Gardens, personalities bloom

FAIRMONT – Whimsy might be the word for Jean and Butch Hanson’s gardens on Heritage Court.

From the street, the yard is well-groomed, the house stately, but walk up the stairs and along a path that leads around the side of the house, and you get a different view altogether of the yard and its owners.

“I have my owl garden on the side of the house,” said Jean, pointing out the owls of different shapes and sizes tucked in amongst a variety of luscious succulents.

“And this is my turtle parade,” she said, drawing attention to the decorative reptiles enjoying the shade of a hosta garden.

A footpath leads to a quaint little garden shed in the rear corner of the yard, and then weaves its way through a series of faery, gnome and other miniature gardens.

The Hansons’ home is one of six sites included in this year’s MOSS Garden Party. Rain or shine, the tours will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, with lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Knights of Columbus Hall in Fairmont.

The MOSS mission is to assist children in the area who face physical or learning challenges. Proceeds from the Garden Party will go to Fairmont’s Early Childhood Special Education program.

Gardeners participating in this year’s tour include:

o Jeff and Heidi Schlomann at 1905 Albion Ave.

o Tania Taplin at 222 Victoria St.

o Martin County Historical Museum Parsonage at 310 E. Blue Earth Ave.

o Community Gardens at Heritage Acres, 507 Lake Ave.

o Don and Judy Moritz’s vegetable garden at 1256 230th Ave., one mile east of Bean Town restaurant.

o The Hansons at 622 Heritage Court.

The gardeners will be available to answer questions about plants.

At the Hansons, the different plant species will be labeled for easy identification.

“It’s a lot of work every spring, but we’ve been fussier this year,” Jean said.

Gardeners tend to be natural storytellers, with their gardens as the illustration. The Hansons are no exception. Their yard is not only a story of a couple’s love of nature and plants, but also their love for each other.

“Butch does the heavy stuff, and I do the fine-tuning and the decorating,” said Jean, acknowledging her husband’s willingness and good humor in helping her.

They’ve talked about moving into a smaller place, maybe a townhouse, but he is concerned she would miss her garden.

The Hansons began slowly changing their home’s landscaping when they moved in 30 years ago. For years, Butch had a vegetable garden spreading across the back of their yard, but over time, Jean’s flowers took over.

“Now I have my four tomato plants and my beans,” Butch said, laughing good-naturedly.

Their miniature gardens are an addition that came this year. Jean began working on them over the winter, when back problems limited her mobility. Her husband bought her a book on how to paint rocks to look like tiny houses, and she took off from there. Her gardens’ tiny inhabitants and their miniscule belongings came from greenhouses, craft and thrift stores, and knick-knacks Jean already had around the house.

“It was something I could work on for a short time,” she said. “… It entertained me for the whole winter.”

Tall grasses and perennial flowers provide scenic backdrops for Jean’s whimsical little creations, while live birds, insects and squirrels flit about, entertaining themselves and the Hansons.

It’s a peaceful place, and the couple often sit and enjoy the view, talking about what they would like to do next with their backyard.

“‘The leaves whisper, and God is in the dirt,’ and that’s what I believe about my garden,” Jean said, quoting a story from the book, “Simple Pleasures of the Garden.”

To tour the Hansons’ garden and others included in this year’s Garden Party, tickets can be purchased for $15 each at On the Wall, Hy-Vee and Knights of Columbus Hall the day of the tour.