In celebration of gardeners past, present and future

// The Men’s Gardening Club celebrates 70 years of service to the city //

On a warm weekday morning, birds, bees and gardening enthusiasts alike hum through the gardens of Lyndale Park. Among those gathered to maintain one of the city’s many parks are members of the Men’s Gardening Club of Minneapolis. 

 

Founded in 1942, the club is no stranger to public service, having dedicated substantial time and effort over its 70 years of operation to help beautify the city’s parks and gardens, promoting the betterment of life and community

through its love of gardening. 

 

One area of Lyndale park in particular, a 300-foot stretch that meanders up from the Peace Gardens toward King’s Highway, has received the much-needed loving attention of the club for the past 16 years.

 

Once a beautiful perennial garden during Theodore Wirth’s time as the head of the parks, it was deeply neglected after the 1970s. That is, until the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board enlisted the help of the Men’s Gardening Club

of Minneapolis to plant and maintain a Perennial Trial Garden in 1996. As a collaborative project between the Park Board, the club and the University of Minnesota, the trial garden now provides data on the hardiness, disease

resistance and flowering potential of a variety of perennials. 

 

Club members assess the plants for three years, after which the data is published through the U of M’s Plant Trial website, allowing gardeners access to information on new plants that have the potential to thrive here in Minnesota. 

 

In addition to the trial garden, members of the Lyndale Park Garden Committee design, plant and maintain the Perennial Mixed Border Garden. It runs behind the trial garden and is backed by large evergreen trees. The committee,

with around 20 members, has donated all the funds for the plants, a wide array of shrubs, ornamental grasses and colorful perennial flowers. 

 

“The Lyndale Park Garden Project has materialized way beyond any of our visions or expectations,” said Lyndale Park Committee Chair Kay Wolfe.

 

Wolfe, along with three other members of the committee, was working to clean up and re-arrange the gardens one recent weekday morning. As different shrubs were moved and re-planted, the scents of sage and chives drifted

across the gardens.

 

Beyond the donation of funds, the members of the Lyndale Park Garden Committee dedicate about 270 hours per season to maintain and develop the garden. Never absent is a sense of pride and accomplishment the members gain

through giving back to the community in a beautiful and touching way. 

 

Wolfe shared the story of a woman whose mother had drawn deep satisfaction and peace from the gardens during her struggle with cancer, and who continued to visit the gardens until the time of her passing. 

 

“Gardens really touch people and are very restful, peaceful places,” said Wolfe.

 

Club members demonstrate their commitment to the community through their actions. Club by-laws state it “has dedicated itself to the betterment of life for both the community and its individual members.” 

 

Over many years, the club has donated and planted hundreds of trees throughout the city’s parks, as part of special events and their Arbor Day event. During this year’s annual celebration, Robert’s Bird Sanctuary on the northeast

side of Lake Harriet received 19 native trees and shrubs and 50 native perennials. The planting was done by club members on the Arbor Day Committee, as well as by the Minneapolis Audubon Society and the Conservation Corps. 

 

In addition to the physical gifts of trees and plants, the club sponsors scholarships for students in Minnesota horticultural programs, allowing their love of gardening and desire for education to flourish.

 

The club was also instrumental in the start of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. After meeting with the MN State Horticultural Society in 1956, the club set about raising enough money to purchase a 160-acre plot of land. The

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was opened in 1958 with Dr. Leon Snyder, a U of M faculty member and long-time member of the Men’s Gardening Club, as director. 

 

Despite many changes over the years, the club’s name, now a slight misnomer, has stuck. Its membership is now approximately 50 percent women, and its members hail not only from Minneapolis but the whole metro area.

 

“We have not yet had a successful vote to change the name to something more reflective of our current club make up, so we continue with the original name,” said current club President Robert Kean. 

 

At present, the club boasts around 90 members, each with diverse levels of experience. Both Kay Wolfe and Robert Kean emphasized the breadth and depth of gardening knowledge of the club’s members, and cite this as a factor

that distinguishes them from other gardening clubs. 

 

“We have members at all levels of experience, novice through master gardeners and horticultural professionals,” said Kean. Through their mentoring program, new members “can be introduced to all kinds of experts,” added Wolfe.

 

Beyond their personal desire to gain knowledge and expertise at gardening, the members of the Men’s Gardening Club of Minneapolis understand that their hard work contributes to the community in an important and unique way.

Said Wolfe, “I believe that if we have talent in an area that we should give back and make the earth and our community as beautiful as possible.”

 

 

 

FYI …

To learn more about the Men’s Gardening Club of Minneapolis, visit minneapolismensgardenclub.org.