In her glory

It’s the time of year when gardens are blooming and fruits and vegetables are ripe for the pickin’. For one woman in Hanley Falls, gardening keeps her busy all summer long.

Sharon Stevens’ favorite flowers are zinnias, but she also grows cone flowers, phlox and other colorful flowers.

HANLEY FALLS

Anyone driving through Hanley Falls will notice the proliferate garden across the street from the Yellow Medicine Lutheran Church.

The garden, and the former parsonage next to it, belong to Sharon Stevens, single mom of four grown children and grandmother to two grandchildren (and one on the way).

“The garden is for the family,” Stevens said Monday. Yet one can tell she takes a lot of pride in her work and the fruits of her labor. “The zinnias are my favorite.”

In addition to a wide variety of the annual flower, there is ornamental corn growing in the center of the garden that is twice Stevens’ height. There are also sunflowers, wild grasses, lilies, phlox and cone flowers adding even more color to the mix.

Stevens also plants pumpkins and ornamental gourds every year, rotating them with the flowers and other vegetables in the garden. This year the pumpkins and gourds are on the east end of the large plot while the potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions and beets are on the west end.

“I like to give the kids the first go at the pumpkins and gourds,” Stevens said. She also shares the other vegetables with her parents, John and Louise Rice.

Last fall, Stevens added three hills of peonies to her backyard. Fall is a good time to plant some flowers like that. In fact, Steven’s garden was pretty much started in the fall.

“Steven Hagen (friend) and I started the garden in 2016. Then Jared got sick,” She said.

Her son, Jared Stevens, was a junior at Lakeview that fall when he was diagnosed with brain cancer, requiring many trips to Rochester for treatment.

“My family took over the garden that sumer while I was gone,” she said.

Sharon Stevens was also supposed to go to a quilting camp that year, but had to miss that as well, she said.

“I sent (friend) Audrey Borning instead,” Stevens said. “Audrey gave me pots of perennials that just sat there all summer.

“I didn’t know much about plants at that time,” Stevens said. “Audrey had always come over to plant them for me.”

Each year, Stevens enjoys shopping for the annuals, waiting for them to go on sale.

“I buy plants at hardware stores when they’re cheap,” she said. “I got some seed at a department store once, but they never came up.”

All her plants are from seed except for the strawberries and raspberries in other parts of the yard.

Stevens said she had received six raspberry plants from her mother’s garden that have prospered well over the past couple of years. The strawberry plants were a birthday gift from her sister, Linda Hagen.

“They’re for fresh eating,” Stevens said. “I don’t can (preserve) anymore.”

Other birthday and Christmas gifts from friends and relatives include a fairy garden from her daughter, Amy Gens of Nicollet, a lighted watering can and special pots from other friends.

Stevens said that she doesn’t put anything special on her garden, just the manure her brother brings in from the farm. She doesn’t use herbicide or pesticide, even when the mosquitoes get bad. She doesn’t mind weeding the garden.

This fall, Stevens plans to split up the perennials and put some on the north side of the garden to widen the garden.

“It’s time to split them up,” she said.

“People tell me I have so much energy,” Stevens said, who is also an avid walker. “I just garden for enjoyment, and it gives me something to do.”

Stevens works in the kitchen at Lakeview School, which allows her all summer off to garden.

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