Book Review – The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired The Little House Books

Book Review
The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired The Little House Books
By Marta McDowell

Did you grow up traveling the prairies and woods with the Ingalls family? I got lost in Laura’s adventures as she grew up and never paid any attention to the details about the30 Little House 2 flora in the different locations. This book uses many passages from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books to chronicle the agricultural practices, home gardens, seasonal chores, and daily activities the Ingalls family engaged in to grow, harvest, and preserve food for storage.

The book makes use of archival territory and plat maps of locations the Ingalls family lived from Wisconsin to Minnesota to North Dakota and more. It also verifies many events and observations Laura weaves into her stories by including newspaper articles, agriculture circulars and historical photos. Plants mentioned in her stories are often depicted by not only original Garth Williams line drawings, but also period botanical illustrations and contemporary photographs.

31 Little House 3While McDowell’s book is not a how-to-garden directive, it does show the deep connection to the seasons and land that beloved children’s author and pioneer Laura Ingalls Wilder shared subtly through her childhood stories. It is satisfying to see that even with changes to our climate and the urbanization of Laura’s frontier landscapes that many of the plant species continue to thrive.

~ Review by Elizabeth Waddington

Featured Master Gardener – Donna Canino

I am a level three master gardener who did not get started gardening until later in life. Growing up we did not have much of a garden and when we did it was rhubarb and a couple of vegetable plants, although we did do a lot of canning. It was my trips to Minnesota each summer to visit my grandparents where I was exposed to the world of growing. My grandfather grew a beautiful vegetable garden, trees that he grafted, the best compost set up and a long row of fragrant peonies that happens to be my favorite flower. After my grandfather’s passing I was honored to be given his garden books, which contained some of his notes on gardening and grafting.

As a young adult I briefly lived on a scallop farm in Hokkaido, Japan. This northern island is rich with agriculture and is best known for milk cows, rice paddies and local gardens. I learned a lot about the way they preserved food in open crocks filled with brine, drying fish and kelp on large wooden pole racks set out in the sun for it to do its job and how to farm scallops from the ocean. I was asked to get some seeds for my hostess. Regular eggplant and giant pumpkin seeds were requested. I assume that there was some local competition going on amongst the gardeners as in the fall there would be large pumpkins set out on to the main highway at the entrance to each gardener’s driveway for show and tell.

In my early thirties I finally began to grow a garden. I remember when I harvested and ate my first green bean I was hooked. Since then my gardening has evolved and I find myself wanting to grow a garden of only flowers that I can cut guilt free and fill my house with and leave my flower beds full of color. Each year on vacation I try to fit in a trip to a botanical garden. Over the years I have collected ideas that have inspired me to create a Zen themed garden in my backyard. Last year I planned a special trip to Seattle to pick up a few outdoor statues to start off my Zen garden. I feel so lucky to have had all of those previous experiences growing up. It has helped me to appreciate and enjoy gardening and all of the possibilities it offers. Since I became a Master Gardener I have learned a lot and have met some really great gardeners. One of my favorite things about gardening is learning from others and the way it brings communities together.

Submitted by Donna Canino

Tribute: Julie Halverson

She left us Feb. 9, 2019. Her family plans Julie’s Memorial Service for July 11—date TBA.


Announcement posted 7/10/19

Julie joined the Yellowstone County Master Gardener program in 2000, and was a true force to be reckoned with, especially when it came to getting volunteers for her pet project ZooMontana and the Geranium festival. She called herself the “pushy old broad” as she “eagle eye” challenged Master Gardeners to sign up to help at the various stations of the Geranium Festival…and she did get the volunteers! It was a rare week through these years that she didn’t show up to the Zoo and work on flower garden care…and this she did all the way up through last fall.

School stories were a big part of her story telling history as her students and friends knew. In 1987 she was honored with a Golden Apple Award in School District 2 (Billings). Even after a full career teaching kindergarten, Julie shared her teaching skills through the Care After School programs and also worked to maintain the MetraPark Gardens. Julie holds the record for MG volunteer hours, an unbelievable 2500 Volunteer hours in her 18 years. And this was through just one of her many club affiliations such as Delta Kappa Gamma, Early Literacy, Global Grannies, and the Garden Club.

“She was one of the most energetic, ambitious and positive folks I’ve ever known. She always had a smile and a very special way of getting you to volunteer for a project. I will remember her for not letting anything stop her, breast cancer or strokes and her deep sparkling eyes. She inspired many a gardener both aspiring young ones and us “more mature” ones”

Master Gardener Merita Murdock

“Most days Julie and her husband had lunch at the Muzzle Loader Cafe and when several old Master Gardeners habitually showed up on Friday for lunch there was always a chat or wave. She never forgot us. She would drive her car to lunch and her husband always sat in the backseat. He might have been thinking of his safety.

