An array of flowers spills over the top of an old aluminum boat, which rests in one of 16 gardens at Wiese Acres north of Bismarck. A conversation starter, the vessel no longer glides across smooth waters, but it honors an influential person in Kathleen Wiese’s life.
“I grew up on a farm and my mom, Wilma, always had a flower garden and huge vegetable garden. I learned how to do everything from her,” Wiese said, explaining her green thumb.
When she was a child living along the Knife River, Wiese said she would jump in her family’s old wooden boat and paddle to the other side, which was quicker than traveling a mile up the road to cross over the bridge.
One day, the boat sank to the bottom of the river. Wiese’s mother, Wilma Thomas, used a tractor to pull the boat out of the water, then filled it with dirt and planted flowers. The boat served as a flowerbed for more than 40 years before succumbing to decay.
Wanting to honor her mother, Wiese recently sent her husband, Gene, on a mission to find an old, leaky boat to repurpose. He succeeded, and the boat-turned-flowerbed garners a lot of attention from visitors to the 4-acre property, where the Wieses have lived for 26 years.
Hundreds of appropriately named daylilies are featured in each of the Wieses’ 16 themed gardens. For instance, you’ll find “French Doll” and “Gumdrop” daylilies blossoming in the children’s garden.
The music garden, complete with instruments as decorations, features daylilies named “Mandalay Bay Music,” “Strutter’s Ball,” “Chorus Line,” “Cajun Two-step” and "Lullaby Baby.”
A “Christmas Carol” daylily grows in the memorial garden to honor Wiese’s sister, Carol Fischer, who died in a car accident. Additional carefully selected flowers bloom here for other deceased family members.
Peonies, daylilies and irises Wiese transplanted from her mother’s garden are scattered throughout.
It’s taken 16 years to develop the property into what it is today, Wiese said. The soil was hardpan when the family moved in a quarter of a century ago, and truckloads of nutrient-rich dirt needed to be hauled in to amend the clay.
“Nothing grew here,” she said. “It’s come a long ways. I like to sit over there and look out and say, ‘Wow.’”
During May and June, gardening is a full-time job for Wiese, who works as vice president of human resources at Farm Credit Services, Mandan. When she’s not in the office, it’s a good bet you’ll find her outside, gardening. During the peak, she says she devotes 40 hours per week to her passion.
“I enjoy every minute that I spend out here,” she said, smiling. “I just like being outside. I like to work outside.”
Wiese said her favorite flowers — if she had to choose — are daylilies and sedum.
“I like daylilies because they provide so much color and there are so many varieties. And I like sedum because they are tough as nails,” she said, noting she is fond of plants that are drought tolerant.
Wiese Acres is one of five gardens being toured this weekend as part of the American Hemerocallis Society’s Region One summer meeting, “Discover Dakota Daylilies,” hosted by the Central North Dakota Daylily Society. Others opening their yards to event registrants are Mike and Gwen Brady, Cliff and Paula Frohlich and Dennis and Faye Kroh, all of Mandan, and Bob and Linda Christman, of Bismarck.
The event, which is not open to the public, will draw daylily lovers from across the state, as well as Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and Manitoba. A few individuals from Wisconsin also have registered, said meeting chairperson Janell Quinlan. North Dakota hosts the annual meeting every five to seven years.
In addition to the garden tours, registrants will have the opportunity to take workshops, attend local hybridizer presentations, dine at the North Dakota Heritage Center and purchase daylilies via a bargain table and auction.
Melanie Mason, a well-known hybridizer from New York, will be on-hand to share her knowledge of daylilies.
While registration for the three-day event, which kicks off today at the Baymont Inn & Suites, Mandan, is closed, anyone can become a member of the Central North Dakota Daylily Society, as well as the Bismarck Mandan Garden Club. Annual fees are $5 and $15, respectively. Membership includes regular garden tours.
“Wiese Acres is always something people look forward to seeing on our club tours,” said Quinlan. “Kathleen is constantly changing things and, every visit, something is always a little bit different. It’s gorgeous out there, and it’s always a treat to visit.”
For more information, search “Central North Dakota Daylily Society,” “Bismarck Mandan Garden Club” and “Wiese Acres” on Facebook, or visit www.wieseacres.blogspot.com.