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Published May 04, 2015, 09:11 AM

Growing Together: A call to action for all who treasure plants

FARGO -- Brookings, S.D., St. Cloud, Minn., and Winnipeg have something Fargo-Moorhead doesn't. They have large horticultural gardens that are extremely popular with residents while attracting crowds of tourists.

By: Don Kinzler, Forum News Service

FARGO -- Brookings, S.D., St. Cloud, Minn., and Winnipeg have something Fargo-Moorhead doesn't. They have large horticultural gardens that are extremely popular with residents while attracting crowds of tourists.

Anyone who's visited Brookings' McCrory Gardens, St. Cloud's Munsinger/Clemens Gardens or Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park knows the indescribable "high" experienced by visitors who view the magnificent horticultural masterpieces. Why doesn't our community have one?

Imagine the uplift for apartment dwellers, retirees, schoolchildren and homeowners who could revel in spacious plantings devoted to flowers, trees and shrubs. This can become reality as the Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society continues to implement its dream.

Yes, Fargo-Moorhead is a beautiful community with golf courses, softball diamonds and grassy parks with flower beds. And our local universities are nicely planted and picturesque. But no one journeys to our community to visit a large-scale horticultural garden showplace. We don't have one.

The Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society is working diligently to make this happen in our community. The nonprofit was founded in 1998 with the goal of establishing a botanic garden and conservatory in the region. Besides being a tourist attraction, the gardens would promote knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment of horticulture, while providing ideas for home gardeners and landscapers.

In 2006, NPBGS began developing 52 acres of land at 28th Avenue North near the Fargo Park District's Yunker Farm for a botanic garden, Japanese garden, conservatory and arboretum, to be installed over a 30-year period. A dedicated group of members and volunteers constructed a greenhouse, butterfly garden, rain garden, woodland garden, chrysanthemum display, fairy garden and idea-type flower gardens.

Can you imagine the group's dismay when they learned in 2013 that the acreage was technically federal land owned by the National Park Service, which disallowed long-term leasing and permanent structures? The NPBGS board of directors contacted Fargo-Moorhead city leadership to discuss a new site for the botanic gardens. Moorhead suggested the site of the city's old power plant, located downtown, which is to be demolished this spring. Although the area is only about 3.8 acres, it could be used to develop a Japanese garden and regional cultural center. As funding is generated, additional gardens and a future conservatory could be built nearby along the river corridor.

If the site becomes reality, it would be close to downtowns of both Moorhead and Fargo. The NPBGS has met with city mayors to explore expanded garden possibilities on both sides of the Red River in the downtown area. The society offers Oklahoma City as one example of beautiful gardens developed in their inner-city riverfront region. Until a new site becomes permanent, NPBGS members and volunteers will continue to maintain the gardens they first established in north Fargo.

Let's define the horticultural possibilities we've mentioned. A botanic garden is a collection of plants maintained and labeled for public education, display, research, conservation and enjoyment. This scientific definition doesn't adequately convey the beauty these gardens bring to a city. There's a reason for the extreme popularity of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Denver Botanic Garden and Atlanta Botanic Garden, plus 80 other botanic gardens throughout the United States.

Conservatories are often part of botanic gardens. A conservatory is a large, greenhouse-like structure for growing, displaying and enjoying plants year-round. They often contain large tropical plant specimens plus changeable flower displays. Can you imagine a tropical oasis in full bloom in January in Fargo?

By definition, a Japanese garden traditionally combines elements of plants, water and rock to create tranquil retreats. Plants, structures and designs thoughtfully highlight contrasts in color, texture and the sights and sounds of nature's elements such as water. Japanese gardens are often part of the larger botanic garden, along with individual theme gardens for topics like shade, butterflies, herbs, hardy perennials or native plants.

How can we make a botanic garden a reality in Fargo-Moorhead? We can support the work of the society by becoming a member, and joining over 300 individuals already participating. Visit NPBGS at www.npbotanicgarden.com for an easy-to-use website that provides good information about the organization, its goals and membership. Becoming a member will keep all of us informed and involved as the project unfolds. To put my money where my mouth is, I just joined as a new member.

NPBGS is sponsoring its 12th annual fundraiser May 9, including a container garden show, silent auction and luncheon. I am honored to present a luncheon program entitled "Beautifying our Cities, One Container at a Time."

Perhaps the best time to develop a historically attractive botanic garden in our community was 80 to 100 years ago, as did St. Cloud, Winnipeg and many other cities. The next best time is now.

If you go

What: 12th annual Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society Container Garden Show, Spring Luncheon and Silent Auction

When: May 9. Free viewing 9 to 11:30 a.m. Ticket admission 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Holiday Inn, Fargo

Info: $40 ticket includes champagne luncheon, music and container gardening program presented by Don Kinzler. Tickets available at the door or online at www.npbotanicgarden.com/eventtickets.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Tune in to his weekly radio segment from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Fridays on WDAY Radio 970. Readers can reach him at forumgrowingtogether@hotmail.com.

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