“Julie was an expert on herbs. One year MSU did not provide an instructor for the M/G class. The Billings MGs had to teach the class themselves. Julie brought her years of teaching skills to help save the day. She was an expert on herbs. She taught a class on herbs which the students really liked. She was always available to provide advice to learning MGs. In a similar manner, she often gave away plants she had grown in her garden and her emphasis seemed to be angled toward English Garden style.”

Master Gardener Corry Mordeaux

“What a blessing it was to know Julie. Julie’s enthusiasm and wealth of gardening information made being around her such a pleasure. She enriched the lives of many of us Master Gardeners in countless ways.”

Master Gardener Elaine Allard

“I knew Julie through the geranium fest and I worked with the group at the Zoo a couple years. I especially liked her nickname that she seemed to actually enjoy having ‘the pushy old broad’. But she always got things done- with a bright smile.”

Master Gardener Sheri Kisch

Julie will be missed by so many.

Submitted by Amy Grandpre



Master Gardener LuAnne Eng

As many times that I have typed LuAnne’s name, I think I have spelled it differently every time. Her name is correctly spelled LuAnne Engh (as in “ing”).

LuAnne grew up in Dickenson, ND and just happened to go to the same schools and church as her husband of 37 years, Rob. LuAnne and Rob owned Northland Corrosion in Laurel where they also live. They are now retired. She enjoys the fact that when they moved into their home, it had mature trees and shrubs and takes pride in being able to continue caring for them.

Thinking about where to go after graduating from NDSU in Fargo, since there wasn’t really anything in North Dakota, LuAnne joined the Peace Corps and traveled to the Philippines. LuAnne said that “they” were supposed to teach the people about growing food, but they themselves learned a lot also. Food isn’t available everywhere, you have to grow it and it grew like crazy. Carrots can’t be grown in the lower elevations but can be in the higher parts. They raised fish in tanks and rabbits.

LuAnne stated that she would like to be more active in MGs because she really enjoys being with so many resourceful people, but when you listen to her schedule, you understand how everything works out. They travel south for 3 months of the year, visit the three grown children and five grandchildren in Seattle and DC. LuAnne is also involved in the Laurel Tree Board finding resources for replacing trees and pruning and on the Laurel Park Board overseeing all the parks. The first Arbor Day Celebrations in Laurel were headed by LuAnne. The MayFlower Church community garden is managed by LuAnne and Rob helps with mowing the five acre parcel with twenty-four plots in addition to keeping a beautiful yard at home. She and Rob will be going to Vietnam in March to build a Habitat house near DaNang.

The booth at the Farmers Market made a huge impression on her, again because of the vast amount of information they all gave out. What you learn can also be fun, like the Mystery Night at the Library being with such a great group of people. Resources are top on her list and she admires all that Amy can put you in touch with. What an enthusiastic, energetic and interesting person to talk to and work with. She didn’t come from a gardening background, but after seeing Amy’s advertisement about the Master Gardeners program, she was eager to sign up and learn. She is a tremendous resource in herself and a great help when she is here to pitch in. Thank you, LuAnne.

Submitted by Sheri Kisch

Reflections on Gardening in England and Montana

“Has the property ever been affected by Japanese Knotweed?” Um, yes? I was in the process of selling my home in the United Kingdom and encountered this question on the property disclosure form. Two weeks and seven hundred dollars later, I was the owner of an inspection report declaring no visible sign of Japanese Knotweed AND an insurance policy for the new owners in the event it did surface. Before moving to North Yorkshire in northern England, I had never heard of Japanese Knotweed or the concept of a plant so invasive it would grow through concrete. I definitely wasn’t a gardener. As a kid growing up in Billings, I gardened with my Grandma (in the way kids do). Once I married, I’d have a spring planting frenzy every few years. But nearly everything withered under the hot Montana sun when I forgot to water it.

My job eventually took me to England. Upon buying a little English cottage in 1997, I hired a local gardener, Tulip Bemrose, to point out to me what to dig up and what to leave. (Yes, that’s really her name. Perfect, huh?) Amongst other plants, she pointed out the knotweed and strongly recommended I get rid of it. I eventually did and am glad I did, as it would have kept my house from selling. What a difference from Montana!

