrid had heard of the “fish massacre” and generously offered up baby koi from their own pond to replace what we had lost. We, of course, delightedly accepted their kind offer!  Within a few weeks, we were able to coordinate and successfully re-home the Barnstuble fish to our water garden, much to the delight of many visiting children!