A love of gardening was planted early for local master gardener

This article submitted by Erin Aagesen on 8/2/00.

Marlene Christle Marlene Christle is one entrant that is sure to display her work at the 41st Annual flower show at Grace United Methodist church this weekend.

Christle has been a regular entrant for the past 20 years, reaping various awards, including blue ribbons and judge's choice awards.

This year, Christle says she will enter five or six arrangements in the show.

For her, the preparation of the flowers usually begins a few days before the contest. She will chose the container for the arrangements, like a basket or a vase, ahead of time and also have an idea of what she can do with different types of flowers.

The day before the contest she will cut her flowers, then allow them to "harden." This important part of the process involves immersing the stem in deep water for at least two hours. This allows the flower to soak up as much water as possible so they will stay fresh looking longer.

Next, she will begin arranging the flowers, without adhering to strict rules. "I let the flowers say what I'm going to do with them," she said.

Past experience and training also dictate what she will do with the flowers.

Christle began learning the basic principles of gardening as a child, on a family farm. Her mother enjoyed gardening, and it was from her she developed her love of gardening. In those first years, she entered her work in 4-H contests.

After she was married, she started her own vegetable garden, which eventually expanded to include flowers as well.

Christle and her husband moved to her current home, a farm in rural Paynesville, 32 years ago. Two years later, she started working on what is now her main flower garden.

At the time, she also worked at Paynesville Greenhouse. "At the greenhouse, I was exposed to all these different types of plants, so it was fun to take them home and find out which one I liked the best," she said.

In the past 30 years, Christle has expanded her gardens considerably, filling much of her yard and the surrounding area with brightly colored blooms, rows of vegetables, and her own artistic accents.

Near her house is the large, main garden. Flowers decorate the perimeter of the house, while another garden, complete with a gazebo, sits off to the side.

Raised beds-with a variety of flowers, herbs, and even decorative antique farm equipment- are also in her yard. Behind her house is a giant vegetable garden, where she grows, among other things, corn, tomatoes, and squash.

Perhaps the most unusual and beautiful of her gardens is a butterfly garden. Wild grass, alfalfa, sweet clover, and various wildflowers grow freely and attract butterflies.

"I enjoy this one a lot, because when I go out here, I don't have to weed it," she joked.

She grows nearly all of her plants from seed herself, and even installed a greenhouse on her property this past year for that purpose.

Christle spends her time weeding, watering, fertilizing and dead-heading her gardens.

"I spend as much time gardening as I can possibly squeeze in my day and still go to work," she said. For Christle, gardening is simply a way of relaxing.

Fifteen years ago, Christle became a certified master gardener through classes in Wilmar. Through the master gardener program, she works with county agents, who refer people with gardening questions to her.

In the past year, she took judging courses in Lamberton, MN. She has completed all her requirements, and will earn her judging certificate shortly. A judging certificate will allow her to judge at fairs and contests.

Christle feels these judging courses help her to have a more critical eye on her own work. "My studies for the judging certificate really helped with the principles and elements of design," she said. "I've always really enjoyed artistic arrangement."

And this weekend, the community will get a chance to see what Christle comes up with. The show will be from 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 8 to 11:30 a.m on Sunday in the church fellowship hall.

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