This article by Tom McKusick originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Northern Gardener.
Munsinger and Clemens Gardens, a free public garden located on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Cloud, attracts more than 350,000 visitors every year. The park consists of two distinct but adjacent gardens.
Munsinger Gardens began in the 1930s as a Works Projects Administration project, and today its shady, informal setting welcomes visitors to 14 acres of winding flower-bordered paths beneath towering pines. Clemens Gardens, developed in the 1990s, is a collection of six gardens situated on a sunny hill, and it includes the Virginia Clemens Rose Garden. The Clemens Gardens have a more formal style that reflects a classic European design sensibility with decorative fountains and ironwork. All of the gardens at Munsinger and Clemens have benefited over the years from plants provided by the Minnesota Green program.
Nia Primus is the garden supervisor at Munsinger and Clemens, and she relies upon a staff of full- and part-time employees as well as a group of volunteers to maintain the gardens. “Our volunteer gardeners have planted approximately 80,000 annuals and another 10,000 perennials, shrubs, roses, trees, tulips, and other plants in this 20-plus acre park,” says Nia. “We really appreciate the support Minnesota Green provides, especially with getting shrubs and trees for the gardens. When we order plants from growers we must purchase larger quantities—not just one or two of something. With plants from Minnesota Green, we’re able to broaden the diversity of the gardens and offer our visitors new plants and new designs every season.”
Among the volunteers who garden at Munsinger and Clemens are members of the St. Cloud Flower and Garden Club. Club members Deb Keiser and Ann and Ralph Anderson have long taken the lead in picking up Minnesota Green plants at the MSHS office in Roseville for Munsinger and Clemens and their other gardening projects in St. Cloud. The club also maintains plantings at the Sartell Community Garden and the Whitney Senior Center. The club holds an annual plant sale in May, Deb says, that helps to defray the mileage expense incurred when picking up Minnesota Green plants.
The club also has regular meetings at the Whitney Center and an annual potluck picnic at Munsinger and Clemens. “It makes it extra special for the club and for all those who have volunteered to enjoy touring the gardens before the picnic,” Deb says. “We love to see all the new trees, shrubs, and perennial plants, including the ones provided by Minnesota Green.”