By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN It is hard to believe spring is just around the corner with the heavy snowfall just last week.
But warmer weather should be coming and Holy Trinity’s 2007-08 advanced biology students and their teacher, Lois Danielson, are waiting patiently to see how the three gardens they planted last May in Mill Reserve Park in Winsted survived the frigid temps of winter.
The garden project was initiated by the City of Winsted as a goal to get the area youth to take ownership and pride in their community.
In appreciation for a job well done, the city presented Holy Trinity students and Danielson with the 2008 Don C. Guggemos award for community service in December.
“The city council is very pleased with the work, time and effort the students put into the plantings at Mill Reserve Park,” Mayor Steve Stotko said. “The students should be proud of their work and the gift they gave to the community.”
The timing for the project was perfect when the city first approached Holy Trinity School in the fall of 2007 because Danielson was teaching environmental and ecology interactions.
Although Danielson had done some gardening in the past, she knew she needed help in planning for this garden.
After asking for help from different sources, she learned that Winsted residents Don and Helen Guggemos had experience with gardening, and Helen had volunteered a lot at the Minnesota Arboretum.
“They have a beautiful garden in their backyard they had planned, and that is where I pretty much felt I needed help was getting this planned,” Danielson.
Once the Guggemoses said they were willing to help, the work began.
Don and Helen showed their garden to the students, told them about the different plants they have, and then made suggestions on planning for the garden in Mill Reserve Park.
When the word got out about the students’ project, a number of people, like Barb (Charlie) Millerbernd, Colleen Entinger, and Don and Helen, offered to donate a variety of plants for the garden.
With all of the different plant donations, it was decided by everyone that three gardens should be planted instead of just one.
The three garden sites were decided upon, and research was done to find the kind of plants best suited for each of the garden locations.
One of the gardens is shaded and located west of the picnic shelter, another is north of the shelter with partial sun, and the third garden is planted around the flagpole in full-sun.
The students separated into three groups to research, design, and map out the gardens to scale.
The next step was to get approval from the park commission and the city council, so two students from each of the groups made a presentation.
“The presentation was another learning experience for the class,” Danielson said. “I think it raised their awareness of what is involved in the whole government process and the steps you have to go through.”
Once the park commission and city council gave their approval, Danielson moved onto the next unit, the study of forensics, and the city garden project was put on hold until the following May.
When spring came, Danielson began coordinating the project with the city which did some of the heavier labor.
For the garden planted around the flag pole, the city had the rocks removed; for the other two gardens, the sod was removed. The city also had soil and mulch brought in.
The night before the gardening event, numerous plantings were dug up from the various donors, and brought in the next day.
The day was handled like a field trip with students getting the entire school day to complete the project.
The students had to work up the soil, level the gardens, and then plant.
“Everybody did their share. It was amazing. As they (the students) finished their project, they would help another group and pick another job and do it,” Danielson said.
For gardeners who might be interested in the plants they will see this summer, the sun garden has irises, autumn joy, sedum, columbine, and false asters.
The shaded area has lancifolia hostas, purple coneflowers, lazy black-eyed Susan, ferns, and red twig dogwood.
Throughout the summer, the 15 student gardeners and their teacher watched the gardens blossom.
The full-sun garden around the flag pole surprised the group that had planted it because it had grown and filled out so much in just a few months.
“They had been disappointed at first in how the garden looked,” Danielson said,” Because they had planted mostly seedlings.”
Everyone involved in the project was proud of the final results seen by the end of last summer.
“Now, there is something there that will come back every year and the students, can say, ‘we did that,’ and they can take pride in it,’” Danielson.
“They are actually part of the town now. They own a piece of that. They didn’t do it for a grade. Their only benefit is to say, ‘it looks gorgeous and I did that,’” Danielson said.