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Hilman shares gardening enthusiasm and tips

Sue Hilman poses with the mandevilla in her front yard.

“I’ve always loved to garden…When I get frustrated, I bake or dig in the dirt,” says Lancaster gardener Sue Hilman.

She doesn’t even seem to mind the weeding. Of that chore, dreaded by some, she says, “I love to be out there so much that it’s not a chore for me.”

Even a recent hip surgery hasn’t put a stop to her gardening, though she admits she had lots of help from a daughter in getting the project going this spring.

She shows photos of beautiful, blooming flowers from gardens past, some of them from days of living on the farm. “I had one bed that must have been 60 feet long,” she says.

A caption in a scrapbook under a photo of her delphiniums reads, “My favorites are the delphiniums that range from white to every shade of blue, purple and pink.”

She and her husband moved off the farm and into their new house in town three years ago and Sue admits the delphiniums aren’t as “happy” there as they were in the country.

“I used to take enormous bouquets of delphiniums to church,” she remembers.

Sue actually has a number of favorite flowers. She refers to a mandevilla growing in a pot in her front yard as a “favorite” and also loves the hybrid tea rose, the kind of rose one finds in a flower shop.

“Rarely can you get a (hybrid tea) rose to winter in this country,” she states and then shares the “Minnesota Tip” for helping them survive.

In the fall, “wrap nylon cord around branches to tighten up. Carefully remove dirt on one side of rose to expose part of root system. Dig a trench as long as the rose height.

Carefully wiggle rose with potato fork to loosen and tip rose into trench. Carefully cover rose with dirt. Mark well where it is; leave part of nylon cord on top to mark. In spring, carefully remove dirt; stand rose back up.”

She also comments that one needs to watch for a fungal disease, black spot disease, in roses and fix the problem before it gets out of control. Some years that may require spraying the plants with a fungicide once a week. (She notes that “nipping” all plant related problems “in the bud,” before they get out of control, is a good idea with every kind of plant).

A trip to Sue’s back yard reveals a vegetable and flower garden. Even in early summer, potatoes, onions, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and dill had a good start.

“I like to can what I grow…Last year I had four tomato plants and I had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with,” she says.

In the flower side of the garden, she points to rhea salvia plants. “This will be a mass of purple,” she says, adding that the rhea salvia is “one of the best annuals that there are” and notes that they will bloom all summer.

She points to a perennial, called a foxglove, noting that it had survived the winter, something the foxglove often can’t do.

She points to her roses, which have large, plastic circles around them. She has cut big pails in thirds and put around the bases of the plants so as to keep the water from running away when she waters them.

Read the full story in the June 18 issue of the North Star News.

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