Morris woman celebrates friendships, raises money at annual garden party

People who lovingly tend to gardens also tend to have a loving heart. You can find this in the beauty they create, the way they share the bounty grown there, and how they use their gardens for the good of others.

Guests brought their own lawn chairs and wore attire fitting the tea party theme at this year’s garden party. Each year, Vicky Dosdall, of Morris, has a different theme for her party. Photo by Katie Erdman

Sharing is a key ingredient to gardening. Many gardeners share plants, and others share produce. Some share their knowledge of the hobby, and some share beautiful floral arrangements for others to enjoy.

Vicky Dosdall, of Morris, is an avid gardener and has found an even better way to share. For the last eight years she has hosted a garden party for invited guests. The guests are simply asked to bring items for a local food shelf, a dish to share (including the recipe) and a lawn chair. And they should come ready to feast on food, entertainment and beauty.

Vicky has many gardens at her rural Morris home, each one with a different theme. Her garden parties also have different themes.      The gardens vary in size depending on the theme. She has a piano in one garden, which she terms her music garden. When a local church was looking for a way to get rid of an old piano, Vicky stepped up and took it off their hands. She acquired some old musical instruments from a local music store, spray painted them and added them to the garden. She even found a few guitars to put with the other instruments. Many of these items are not just for show but also become planters for her many flower and vegetable plants.

Vicky has a bird house alley and gnome garden. She has a kids’ bike garden, a cat garden, seashell garden and kitchen garden. One of the larger gardens has her dad’s old grain wagon, along with other farm equipment, and another has old, and maybe some newer, laundry fixtures. She raises vegetables in straw bales and pallets. Vicky has a caboose train car on her farm place that was once a playhouse for her sons but is now part of a garden.

Little details like an Elvis gnome are included in Vicky’s garden. Photo by Katie Erdman

Just like she does for her gardens, Vicky finds unique themes and ideas for her yearly garden party. The garden party is held the last Friday evening in June, and the theme this year was “A Garden Tea Party.”  Vicky has several teapots to put on display, and she encourages her guests to come up with ideas to carry the theme forward in other ways, such as what they wear or the food they bring.

Last year, her theme was “Minnesota.” People came dressed in Minnesota Twins clothing or native Minnesota wear. She had a large Minnesota sign and many Minnesota novelties throughout the gardens. People prepared traditional Minnesota foods for the meal.

Other themes have included goddess, aprons, hats, and a bag party. At the bag party people were asked to go to the garden party with items in a bag.

At the end of her driveway, Vicky parks her trusty John Deere Gator and lets the guests drop off their donations. She is surprised at how fast the wagon fills with wonderful items to go the food shelf immediately after the party. She is pleased with how generous people are with their donations.

Vicky said that the garden party is a lot of fun, but she enjoys the advance visualization part of it even more. She will go to flea markets or garage sales, see an item and then visualize how it can be used in her garden. She also thinks about new ideas while working, trying to sleep, traveling or just visiting with others. You could say that her gardens are always on her mind, no matter what she is doing.

A caboose sits nestled in Vicky’s garden. Photo by Katie Erdman

All this does not happen without a lot of work and expense. On the day of the party, she enlists the help of her cousins Deb Erickson and Cindy Terwilliger and a good friend Jean Lopez. Julie Hufford and Joy Michaelson are her bartenders each year, with Vicky providing a good selection of beverages. Her son, Tallack, helps in the yard and does a lot of the heavy lifting. Daughter-in-law Andrea prepares the invitations and creates the recipe book that is handed out the following year. Her neighbors, the Buss boys, are a big help too.

Her guests will arrive around 5 p.m. and enjoy some appetizers and beverages. They can then tour the gardens and if they choose to, partake in a scavenger hunt looking for items Vicky has placed in her gardens. There are prizes for the best dressed, so guests are highly encouraged to dress according to the theme. Vicky starts to prepare for the event around the first of May, and if the weather is favorable, she starts planting. Many of the garden items are packed away in totes for the winter, so these are unpacked and placed back in the gardens. Vicky then starts to plant her vegetables in the straw bales, pallets and gardens.

As the weather warms up, she can plant her flowers and start the weeding process. The weeding has been made easier through products used in her lawn and driveway business. These include a hemp mulch, newspaper covered with peat moss, a weed suppressant mat, and wood chips. Vicky uses an organic fertilizer to build up the soil each year. Watering becomes a daily ritual. “I never watch TV if my flowers need water,” Vicky explained.

Even though the work takes up most of her nights and weekends, Vicky loves it.

Vicky (left) announces costume contest winners Carol Johnson, first, Cindy Terwilliger, second, Jeanne Rosdahl, third, Jenell Staples, fourth and Tisha Woodke, fifth. These are voted on by the guests. Photo by Katie Erdman

“I don’t golf or fish. I don’t have a lake home or camper. My John Deere Gator is my Harley,” Vicky explained. “I just go to my garden.”

Vicky credits her love of gardening to her parents, Harvey and Flossie Mathison. She grew up on a farm south of Alberta, where her mother always had a big garden. However, her parents also instilled in her that the farm site should always look neat. They would clean up branches, keep the lawn mowed and the garden weeded. It was just part of life on the farm.

When Vicky joined 4-H, gardening became one of her favorite projects. This was obvious in her work and gained her the Pomme de Terre Garden Club Award for several years. Even though those 4-H years are long in the past, Vicky remembers and carries forward what she learned through the organization and her parents.

Vicky loves to share her garden and stories about the themes. She just asks people to call in advance and bring food shelf items that she can share. She has proven over and over again, gardening is all about sharing.