Splendor on Pickerel Lake

Filed in Gardening by on June 17, 2014

On the south shore of Pickerel Lake in Otter Tail County is Floyd and Nellda Lehne’s home. It is also the home of Nellda’s splendid gardens. 

9628578105_d2256ef3b2_z (2)On first sight, meadow comes to mind rather than garden. From the road, a riot of color greets one as Nellda’s perennial bed comes into view. In June, peonies, iris, daisies, poppies, an all manner of early-season plants dance in a sea of green. By August, phlox, joe-pye weed, day lilies, aster, and a plethora of other late blooming plants create a show-stopping fall display.

Most years, Nellda divides these perennials in early spring and has plenty for the garden-club plant sale. This year’s slow start kept Nellda out of her garden, though, and the perennials grow so thick she can barely make her way through to tend them. Next year she will have twice as many plants for the fundraising project.

Between spring and fall, Nellda relies on annuals to keep color in her gardens. A dozen large raised beds spill over with marigolds, red and blue saliva, zinnia and other annuals she grows from seed. Floyd built an irrigation system in the raised beds, so watering is no chore during hot summer days.

Although the large perennial and annual beds are a main feature, a number of smaller gardens add charm to the landscape. Columbine grace a dragonfly sculpture in a small perennial bed adjoining the driveway, where a sidewalk leads to a courtyard and the street-side entry.

9628578721_9f18918aed_zThe courtyard gives the Lehne’s a great place to enjoy a cold beverage with family and friends on a summer day or coffee in the morning. Hostas and other shade-loving plants add serenity to the setting while nearby clematis and roses add a profusion of color and bloom.

This entrance to Nellda and Floyd’s home holds yet another charming surprise:  a bouquet of flowers beside the door. Years ago Nellda says a friend gave her the clear plastic “vase” that attaches to a window. Throughout the growing season, Nellda fills the vase with flowers in bloom.  In June, it’s bleeding hearts and lupine. By autumn, it’s mums and asters.

Lakeside, the garden displays continue. A tableau of pots filled with oxalis and fairy lilies anchor the corners of a paving-stone patio by the lakeside door. The plants overwinter well and Nellda keeps them thriving year after year.

Across an expanse of lawn, a border of clipped shrubs and sumac offer a picturesque view against the backdrop of Pickerel Lake. Spring brings the green of shrubs in bloom and autumn the reds and maroons of sumac against the blue water. The stems and branches of sumac silhouetted against the lake add drama to the landscape during every season.

Across the road from the Lehne’s home is Floyd’s workshop building. The land borders a wetland area and Nellda’s gardens that surround the building vary according to soil and moisture conditions. Bog and water-loving plants such as flag iris, marigolds, and cattails grow along the west side of the building, while hostas, iris, phlox, sundrops, bellflowers, coral bells, and monarda fill the large curved beds on higher ground to the west. Some years the wetlands encroach and Nellda loses some garden, but she is reconciled to letting nature have its way.

As eager as Nellda is to begin gardening each spring, and as splendid as her gardens are, she is equally eager to end it all in the fall. “Summer is gardens,” she says. “And winter is for quilting.” Lucky she lives in Minnesota where she can have both.

For More Photo See Slideshow Below

by Reba Gilliand, a Master Gardener who writes from her home on West Battle Lake.

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