Soil to Soul

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Members of the Aberdeen Garden Plotters Club make outdoor crafts and gifts at one of their meetings.

Aberdeen gardeners use their green thumbs for a good cause

There’s something remarkable about putting your hands in the dirt and growing a work of living, colorful art. This is especially true after our long South Dakota winters, when the return of flowers and plants is often a welcome sight. There are many flower beds and gardens to enjoy in Aberdeen, and it’s likely that some of these that you’ve passed by and appreciated have been planted by the Aberdeen Garden Plotters Club.

The club started out with about 10 members, most of whom worked together at Parkview Nursery. “It’s definitely a social gardening group. We all like plants and have gardens, and enjoy getting together,” says one of the club’s founding members, Renita Kainz. This was back in the fall of 2006, and today club members still meet at each other’s homes to share meals, swap ideas, and work on craft projects. In the summer months, they gather inspiration by visiting yards around town that they admire. Renita says, “We’ve seen new plants and ideas, and ways to put plants together, by walking through others’ yards and seeing what they do.” 

Over the years, the club has taken an active role in maintaining garden plots in Aberdeen. They’ve helped the Salvation Army by maintaining flower beds in front of the building and ringing the bell during the holidays, and worked with the City Forestry Department in their Trash to Trees program. But the main project that they’ve taken under their wing for the past decade has been helping to develop the Kuhnert Arboretum. 

To date, they’ve raised more than $17,000 dollars for the Arboretum through their annual plant sale. Held on the first Saturday in June in Renita’s yard, the plant sale is one any experienced or novice gardener doesn’t want to miss. All of the plants in the sale come from the yards of Garden Plotter members, and most things are priced between two and eight dollars. Club member Deb Bures explains, “Every spring we go through our own yards, and there’s always lots of plants that need to be thinned out, divided, or moved, and so we use those in our fundraiser.” This June, they’ll be celebrating their sale’s tenth anniversary. Their funds have been used to sponsor trees, a concrete bench, and a sculpture at the entrance to the children’s garden, as well as to plant and maintain perennial beds. They plan to put this year’s earnings toward the further development of the children’s garden. 

The club first got involved in supporting the Arboretum after listening to a presentation by City Forester, Aaron Kiesz, at one of their meetings. Renita explains the importance of the Arboretum to Aberdeen by saying, “An Arboretum is different than a regular park because it’s also an educational experience. Trees, plants, and shrubs are all labeled so visitors can identify them.” Deb adds, “The city plans to showcase a lot of trees and plants that are native to our region.” During their plant sales, the Garden Plotters have noticed that there’s a lot of curiosity in the area about gardening and plants. “People will come through our sale and we talk to them about things like annuals versus perennials, or plants that grow best in shade versus sun, and how to mix and match all of those things,” Deb says. 

It’s been said that there are no gardening mistakes, only experiments. If you ask the Garden Plotters, they’ll tell you that they’ve learned the art of growing through a lot of trial and error. They love gardening for what they warmly refer to as the ‘dirt therapy’ it provides. Renita’s mother sparked her interest in plants when she was a child, and that, combined with the years of on the job training that she acquired while working in nurseries, has grown her delight in the hobby. She says, “There’s really no rhyme or reason to what I plant. If I like it, I plant it. If it grows it grows, and if not I move it and grow something new in that spot. It’s a process of finding what works.” When Deb and her family moved into their current home in Aberdeen 18 years ago it had a shade yard, which inspired her to think outside the box and find plants that grow best with little sunlight. Her neighbor also happens to be a member of the Garden Plotters, and one thing led to another until she had fixed up both her front and back yards. Along the way she learned a lot about growing shade loving plants, and currently has over 100 different types of hostas, as well as a variety of other shade plants, in her gardens. She says, “This sharing of ideas and tricks to the trade with gardeners of all levels is exactly what the Aberdeen Garden Plotters are all about.” // – Jenny Roth

May June 2018

The annual Aberdeen Garden Plotters plant sale is scheduled for Saturday, June 2, from 8:00 AM to noon at 911 11th Avenue Northeast. For more information, search Aberdeen Garden Plotters on Facebook.