PARK RIVER, N.D. — The Four Seasons Garden Club’s seed of an idea, planted during the COVID-19 pandemic, has blossomed into gardens that are a kaleidoscope of colors, bursting with life.

The members — from Park River, Adams, Lankin and Fordville, North Dakota — decided to form last year when they couldn’t go on garden tours because of concerns about spreading COVID-19. Instead, they chose to redo the gardens around Park River and Homme Dam. The club’s 20 members restored and now tend to nine gardens in Park River and at the dam, 2 miles west of town.

The first garden the group — known as Four Seasons Garden Club — tackled was the city garden, which was filled with quack grass and overrun with daylilies. Members cleared it out and planted perennials and annuals.

A year later, the garden is a focal point in the park.

After the women finished the Park River city garden, they moved to Homme Dam, where five gardens had overgrown with weeds. When the women first saw the garden, they were overwhelmed by the amount of work that would be involved in making it beautiful again.

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They pressed on, scaling back the size of the gardens to make upkeep more manageable. They took on the work one step at a time.

“We came out here three days a week and dug and dug and dug,” said Charlotte Myrdal, a Four Seasons Garden Club member.

“It was like a swarm of bees out here,” said Dena Larson, another club member.

As they worked together on the gardens, Myrdal, Larson and the other club members visited. That made the work easier.

“It was our social time during COVID,” Myrdal said.

One of five flower gardens at Homme Dam near Park River that the Four Seasons Garden Club restored and now maintains. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
One of five flower gardens at Homme Dam near Park River that the Four Seasons Garden Club restored and now maintains. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

“We’re such a team. It just meshes together and this is what we get,” said Cheri Lothspeich as she glanced around at the Homme Dam gardens that the club restored.

“We get a lot of compliments from the campers,” Lothspeich said.

This summer, the club members increased the number of flowers in the Homme Dam gardens, and Myrdal solicited help from her two grandchildren, who planted zinnia seedlings in one of them.

The zinnias, which are an array of pink, red and orange colors, have grown from a few inches to nearly waist high, and Myrdal’s grandchildren come with her to the dam weekly to measure their growth, she said.

Myrdal hopes the zinnias will spark in her grandchildren an interest in gardening and, perhaps, an interest in volunteering.

The garden club members are leading by example, continuing their own contributions to the Park River community by planting a flower garden, with the help of other volunteers, in Calvary Cemetery. The members spaded the grass around the cemetery altar and crucifix and planted annual and perennial flowers. A local garden center contributed annual flowers, farmers gave them the paving stones leading up to the garden, and John Hankey, a retired Park River farmer, donated money to buy the perennials.

"I'm not capable of donating any work, so I can donate money," Hankey said. “They’re doing a beautiful job.”

“It’s a way to honor our families,” said Lothspeich, who, like Hankey, has family members buried in Calvary Cemetery.

Besides planting the Cavalry Cemetery garden, members of the club have been busy his summer watering and weeding the nine gardens for which they are responsible.

There has been little rain in 2021, so the women water the gardens nearly every day. Members have a schedule and take turns, dragging hoses or using sprinkling cans in the early morning.

The club members plan to continue to expand and maintain the gardens, and hope they will receive donations so they can increase the number of perennials.

“Homme Dam and the city garden need perennials really badly,” Myrdal said.

Members of Four Season Garden Club got their inspiration and energy from their love of gardening.

“For me, it’s just total joy,” Lothspeich said.

Said Larson: “It’s the serenity. You let go of everything (when) digging in the soil.”