Overcast skies did not dim the spirits of the small crowd that made their way through multiple gardens on Tuesday, July 20, as a part of the annual Carlton County Garden Tour hosted through the Carlton County Master Gardeners program with the University of Minnesota Extension Office.
After the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a virtual tour for 2020, this year's consisted of five gardens in the Barnum, Moose Lake and Kettle River areas — four resident-made and one community garden — according to Carlton County Master Gardeners Volunteer Coordinator Ann Rust.
Tuesday's event received a great response, Rust said, despite being planned in an unusually short timeline. Typically, she said planning would have started in March, but that they waited until the University of Minnesota lifted their COVID-19 restrictions for the program, which happened July 1.
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The late notice didn't seem to matter to the tour attendees, after last year's virtual tour meant the absence of a summer highlight for many avid garden-goers.
“We’re always looking for new ideas," Marjie Klint said as she studied the plants and flowers in one Barnum resident's garden.
Klint and fellow gardener Judy Borash had been coming to the Carlton County Garden Tour for three years before the pandemic. The two said they use the tour as research, studying the plants and pondering if they would go well in their own gardens. They, along with others, were eager to be back after declining to attend in a virtual setting.
Longtime garden tourists Bob and Mary Jo Grossman also skipped the virtual event, but seemed happy to be back to what has become a sort of tradition. The couple has been going to the Carlton County Garden Tour for roughly seven years and have been gardening all their lives. As they stood in the newly built Moose Lake Community Garden, they said they were nothing but impressed.
Over the years, the Grossman's explained that they have become familiar with some of the gardens, but the community garden was a brand new sight.
The 22-plot space is housed on the grounds of Moose Lake Community School and was built in June 2020, according to Vicki Radzak of Moose Lake Community Education. Radzak spearheaded the project and was thrilled to see it added to the 2021 tour.
“It’s an honor," she said, adding that she hoped all of the beds had been properly weeded. “It’s like having someone come to your house.”
This phrase may have also rang true for the other stops on the tour, as four garden-owners welcomed the public onto their private properties. According to Rust, three of the residential gardens were owned by Carlton County Master Gardeners and one by Barnum resident, Sheila Wolters.
"I’ve always been a gardener," Wolters said, sitting on a chair under a dome of plants.
When Wolters became disabled after 20 years of working construction, she said gardening became a place of healing for her body, spirit and mind.
“That was my physical therapy," she said.
Along with the owners of the gardens, approximately 15 Carlton County Master Gardeners were also present to help guide the crowd and answer questions.
“We love the tours," Master Gardener Lyle Giersdorf said, explaining that he and his family have been attending for years.
While Giersdorf has been gardening since he was 3 years old, he is fairly new to the Master Gardeners program, joining after his retirement from teaching at Moose Lake a little less than two years ago.
In total, there are 30 volunteers in the Carlton County Master Gardeners program, according to Rust, and they are always looking for more.
For more information on the Carlton County Master Gardeners program, call 218-384-3511 or email Rust at firstname.lastname@example.org.