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Garden party in the cold reminds planters spring will come

Marilyn Wacker came from Farmington to visit a friend and attend the basket party. (Photos by Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
Vicki Breun just completed her Master Gardeners core course this winter and is the group's newest member.2 / 2

On a cold March Saturday, when it seemed winter would never end, a garden party gave two dozen women hope that spring, while not eternal, will eventually come.

Park Rapids Master Gardeners hosted a basket planting party and luncheon at Flying W Gardens last weekend. It's part fundraiser for the group and fulfills their educational mission as part of their ongoing certification.

But for the women who braved double-digit temperatures, the warm cozy greenhouse and floral décor was a magical experience.

"These Master Gardener events are always such fun," said Karen Anderson, who gardens outside of Nevis on the 2nd Crow Wing River. "I always learn so much."

Anderson clutched her notes from the day as if they were precious certificates of deposit.

She learned about cold- hardy annuals, and like most of the planters who attended, broke out of her provincial planting mode.

"I've always used a lot of geraniums and petunias," admitted Joyce Stave of Park Rapids. "I'm branching out."

She fussed over her hanging basket of plants, varieties she never knew about and would never have thought about combining, using oranges with purples, reds, yellows. When in full bloom, her basket will be a colorful explosion.

"This is a new experiment," Anderson said, proudly displaying her work. "I've always gone with the standards, too."

The Master Gardeners gave each participant the creative impetus to break out of their traditional approach to planting. Anderson showed off her basket. The dark exotic-looking potato ivy will spill over the brim eventually; the New Guinea impatiens, with its variegated leaves, will enhance the basket's beauty and unusual look.

Vicki Breun, who recently completed the core Master Gardeners course offered this winter in Perham, couldn't wait to put her newly acquired knowledge to work. Like kids in a candy store, the women all eagerly placed newly sprouted annuals in their baskets.

Flying W will house the baskets in optimal conditions until it's safe to put them outdoors. Then the gardeners will pick them up and display them at home.

Cindy Boettcher just bought a home in Menahga. She was so excited about the event she invited her friend, Marilyn Wacker, to come up from Farmington to participate.

The charming lunch was served to tables with flowered tablecloths; dip was displayed in clay pots with chive spears decorating them; the edible bouquets held fruits, veggies and other goodies on spears.

It was good therapy for the endless winter, the women agreed. And the knowledge about what to do outside once the ground thaws will tide them over for the next month or two.