Reflections 1

My small English garden had some lovely things that will always remind me of England and Yorkshire. Lenten Rose, Lungwort, Lady’s Mantle, Magnolia, Elderflower and a beautiful Golden Feverfew that Tulip labeled a weed – but a beautiful one. There were many other plants, but it is these that remind me especially of my home in the UK. I bought the house partly because I loved the massive clematis that covered the garage with pink blossoms every summer. But the thing I loved most about gardening in the UK is that my garden hummed along whether I was there or not. I could put in some new plants and walk away and they’d be flourishing when I eventually got back to them. A REAL gardener, whether British or American, knows this is not the way to garden. But I am not a REAL gardener and I had a time-consuming and stressful job. Often the only thing I’d do in the garden for weeks at a time would be to drink a glass of wine while listening to the birds and absorbing the peace of the plants.

When I left the US, I knew very few plants by sight, but I got to know quite a few in England. I’ve enjoyed seeing their familiar faces in the gardens of Montana. But interestingly, it’s been the “weeds” that have caught my attention. In my Yorkshire garden, I had an ongoing battle with Ground Elder and Creeping Buttercup. I am less of a gardener than a “weeder”. I get more satisfaction from clearing the weeds from a patch of soil than I do from putting in any number of new plants. I am fascinated by how they spread underground, and if the soil is soft and moist and the weeds pull out easily….heaven!

Last summer, I was helping someone weed borders on Billing’s West End. She complained about the Snow on the Mountains spreading, and asked me to rein it in a bit. My grandmother had Snow on the Mountains in her flower beds, so as I worked I happily daydreamed about childhood days in Grandma’s garden. But as I dug, I found the root system familiar. It was strangely reminiscent of Ground Elder – as were the leaves. Could it be? A quick Google search confirmed my suspicion. The Snow on the Mountain that I loved in childhood was a variegated version of the Ground Elder I spent my 40s and 50s fighting. Who knew? Earlier that summer, while volunteering in a community garden, I encountered my other nemesis – the dreaded Creeping Buttercup. I started digging it out, but then thought maybe it was supposed to be there. It was blooming quite prettily, as it does. Our head gardener told me another volunteer had found it on the bank of Pioneer Park’s creek and transplanted it into their beds. I warned her about its tendency to spread, but haven’t had a chance to venture back to see if they’ve been able to contain it.

I returned to my home town of Billings in autumn of 2015, after 20 years living in the UK. England is green all year around and flowers bloom all year round, even in the north where I lived. By January of 2016, I was desperate to see something green and lush and living. I decided to treat myself with a trip to a greenhouse and planning for spring. But I was gobsmacked (British slang) to find the Billings greenhouses shut down in the winter!! I finally got a fix at Gainan’s Greenhouse, but they didn’t yet have the spring bulbs I was craving. So I soothed myself with the aroma of moist soil and growing things.

Other differences….I am shocked to find peat moss widely used in the US. In the UK, use of peat is largely taboo. The largest gardening organization in the world, London’s Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), lobbies aggressively against its use for ecological reasons. Alternatively…in the UK, pollarding is a common pruning technique, but is described as verboten in the Yellowstone County Master Gardener class. Slugs and snails thrive in England. I definitely don’t miss the crunch-squish of a snail beneath my slippers in the dark. The slug/snail quotient is much smaller in Billings and it means I have Hosta in my garden! Oh – and this is interesting – a British “yard” is a small, paved area next to a house. Any area with grass or plants, no matter how small, is called a “garden”. I still use much of the British vernacular, so when I’ve referred to “my garden” in this article, an American would call it “my backyard”.

Probably the biggest difference between the UK and Montana, though, is the availability of gardens to visit for respite and inspiration. England is a gardening nation and there are gardens everywhere. Nearly every weekend in the summer, homeowners open their private gardens to the public to raise money for charity. For a few dollars, one can tour gardens large and small, and get a cup of tea and homemade cake to boot. Within an hour’s drive are scores of stately homes and accompanying gardens. (The Moss Mansion, while lovely, is a small guest cottage by comparison.) And there are a plethora of “purpose built” gardens. Options from my neck of the woods range from the 20-acre Himalayan Gardens, with masses of rhododendron and outdoor sculpture in an intimate woodland valley, to the RHS Harlow Carr Gardens with 68 acres and the longest stream-side garden in the country, not to mention plant trials, an alpine house and kitchen gardens. Just a half mile from my old cottage is the Fountains Abbey World Heritage Site. It has water gardens dating back to the early 1700’s, medieval ruins, and landscape gardening on a grand scale – 800 acres of it. Best of all, the gate to the Deer Park is never locked, so visitors can sneak in for a walk in the late night twilight of British summertime. The options for gardeners are endless and I highly recommend a visit.

~Submitted by Kris Glenn