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Dave Forester's gardens not so ordinary

Dave Forester pictured in front of his ornamental crab tree.1 / 3
Backyard view of Goldenwood home with walkways.2 / 3
Hops seed clusters thrive.3 / 3

If there was a 'Green Thumb' award I would nominate West Fargoan, Dave Foerster. At first glance, his front yard looks much like others in the Goldenwood development. However, a tour around to the back reveals another world. Dave and his dog, Digger have been in this home for 7 years and he has been collecting plants and finding places for them ever since. Many of the specimens are from friends, relatives and his church.

What at first seems ordinary at the front entrance is actually a collection of different low growing evergreens with a nice paper birch off to the side. Around the corner on the south side of the house, Dave has planted a cactus garden including several specimens such as two Yuccas from western North Dakota. One of his cactus varieties blooms with large white flowers. Most of the plants are perennial and remain in the ground, but some must be over wintered indoors.

Next, we walked through an arbor covered with a two-year-old hops vine and some morning glories. Hops are female flower clusters or seed cones from the plant Humulus lupulus. According to Wikipedia, these clusters are a flavoring and stabilizing agent in beer and add a bitter tangy flavor to balance the sweetness of malt. Hops have an antibacterial effect that favors the activity of brewers yeast over less desirable organisms.

Dave used to brew beer five or six years ago but gave it up. Since his son in St. Paul has been making beer, Dave decided to try again. His own hops are not quite ready so he started a batch from a kit. He has a dedicated beer room in the lower level of his house and he has begun collecting bottles for the brew. This room also stores jars of canned sauerkraut, horseradish, venison, gizzards, pickled beets, jams and jellies that he has preserved.

After going through the arbor, a vision of lush gardens appears with the area's retention pond in the background. We followed the red block paths that curve through the gardens mimicking the shape of the semicircular patio. To the left are some large geraniums that Dave has over wintered for two years, the first year in pots and the second winter by shaking off all the soil and hanging the plants inside. Several different ornamental grasses are in this garden area, including a 'Carl Foerster'. Dave uses tall Hollyhocks to separate his garden from the neighbor's yard. This area is lightly shaded by a Honey Locust tree. Next is one of three Russian Olive trees that he started from seedlings found in the wild. Under this tree in the southwest corner, a double swing sits on a bed of low sedum that has yellow flowers in summer.

To the right of the path and adjacent to the patio there is a mixed seed garden where flax, poppies, Angels Trumpet and Rudbeckia self-seed. The garden also includes Iris, Liatris and Coneflowers and it is anchored by an ornamental crab tree heavily laden with tiny red fruits.

Most of the back yard is taken up with a prolific vegetable garden. Herbs like Garlic chives and Dill abound and Dave grows asparagus, tomatoes, beans, beets, squash, sweet potatoes and broccoli. He has two varieties of watermelon, 'Black Diamond' and 'Rattlesnake' and he is hoping that the hot summer has allowed them to mature and sweeten. There are enough large orange pumpkins to provide one for each of his nine grandchildren.

Dave has raspberry and strawberry patches, plus a Red Lake currant bush for jelly. Two-year-old peach and pear trees have yet to produce fruit, but are very healthy. He harvested about three bushels of apples from his 'Hazen' tree in August and the 'Honey crisp' tree was loaded with huge red apples when I visited. On the slope down to the pond, Dave has six vines of two types of wine grapes attached to a trellis. He planted arborvitae to shelter the vines and he may get into winemaking one day. A pussy willow tree grows near the pond.

After visiting the beer room, I noticed many indoor plants, both small (African Violets) and large throughout the house. Two Jade plants were some of the largest potted samples that I have ever seen. Corn Plants and Hoya just multiply for him. If a friend or relative has a struggling plant they just give it to Dave and then it flourishes.