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Cheney's garden a must-see on Soroptimist's tour

A grouping on the east side of the Chuck and Margaret Cheney home in West Fargo. Mary Jane Breitling

Midsummer is the time to enjoy touring gardens because they are in their prime.

One garden on the Soroptimist's annual tour on July 15 is the home of Chuck and Margaret


Margaret is truly an avid gardener who has been doing so at their West Fargo home for 38 years and in more recent years at their lake home. Chuck has been too busy as the former West Fargo schools superintendent to be actively involved in gardening, but he aids and abets Margaret by driving out of the way to pick up soil, peat and sand, or stopping at garden centers and botanical gardens on their travels. He always makes sure that she has the "tools of the trade" and funds to spend while he golfs. Now he seems to be evolving into a gardener at the lake, where he has been busy planting trees.

When the Cheneys first moved to their home in West Fargo, the backyard was just a large rectangle with some corn stalks and a row of trees along the west side. They thinned the trees, leaving a cottonwood and two ash trees, and moved some to the front of the house.

Along the back of the property, they planted some evergreen trees and created an undulating flower border that is about 100 feet wide by 20 feet deep. Margaret added a curving stone walkway a year or two ago.

This colorful border is similar to a cottage garden, with a variety of plants including roses, shrubs, perennials, vines and annual flowers. Plants are allowed to self-seed with the result of a riot of color meshing together.

There is always something in bloom from spring until frost arrives in late fall. Each time you visit, you may see a different vignette. When I was there, a purple clematis was growing through a lilac bush. Yellow primroses, white daisies, blue and lavender salvia, and red roses were abundant with a delphinium here and there.

Earlier, there were iris and peonies. Later in the year, tall asters, like pink 'Alma Potschke' and Lycoris or Magic Lily will be showing off along with mums.

Margaret has a beautiful Golden Carousel barberry that is chartreuse now and will change to orange-red with bright red berries in the fall. She grows many flowers to make bouquets for the house, and uses barberry leaves and berries along with peony and other leaves in her creations.

Along the east side, there is a wonderful grouping of plants including a Jackmani clematis, a white native clematis, yellow daisies, pink spirea, delphinium, and crimson barberry.

The first thing you will notice as you come up to Margaret's gardens are the unique containers in front of the house, especially the one with large birch branches. She has kept the big red spike in one container alive for three years. At the lake, she has a Japanese maple in a container, purchased for $5 that she wraps in bubble wrap and has kept for four years. It is now 7 to 8 feet tall. She loves to create containers and does them for friends and neighbors, especially those who need some help.

There are some rules of etiquette that should be followed on a garden tour. First, do not go out of the areas set out for the tour. It goes without saying that one would not pick or pinch off a plant, but it is also not good manners to ask the owner for a division.

It is not polite to comment that you have a much better specimen of a particular plant in your garden, or mention weeds or other flaws. Just go and enjoy and bring ideas back home.