Member Spotlight: A Giving Gardener

“I am blessed to have everything I need, so supporting the society is my way of passing on my good fortune,” says Susan Peterson, MSHS member.

Susan understands communities in need. After retiring from teaching for 42 years in 2011, she returned as a substitute teacher for the Anoka-Hennepin School System, the state’s largest. “I taught many low-income children in this school system—too many. Everyone deserves a chance at success.”

Gardening is Susan’s passion, so she is dedicated to providing gardening opportunities to underserved children and families. “I love the Garden-in-a-Box program,” she says. “Gardening brings so much joy.”

susan peterson garden

Susan Peterson’s front yard is decorative and pollinator friendly.

Growing Up Gardening

Susan grew up in Golden Valley but learned to garden at her grandmother’s Northeast Minneapolis house, where her grandmother’s motto was “vegetables in the backyard and flowers in front.” Her mother canned the fruits and vegetables, which provided much of the family’s food. Today, Susan and her husband Pete are mixing veggies and flowers, front and backyard, at their home in Blaine and at a cabin in Annandale. “I believe in no-till gardening, growing edibles on a trellis to keep the deer and rabbits out and using compost for the best results,” she says.

After retiring from full-time teaching, Susan decided to build on her gardening expertise and applied to become a University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener. “I was always getting expert advice from master gardeners so I decided to become one,” she says. Two years later, she wanted to join a larger gardening community and was advised to become a member of the hort society for its educational offerings and community connections.

“I checked out the MSHS website and immediately thought, ‘these are my people!’” Susan quickly joined the MSHS Minnesota Green program for its plant donations. “I believe in affecting positive change through active engagement so I’m managing several public gardens supported by this program,” she says.

Giving Back

When things started closing down during the pandemic last year, Susan and her husband decided to take the next step and include the hort society in their estate plan and joined the MSHS Heirloom Circle. She says that in spite of all the challenges with social distancing, MSHS continued to get its programs out into the gardening community. “Masks on and 6 feet apart, they were there for gardeners,” she says. “We joined the Heirloom Circle because the society connects people when they need it most.”


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