Member Spoltlight: New Gardeners

We love stories about our members passing on the love of gardening to young and new gardeners. This article originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Northern Gardener.

When Jesse and Jennifer Menden bought their first house in Buffalo, it did not have a garden. “It was a blank slate,” says Jesse. “We loved starting from scratch!”

Jennifer is the designer, always wanting to add another decorative plant. Jesse focuses on vegetables—a longtime passion—and likes things orderly. The couple’s different approaches sometimes put them at odds with each other, Jesse says. “But we agree that we will have a garden—that is always a yes.”

new gardeners jennifer and jesse mendenTheir first home was on a large property with plenty of space to grow. Jennifer planted petunias, moss roses, begonias, hydrangeas, peonies and a variety of shrubs. Jesse’s vegetable garden had just about everything in it, and he put up a big fence to keep out the critters. One day he came out to the garden and found three rabbits and two squirrels nibbling away. “Yep, you’re dealing with the forces of nature in spite of best efforts,” he says.

Gardening Generations

The couple both grew up with gardeners. While Jesse’s parents always had a vegetable garden, his grandmother’s garden was perfect. “You could never find a single weed,” he says, “so it was something to aspire to.”

Jennifer’s grandmother, Alta Mae Asplund, is a lifetime member of MSHS and started flower gardening at the age of six. “My mother always said that we wouldn’t have had any flowers in the garden, if it wasn’t for me,” says Alta Mae. Now 88, Alta Mae is excited to see her gardening legacy passed on to her grandchildren. In February, she bought four years’ worth of gift memberships for Jesse’s birthday.

Now in their 30s, Jesse and Jennifer are living in Chanhassen on a much smaller property with a hill in the back. They are planning to put in a pollinator garden on the hill. “We have a neighbor with Bee Safe signs in her yard, so we are going to follow her example,” Jesse says.

When the couple moved to the property in 2019, they joined the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum right away and say that they really enjoy the visits for inspiration. However, for serious tips on how to execute the gardens, they are relying on their Northern Gardener magazines. “There’s so much great stuff in there,” says Jesse. “We need concrete advice on growing so you may have added another lifetime member to your list!”

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