Colorful cast of bloomers set the stage at the Horn abode

Marilyn and Jerry Horn have made a "happy place" on a Two Inlets Lake peninsula.

Marilyn Horn was content to be homebound during the pandemic, her gardens on Two Inlets Lake serving as her “happy place.”
Contributed / Anna Hudson
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Nestled in the pines on a peninsula in Two Inlets Lake, one will find the beautiful gardens of Marilyn and Jerry Horn, starting with the explosion of color going down their driveway. She has been working on these gardens since 2002, when the Horns retired and finished building their lake home.

Marilyn Horn’s philosophy toward gardening is to have plants blooming all summer.
Contributed / Anna Hudson

At first, Marilyn planted flowers where she found bare spaces of dirt. Ten years ago, she worked with Flying W Gardens to design and build some formal garden areas.

Every winter, Marilyn plans what she will do in the gardens in the spring. At one point, she planted at least 400 annuals to brighten her landscape. She likes to try different things and purchases a variety of plants from local nurseries. Her basic strategy is to have something blooming throughout the summer season. She already knows she will plant five dozen each of perfusion zinnias and Magellan zinnias for 2022. Her favorite flowers are lilies.

Marilyn has been gardening since she was growing up with her siblings on a farm in Iowa. Her father would plant a garden each year, and it was the children’s responsibility to maintain it by weeding it and harvesting the produce. The family grew potatoes and carrots, which were stored in a cellar over the winter, and they canned the rest of the vegetables they grew. She stated that she never felt it was a chore since she enjoyed being outdoors.

Marilyn even gardens when she and Jerry are in Arizona over the winter. She has some geraniums in pots that are over 5 years old. The rest of their landscape in the southern state is native plants surrounded by rocks – no grass to maintain.


Back in Minnesota, she waters her gardens with water from the lake. Fifteen years ago, they considered putting in an irrigation system but decided against it. Hindsight being 20/20, they wish they had put in the system, as now they drag those heavy hoses around to each garden plot.

Milkweed provides habitat for a Monarch butterfly caterpillar. Marilyn Horn collects eggs and moves them into terrariums, watching their metamorphosis.
Contributed / Anna Hudson

Jerry gets involved in Marilyn’s projects, such as building a potting bench. This bench is covered with plastic in the spring and serves as a greenhouse for Marilyn’s seedlings and early plants such as tomatoes and peppers. Shortly after Memorial Day, when the soil has warmed sufficiently, Marilyn transplants those plants to her raised vegetable gardens. She originally had straw bale gardens but those were too heavy to manage.

During the summers of 2020 and 2021 when the pandemic was raging, Marilyn felt blessed to be able to spend time in her ‘happy place’ – outside in her gardens. When she wasn’t weeding the gardens or deadheading the plants, she would relax in a secluded area in their pine forest. They built a deck in a clearing among the trees where they can see the lake and watch eagles catch fish. Their grandchildren call the way to the clearing “Grandma’s secret path.”

While she takes weeding very seriously, there is one weed that is allowed to grow in her gardens – milkweed. The milkweed survives as it is a component of one of her other summertime hobbies – maintaining a Monarch butterfly nursery. She collects the eggs or caterpillars from the milkweed plants and moves them into her terrariums. She is able to watch the entire birth cycle of the monarchs. In 2020, she released over 200 monarchs. Even though the monarchs came back early in 2021, Marilyn released fewer butterflies this year – only 78.

Gardening columnist Don Kinzler wonders how raccoons know when you're planning to harvest sweet corn the next day, why "lily" is included in the name daylily when they aren't even in the lily family, and other mysteries.

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