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Holly Johnson: Gardens of the Hormels

When I moved to Minnesota I remember being told that it’s best to wait until Mother’s Day before planting outdoors due to the threat of freezing. I sometimes gamble on that advice, but it never seems to matter for me anyway because my thumb isn’t as green as I would like it to be. I like spring because of all the signs of growth that occur. From the sound of birds chirping at 5:30 a.m., to the smallest shoot of a hosta peeking through mulch, and the tiniest bud appearing on a tree that looked dead, spring offers hope and the promise of something new.

The view from my office of the Hormel Historic Home Peace Garden gives me joy this time of year. However, the colorful flowers, busy squirrels, and passing clouds do offer distractions that cause my mind to wander a bit. This past week I have been watching the garden evolve as we prepare for the next chapter in our landscape. Our garden has become a destination for the community to enjoy music and beauty, for kids to run and play games, and for tourists to appreciate as they stroll around the historic home grounds.

Lillian Hormel was an avid gardener as I have told you before. When she and George moved to California her hobby of gardening was allowed to blossom. There are many articles in the Los Angeles Times in which she is mentioned as a hostess at one flower, botanical, or church event or another.

Lillian Hormel cultivated a green garden at her home. Photo provided

She was a member of the Bel-Air Garden Club for many years and served as a chairperson for several committees for flower shows and garden tours. In the fall of 1938, she was given special recognition for a private display of her famous cascade chrysanthemums. In 1940, her exhibit of a garden pool was featured at the Bel-Air Garden Club’s spring flower show.

The Hormel Historic Home garden committee has recently been developing a plan to make our Peace Garden more useful for our current programming. The the use of the home today differs from the past so therefore we need to change. We have removed trees, we have taken out the central water feature and we are redoing the flower beds. But as we consider our mission we are mindful of the past. At the California home of George and Lillian there was a circular green space bordered by colorful flowers.

Of course there was a palm tree too. We can’t promise to bring year round palm trees to Minnesota, but we can bring new ideas, new growth, and new beauty. Wouldn’t it be fun to have Lillian Hormel on my garden committee today!

Now get out there and plant some flowers, it’s finally Mother’s Day!


History Happy Hour: Austin’s Other Historic Homes

5:30 p.m. social, 6 p.m. presentation,

Monday, May 13

Free for members of the Hormel Historic Home, Friends of the Library, or the Mower County Historical Society

Austin’s history was made by many people whose names we see around town or hear about in conversations of the past. In this presentation we will feature information about the Deckers, the Hirschs and Thomsons and the houses they called home.

2nd Annual King’s Wood Dinner

Saturday, May 18

Support Gerard Academy and the Hormel Historic Home by attending this dinner reminiscent of the luxurious King’s Wood Hotel and Night Club operated by Geordie Hormel. Live music. Tickets are $35 per person and are available at www.hormelhistorichome.org.