Kiin garden: luxurious with floral abundance - Daily Leader Extra : Local News

Kiin garden: luxurious with floral abundance

By MARY GALES ASKREN, Staff Reporter | Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2019 2:38 pm

Daisies and bluebells grow willy-nilly, creating the impression of a garden gone wild, but that impression is deceiving.

Sirje Kiin plots and plants, pinches and prunes to create a garden so luxurious it appears entirely natural. On July 20, her garden at 618 N. Blanche Ave. will be one of four that can be viewed as part of the annual PEO Garden Walk 'N' Talk.

The others are the gardens of Gene and Patty Philips at 6210 N. Lakeside Drive, Wilmer and Pat Burton at 712 N. Summit Ave., and Paul and Audrey Christiansen at 926 N. Maplewood Drive.

For Kiin, the garden itself is a luxury. Having lived in Estonia when it was part of the Soviet Union, she gardened earlier in life simply to eat.

"I worked in his garden for 17 years, growing every kind of food," she said, referencing the house she shared with her first husband.

From May to November, she not only cared for fruit trees and berry brambles but also grew and harvested vegetables. What was not consumed fresh was preserved for dark winter days, when the sun appeared for no more than four hours.

Now she can purchase what she needs at a store.

"That's why now I have only flowers," Kiin said. "It's like a reward for the hard years of work."

Kiin, a writer and former journalist, immigrated to the United States in 2007 when she married Dakota State University professor Jack Walters. She laughs when she recalls some of her first gardening misadventures. She recognized the peonies, but not the coneflowers, which she pulled up as weeds.

"You start to learn all over again," she said.

She learns by attending Madison Garden Club meetings where she finds the presentations informative, by taking garden tours with club members, by visiting McCrory Gardens in Brookings, and by reading. But she also learns by trial and error.

"It took me three dead plants to get one right," she said of her bleeding heart. "Now it's bigger than a peony bush."

Currently, she's engaged in a similar battle with hydrangeas. One shrub is doing well and had globes of blossoms as big as her head last year. Some of the others are just scrawny clusters of leaves.

Kiin is mentally exploring options. She is considering the possibility that hydrangeas need to be sheltered to thrive, and she may transplant those which are not doing well.

Roses, though, she has mastered. She learned the trick is to purchase hardy Canadian roses. Currently, she has 27 rose bushes planted in the various beds around her house.

The blossoms range in color from a warm and creamy white to a deep blood red. Some roses even change color, with pale yellow buds opening with pink-tinged petals that turn pink as they unfurl.

The sizes are equally varied. Kiin has everything from miniature roses that blanket a bush in clusters to cabbage roses with blossoms a big as peonies. While some have finished blooming for the year, others continue to bud and bloom.

Kiin expects her lilies to be in their glory for the garden tour. Beginning with crocuses in the spring, she has flowers in bloom throughout the summer.

The tulips, which bloom after the crocuses, grow from bulbs ordered from The Netherlands. Among the later flowers are bachelor buttons, which remind her of Estonia because they are the country's national flower and symbolize daily bread.

"We call it rye flower," Kiin explained. "It's in the rye fields at home."

Charlotte Groce, one of the event organizers, said Kiin's garden was chosen for the Walk 'N' Talk because it demonstrates how much can be planted in a small space. In addition to the plants mentioned, Kiin has hostas and coral bells, ferns and shrubs, grasses and clematis surging over a high fence.

Her most recent favorites, though, are the five hibiscus plants. She first saw hibiscus plants at McCrory Gardens and was stunned because she had not seen any at this latitude prior to that.

"The flowers are like dinner plates," Kiin exclaimed.

While she does have a deck from which she could enjoy her garden, she finds that she doesn't often do so. After a lifetime of gardening, she finds the plants talk to her and beckon for her attention.

"I sit down and see `This needs to be done' and start to prune or weed," she admitted with a smile.

The tour will be held from 8 a.m. to noon on July 20. Should it rain on Saturday, the tour will be held from 12-4 p.m. on July 21.

Tickets for the Garden Walk are $10 each and are available at Grapevines and Madison Nursery. Tickets will also be available on the day of the event at any of the gardens.