When entering the yard of Paulette and Marlo Nelson of rural Strathcona, one is greeted by a serene setting of white and pink wave petunias in an elongated flower bed in the front yard. In fact, there are multiple blooms everywhere.
“I have enjoyed working with flowers for the past 50 years,” Paulette said. “Our girls wanted a perennial bed when they were in junior high so Marlo dug out the dirt, hauled in fill, and then we planted. Angela spent many hours just sitting out in that garden pulling weeds – she loved being out there.”
The couple are the parents of three daughters: Kathy (Paul) Hendrickson, Carrington, N.D.; Lynette (Dave) Blazek, Greenbush, Minn.; and Angela (Tony) Lorentz, East Grand Forks. Minn. Seven grandchildren complete the family tree.
Paulette uses a method she learned from her oldest daughter, Kathy, when getting the petunias started for the coming spring.
“In the fall I bring in two ‘mother plants’, one pink flowered and the other, white, from the flower bed. The plants are put in the basement in planters filled with potting soil to grow.”
“How often are the plants watered?” I asked.
“Whenever I remind Marlo it should be done,” she laughed.
Marlo added a bit of wisdom. “A plant that is dried out can be brought back to life … one that has been overwatered can’t.” He added, “Many years ago I started poppies from seed, but ‘someone’ sprayed them with weed killer so I went to growing vegetables instead.”
Once the mother plants have grown to a certain stage, usually in March or April Paulette will cut off 50 two-to-three inch ‘slips’ from each plant. Sometimes she is able to get two slips from one stem. After the mother plants grow back again, she takes more slips until she has all she needs.
“The slips are dipped in water, then into ‘TAKEROOT Rooting Hormone’ and from there, are planted in six-pack containers, again containing only potting soil.
“I fill trays with six packs of about 50 petunia plants in each tray; there are three trays of white and three trays of pink.”
The trays are then placed on four, 48 inch long, shelf units with growing lights hanging overhead on each shelf. The lights are left on for an average of 10-12 hours during the daytime; at night they are turned off. When watering the plants, Paulette uses Miracle Grow.
The backside of this spacious flower bed is home to perennials such as columbines and fox glove.
And that’s not all. “In the fall I plant tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the same bed and after they die back in the spring I plant the petunias in the same place,” Paulette stated.
As we walked along the side of the house, several bumble bees were busily flitting in and out among the flowering sedums.
A variety of zinnias, marigolds, hostas, calla lillies, phlox, peonies. astible, morning glories and more border the edge of the woods behind the house.
Besides a plum tree or two, a very interesting apple tree grows back there as well.
“Our daughter, Angela, who has a degree in horticulture, works at Shea’s Nursery and Landscaping in Grand Forks,” Paulette said. “She and I grafted an apple tree and last year it produced four different varieties of apples!”
To see the full story, read the August 22 issue of The Tribune in print or online.