Howard Lake Herald, April 6, 1998

Flower power and April showers usher in spring


Even flowers are high tech these days, said Mary Robinson of Howard Lake.

"If you go on the Internet, there are at least 1,000 Web sites for gladiolus," she said.

Neither the national society, nor the Minnesota Gladiolus Society has a web site yet, but they are considering it, said Robinson.

She is in a position to know, as she is editor for the Minnesota Gladiolus Society's newsletter, Glad Fan.

As a past president and member of the board of directors of the Minnesota organization, Robinson has spent the past 27 years promoting the beautiful flowers.

Robinson, a 1963 graduate of Howard Lake High School, mixes her love of gardening with work.

Robinson has retained her teaching certification, even though she discovered she had no desire to teach full-time.

This enables her to vary her work schedule with a variety of activities.

She works at the HLWW High School as a secretary, subs occasionally, and tutors at the Charter Treatment Center.

Here she monitors homework and acts as a liaison between the kids and the various school districts. The kids come from all over the state, she said.

Through the high school, she gets help with her garden, said Robinson.

James Weningar, HLWW teacher, and his FFA students help till the soil and plant about 1,000 bulbs as part of a learning situation, she said.

"We talk about systemics, an insecticide that is placed in the planting row, to prevent thrips. The insect comes along and takes a bite of the bulb. The bulb tastes really bad, so the insect moves on," she said.

In the fall, the students come back to dig bulbs and help put the garden to bed for the winter.

Proper bulb selection and care produce show winning blooms for Robinson.


Ribbons and money are given out at the Minnesota State Fair show, but ribbons are the normal prizes for the placings.

The challenge comes in winning the grand champion or reserve champion in either the interpretive class or decorative arrangement class, she said.

Robinson has some of those purple grand champion ribbons to show off.

This enables her to vary her work schedule with a variety of activities.

Her favorite variety of gladiolus to grow and show is the Parade, a salmon colored specimen that has been on top of the growers' lists for about 20 years.

Many other varieties have been introduced, she said, but this one has remained popular.

Robinson cautions prospective growers to purchase bulbs from reliable sources.

"If you want special blooms, you can't buy your bulbs from Wall-Mart," she said.

"For sure," she said, "don't buy through the catalogs that ship from Holland."

Two reliable catalogers for bulbs are recommended by Robinson: Blooming Prairie Gardens of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota and Noweta Glads.

Once you have good bulbs, Robinson recommended planting them with identification and doing the same careful identification when you dig them in the fall.

Robinson enters two big shows in the late summer when the flowers are in bloom; one at Northtown Mall and the state fair show on the first weekend of the fair.

"We like the malls, because they have a lot of foot traffic. Over 10,000 people come through the Northtown Mall during the weekend," she said.

A typical show will display 150-200 arrangements and 300-500 single spikes, so they need lots of space for their flowers.

Classes are divided into the interpretive or decorative arrangements and the single spikes.

Interpretive classes have a title or theme and the entrant must develop an arrangement to fit the title of the class.

For instance, soap operas was one of the titles, with one of the themes being "The Bold and the Beautiful."

This produced very large displays of flowers in this class, Robinson said.

Robinson enters decorative arrangements where she can use baskets or vases to create her own ideas, rather than following a theme.

Showing is just part of the appeal of the Minnesota Gladiolus Society for Robinson.

"People from all walks of life are in the society," said Robinson, "from farmers to a retired 3-M executive."

They are wonderful people, she said and always welcome new members into the organization.

If you are interested in attending a meeting of the Minnesota Gladiolus Society or want to know more about the shows, call Mary Robinson, 320-543-2749.

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