Local Master Gardeners Share the Fruits of Their Labor

by | Apr 2024

Bee Balm

Bee Balm. Photos: Chris Emeott

Hennepin County Master Gardeners showcase their earthly endeavors.

Like many things in life, experiencing them firsthand often provides an elevated experience. Take, for example, when visiting a garden, one can view how colors, shapes and textures are married with nature’s tender hand to reveal natural art in its purest form. Bees, butterflies, songbirds and tiny woodland animals all come to visit, and, for the most part, positively add to the natural vistas as they go about their inherent business.

When the Hennepin County Learning Garden Tour, launched in 2008, is held each season, it offers attendees the opportunity to visit, appreciate and learn from the efforts of some of the area’s master gardeners, who are University of Minnesota-trained volunteers, educating the public about a variety of horticulture topics.

“The tour features a wide variety of garden settings and inspirational opportunities,” says Allison Reese, chair of the Learning Garden Tour Committee. “The goal is to have attendees leave the garden tour inspired to start or continue work in their own backyards or small spaces, knowing they have information backed by university research.”

Reese says, “Each garden offers a unique opportunity to learn about the latest trends and techniques—with educational topics at each garden … The tour highlights one-of-a-kind gardens, showcasing a wide variety of designs, locations and styles.”

Most of the locations are private homes of master gardeners, but the tour could include the schools or community gardens where they serve as volunteers.

The Hennepin County Learning Garden Tour is slated for July 13—rain or shine—and will include portions of Minneapolis and Edina, featuring up to 10 gardens. Learn more at hennepinmastergardeners.org.

Meet the Master Gardener: Leslee Jaeger, Plymouth
Leslee Jaeger

Leslee Jaeger

“My garden has evolved over the 30-plus years I have lived here,” Jaeger says. “We started with laying our own sod and hauling rock for landscaping, which was the custom for new homes in the early ’90s, and I have spent the last 30 years ripping up sod and getting rid of rock as I have extended my gardening habit. Initially, everything was kid- and dog-friendly, and the kids used the backyard for their playground. We added a pond around 15 years ago, and that really started me to consider the yard as an extra room for entertaining. My most recent additions are three vegetable gardens and a pollinator garden.”

From spring through fall, Jaeger spends about 10 hours a week in her garden. She always wanted to be a master gardener, and once courses moved online during COVID-19, she pursued her dream. “Gardening encompasses many interests for me,” she says. “It is a full body exercise in the outdoors, meditation, art creation, nutrition and entertaining. I often listen to audiobooks as I garden.”

Shrub Rose

Shrub Rose

Proudest Gardening Endeavor: Inspiring others to start a garden “… either vegetable or flower.”

Favorite Plant: Japanese maple tree “I love the lacy foliage and change in color of the leaves during each season. It reminds me of many of the Asian gardens I have visited.”

Favorite Garden to Visit: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska “[It’s] a favorite and one I don’t visit often enough because I am too busy in my own garden.”

Is a garden ever complete? Not yet “I would like to think that someday I will quit adding elements to the garden and just enjoy what I have—unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet!”

Meet the Master Gardener: Brian Bade, Wayzata
Brian Bade

Brian Bade

“When I set out to spruce up the landscape, I didn’t really have an overarching plan,” Bade says. “I focused on one area of the yard at a time and just planted what I liked … It took three or four years to chip away at the removal … The gardens have evolved greatly over time [a small pond, a couple of fountains, two pergolas, plant and tree removal and additions and a vegetable garden] … Because I didn’t really have a master plan, the varieties and locations of many plants were placed by trial and error, division and subtraction.”

Bade says, “I would say the theme of the garden would be pollinator, with a heavy focus on natives as time has gone on. There is also a bit of a wild prairie vibe to it, as well. The garden is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat and has been certified as an Official Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch … I planted a bee lawn in part of the turf in spring 2022, with hopes of showing people what a bee lawn should look like.”

Meadow blazing star

Meadow blazing star

From April through September, Bade spends up to 14 hours per week working in the garden, but it fluctuates throughout the year. He became a master gardener in 2020. “I grew up on a dairy farm in Arlington, Minnesota, and I was always around plants and agriculture, so gardening has always been something I have been interested in,” he says.

Gardening has grown into a treasured hobby for Bade. “It gets you out in nature, lets you be creative and benefits your neighborhood,” he says. “I have a 12-year-old [who] sees me working in the garden for hours on end and helps from time to time. Kids spend so much time in front of screens; I want to try and influence a few to get outside and get their hands dirty.”

Proudest Gardening Endeavor: Restoring a cupola and its wind vane “It reminds me of growing up on a family farm in rural Minnesota. So many of those farms are gone now. The cupola stands as the crown jewel of the pollinator garden.”

Favorite Plant: Agastache blue fortune (Blue fortune hummingbird mint) “It blooms from late August to frost and gives pollinators a late season nectar source … The second is Meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis). A tall spiked perennial, growing single stalks 4 to 5 feet tall, which produce tufted purple blooms. It’s an absolute monarch magnet. It blooms in late fall and coincides very closely with monarch migration. I have had 16 butterflies on a single plant. It really is amazing to see …”

Favorite Garden to Visit: Noerenberg Memorial Gardens, Wayzata, and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska “The Minnesota Horticultural Society publishes a magazine called Northern Gardener. While it isn’t a physical place, it is a great publication and resource for Minnesota gardeners.”

Is a garden ever complete? Never “I’m constantly moving things around, and will continue to do so.”


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