Get closer to God — get in the garden

I’ve been asked recently how I get the inspiration for these weekly columns in the Wednesday Post-Bulletin. Thoughts are pouring in like never before since Jay Furst called and said to start writing.

Here’s one. A few weeks ago our new lead pastor, Mike Wuehler, at Christ United Methodist Church gave the sermon topic "The Best Jesus Shop Ever." Or where do you find Jesus? In a flash I thought of my dad in the garden, planting, cultivating, doing the little things gardeners do. Dad was not a master gardener but I believe he probably had all the credentials, although he never attended any seminars through the University of Minnesota Extension service.

Dad loved potatoes, tomatoes, sweet corn and, above all else, his glads. Sundays during gladiolus season always found a big basket of glads at Sumner Center Church. He wanted his bouquets to surpass all the others.

Master gardeners

When you attend the Olmsted County Fair now through Sunday in Rochester, the master gardeners are ready to answer your gardening questions.


President Paul Trcka is busy daily as an agronomist in the Grand Meadow area but still puts in time serving the master gardener program.

Retired nurse Joan Woxland told me today the club has about 90 new members, and they always welcome more.

To gain that recognition, those gardeners take special courses and never stop learning. They humbly share their garden secrets.

For instance, last summer at the fair the topic was "Emerald Ash Borer Awareness and Damage to the Ash Tree." If you need to follow up on this for your ash trees, contact Jacob Ryg, city forester with Rochester Park and Recreation Department.

Another key person on this team is Sherry Lawrence who told me this year’s theme at the show in Building No. 40 is "Rain Barrels, Rain Gardens and Green Roots." Their display also addresses invasive species along with another theme, "Out Playing in My Garden."

Joan said the master gardeners are striving to make this a better environmental world.

Getting your exercise

The experts tell us that 30 minutes per day of physical exercise can help keep you healthy. This includes gardening, which can give you a cardiovascular workout while strengthening your bones and muscles. This comes from digging, laying sod, raking and using the old push mower like I used as a small lad, and Dad paid me a dime for a day’s work. I burned up energy, and so will you.


When you’re on your knees in the garden you’re ready for inspiration realizing you’re doing God’s work. Most gardeners will agree that all the experience, pamphlets on planting and garden care, and advice from your neighbor may work for you. But it’s the sun, rain, wind, warmth, your love of gardening and the love of the MASTER to get results.

Dad loved the old hymn "In the Garden" and sang it many times in church. I never saw him start a spring planting season without a prayer first. The grain drill was filled with three or four horses ready to pull that 10-foot-wide machine or the two row corn planter boxes were ready with seed and the fertilizer bags lay empty on the ground. He was ready, but first a prayer of thanks for a new spring season. I’m sure this was so when planting the garden.

Great gardeners

Another great gardener just retired. He’s Vern Bushlack. I started interviewing him on the radio nearly 40 years ago. In recent years he and several students constructed a real learning center. At the Heintz Center on Fourth Street Southeast across from Olmsted Medical Center, students are learning in their own greenhouse.

Vern has been involved and on his knees over 44 years.

Scott Moon at Sargent’s on Second is another with many answers. Sargent’s Nursery in Rochester started nearly 40 years ago when Forrest Sargent brought the family business from Red Wing. I knew his father, Maxwell, who used to sing with me in the Methodist Church Choir in Red Wing. That was 1956 when Forrest was about a dozen years old.

And we must include Keith Stangler. Here is a real "household word" in gardening.

There are many more who deserve the love and appreciation of their neighbors as they beautify God’s world.


On my parents’ stone at Pleasant Grove Cemetery we had inscribed for Mom’s half of the stone a grand piano because music was her life. On Dad’s part of the stone a big bouquet of glads in a basket.

One is closer to God in the garden, than anyplace else on earth.

Harley Flathers is a longtime Rochester-area broadcaster and historian. Got a comment for Harley? Send it to or to Harley at Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903.

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