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A love affair with conifers

Nothing is so quintessentially winter in Minnesota as snow on pines. Sharon Quale’s garden, just on the outskirts of Eagle Bend, is a series of picture perfect postcards, especially in winter when a dusting of white punches up the contrast on her collection of conifers.


Sharon’s collection has 80 specimens representing roughly 35 members of the conifer family.   Situated on 10 acres overlooking a rolling pasture dotted with angus and holsteins, Sharon’s home and garden is an interplanting of perennial flowers and grasses, which accent the varying sizes and shapes of the conifers. In winter, with a covering of snow, no one sees the delicate pastels of the summer display. Instead, the whites and greens, with an occasional splash of red twigs, cones and berries, prove that the winter garden can be just as enticing as the summer one.


Sharon said, “In addition to being low-maintenance plants, conifers are friendly to wildlife, providing protection and food to birds, squirrels and other animals.”

Sharon is a woman of many interests and talents. She writes a gardening column for the Land, an agriculture/rural life publication printed in Mankato and distributed throughout Minnesota and northern Iowa. There may be a genetic component to being a garden columnist. Her mother, Eva Schroeder, was also a garden columnist. Eva, along with her husband whom she affectionately referred to as St. Alfred, created a destination garden they called Chapel Gardens (containing the Little Chapel of the Flowers), also near Eagle Bend. Sharon is considering compiling a book of her mother’s columns and the many letters her avid readers sent over the years. Many of Eva’s fans would appreciate the chance to relive her gardening adventures and those of the ever-patient and hard working St. Alfred. Sharon learned much about gardening at her mother’s elbow.

As a University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener, Sharon shares her conifer expertise at annual spring gardening events around the state as well as her home area’s event in Long Prairie. She opens her garden to the public on Sunday afternoons during the growing season and has hosted two “open gardens.”


2014 was a uniquely special year for Sharon. She put in an appearance at the New York premier of the movie Into the Storm in August and won a seat at the Las Vegas table of the Free Poker Network in November after placing in the Minnesota state tournament. None of these events will in any way diminish her upcoming plan to travel to France with the Master Gardener’s tour in the spring.

Sharon admits the gardens were on the back burner this last summer. Her son, Steven Quale, who directed Into the Storm, gifted Sharon with a new house. Hundreds of hours went into planning her new home and situating it perfectly in relation to the garden. With large windows looking out on the garden, a full porch across that side of the house and a guest bathroom specially designed for public use, Sharon will be well prepared for the 2015 garden season.

She’ll also be on the lookout for another conifer, coincidentally named Weeping Larry, as well as more tamaracks. “I would like more weeping tamaracks,” she says. “They’re just beautiful.”

She also may try her hand at starting conifers from seed. One of her avid garden column readers from California sent photos and seeds of his Siberlocke fir. “It’s a long process, but I intend to try.”

Planning ahead is always good, but Sharon is not one to neglect to stop and smell the roses; nor fail to appreciate the spectacular views of snow on conifers.

#conifer #Lowmaintenanceplants

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