Horace Greeley advised westward-bound young men to steer clear of Minnesota because "they can't grow apples there." But as early as the 1850s, pioneers such as Peter Gideon began giving the lie to Greeley's dictum, breeding fruits and flowers that would thrive in spite of the state's brutal Januarys and torrid Julys.
By 1908, the momentum begun by Gideon and other rustic geniuses had inspired the creation of the Minnesota Fruit Farm, eventually to become the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Horticultural Research Center, the state's premier horticultural institution. This year, the Arboretum is marking its 50th anniversary and the HRC its 100th.
In "Northern Treasure: The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Horticultural Research Center" (Afton Press, $40), a lavishly illustrated anniversary tribute to both institutions, author Susan Davis Price and photographer John Gregor invite the reader to join them in a celebration of Minnesota's horticultural year: dramatic snow-shapes, the subtle hues of early spring, masses of tulips and daffodils, the deep yellows and oranges of August, and the apple harvest, with its hardy ‘Wealthy ' and ‘Haralson' and wildly popular ‘Honeycrisp.'
Each of the Arboretum's gardens is profiled, from the scrupulously pruned Japanese garden to the wild, wide-open Bennett/Johnson prairie. Thousands of visitors relish the distinctive charms of these beautiful spots every year, along with the joys of the Spring Plant Sale, the delightful Summer Exhibitions, and a rich assortment of workshops, classes, and educational events.
This splendid volume is an ode to human ingenuity and determination. Based on a wealth of original sources, historic photos, and interviews, it documents for the first time the Minnesota Arboretum's evolution from a hopeful experiment into a northern treasure.
"Northern Treasure" is available at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Gift Store and area bookstores. For more information contact the Gift Store at 952-443-1439.