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Monday, May 2, 2016

Gray Matters: Warm Thoughts In Mid-Winter

Monday, February 18, 2008

I recently heard it rumored that some local women were starting a Garden Club. Just a short while before that I had been bemoaning the fact that such delightful organizations seemed to be things of the past. Happily, as I followed up on the rumor, I found it to be a fact. Under the leadership of Julie Sand, Diane Klassen, and others, this group has been formed. Diane, by the way is the daughter of Hazel Rupp, a long-time member of that great Marcus Garden Club of the past. In my mind that's adequate proof that the green-thumb gene is passed along in one's DNA. Don't you agree?

I hope to follow the progress of this enthusiastic group and report on it periodically. Of course, there are men in all of our communities who are also remarkable gardeners. One such fellow has agreed to share some of his observations with us when spring nears.

Meanwhile, remembering that earlier Marcus Garden Club - of which I believe Hazel Rupp, Imelda Roethler and Dorothy Petersen may be the only surviving members - I find myself singling out Rose Lage and Dora Shefstad as two of the great gardeners many of us fondly recall.

Save for a tiny front lawn, Wilbur and Dora Shefstad's entire lot was devoted to an amazing variety of splendid flowers. She grew roses that seemed to stretch out over a longer season than anyone else's, in those long-ago pre-hybrid days. It was then, too, that none of the glorious perfume had been bred out of them. I also remember tall stalks of fragrant waxy tuberoses nearby and, in the fall, many glorious asters, my favorite late-bloomers, as well as a striking bed of flaming orange diabolo cosmos.

Like all great gardeners, Dora was generous in sharing her treasures. A few years ago I was forced, by stiffening fingers and reluctant knees, to turn my flowerbeds back to sod and low-maintenance landscaping. The only plants I kept were my lovely coral bells, all of which had come from a single root that she had given me long ago.

Rose Lage, and husband, Herman, ran Lage's Café, that time-honored eatery and gathering place of which everyone in Marcus, over a certain age, has a favorite story to tell. I'm not sure when she found time for all the nurturing and cultivating during those busy years. But later, when she was in her mid-eighties, long after they had retired and Herman had passed away, she was still actively maintaining her big beautiful garden. In addition to raising a wide variety of gorgeous blooms, she would cut and arrange them in containers from her extensive collection. Can anyone count the number of bridal or baby showers, receptions and other such occasions that were graced by her artistic offerings? She was as generous as Dora in sharing roots and cuttings, and any and all of her "tricks of the trade."

I often thought the secret of Rose's mastery lay in her belief in these beautiful words etched in a small stone plaque at the edge of her yard:

"The kiss of the sun for pardon

The song of the birds for mirth

One is nearer God's heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth."