Green thumbs: Jean Bastian receives horticultural honorWORTHINGTON — In the 10 years that she’s been a member of the Worthington Garden Club, Jean Bastian has presented programs on various garden topics, served on several committees and brought specimens of her own flowers to the club’s shows. But her biggest contribution to the club is probably her organizational skills.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — In the 10 years that she’s been a member of the Worthington Garden Club, Jean Bastian has presented programs on various garden topics, served on several committees and brought specimens of her own flowers to the club’s shows.
But her biggest contribution to the club is probably her organizational skills.
“I’m not an arrangement person,” she said. “There are a lot of people more creative when it comes to that. I’m the organization person.”
That organizational trait was recognized recently when Jean was presented with an Award of Merit during the Minnesota State Horticultural Society District IV 57th convention in Comfrey. The honor came as a complete surprise to Jean, who was nominated by fellow club members Gloria Frederickson and Carol Christopherson.
Jean is quick to point out that she joins an impressive list of local club members who have received the Award of Merit. Other local honorees in recent years include Jan Lowe, Val Correll, Christopherson, Jennifer Eaton and Terry Schissel.
For Jean, involvement in the club didn’t come until after she had retired from her teaching career. A native of Wood Lake, she graduated from Mankato State College with a degree in home economics. She taught in Wells and Luverne before landing in Worthington, where she met husband-to-be Vern, also an educator. They will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary next year.
Jean taught home economics for 15 years at Worthington Junior High and then in the Early Childhood Family Education program for 16 years.
“I retired in 2001 and joined (Worthington Garden Club) in 2003,” Jean recalled. “Val Correll asked me if I wanted to come and see what it was all about. I’d always had a vegetable garden and wanted to get more serious about flowers.”
The nomination for the Merit Award details that Jean has presented programs on topics such as “Flowering Kale,” “Black Beauties,” “Wellness — Gardening for Life,” “Mums” and “Lavender” and has served on the committees for the Turkey Day Flower Show, Pioneer Village plantings and library books. But her most challenging task has been heading up the club’s county fair committee.
Each year, the Worthington Garden Club organizes the open class horticulture entries. Members devise the categories for the exhibits, make display cards, receive all the entries and volunteer for the several-day duration of the Nobles County Fair.
“There are five of us on the committee, so I’m not doing all the work,” said Jean. “But entry day is a long day, usually from 8 in the morning to 8 at night, although we alternate shifts. And it can get pretty warm in that building.”
In an effort to produce more entries for this year’s fair, which is in August, the Worthington Garden Club recently sponsored a seminar in flower arranging through Community Education. Members refocused the entries and came up with a “Fun and Games” theme for the flower arrangements.
Horticulture fair entries not only include arrangements, but also outdoor planters, houseplants and individual garden specimens.
“There are all these divisions, plenty of opportunities for everyone,” Jean encouraged. “There’s always a Sweepstakes prize, and this year it will be for a hydrangea — any form or color of hydrangea.”
For those who are considering bringing an arrangement or specimen to the fair, Jean shares the club’s recipe for a fresh flower preservative: To 1 quart water, add ¾ teaspoon each of sugar, bleach and vinegar.
In her own garden on the Bastian acreage east of Worthington, Jean is partial to lilies, tulips and decorative grasses.
“My very favorite thing is the Sweet Autumn clematis,” which grows on an arbor behind the house, Jean shared. “It climbs 25 feet a year. I can look out the window and see it grow 6 inches a day sometimes. It’s a white clematis, so it will be covered in white blossoms in the fall.”
Gardening in rural southwest Minnesota can be challenging, and Jean tries to find varieties that will stand up to the wind and not get eaten by the local rabbit population. One of her favorite resources is a book, “Perennials for Wisconsin and Minnesota,” purchased at a gardening convention.
“They are all perennials except for a few impatients and the calla lilies. The calla lilies have to be dug up each year. You can’t leave the bulbs in the ground,” she noted.
This year, the Bastians’ garden also includes a variety of vegetables. The asparagus patch has already been allowed to go to seed, but the Bastians await the harvest of tomatoes, potatoes, beets and other produce later in the season.
To keep track of what she has planted where, Jean utilizes a big binder with removable pages. She never purchases a plant without a tag and faithfully enters each purchase. The binder also includes maps of her plantings and any other gardening information she might find useful, and it goes along south when she and Vern head for their winter home in Arizona.
“Once you get it started, it’s really easy to do,” she said, paging through the thick binder. “It’s my winter project.”
On the Net:
Minnesota State Horticultural Society: www.northerngardener.org
Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.