KEARNEY, Neb. — A bush full of pink roses greets spring and summer visitors on the walkway to the front door at the G.W. Frank Museum of History and Culture on the University of Nebraska at Kearney West Campus.
Other flowers add color around the grounds — daisies below the front porch, rows of peonies in the back yard and a rose garden in the south yard, the Kearney Hub (http://bit.ly/2beqSZY ) reported.
Gardens around the house were restored and are maintained by the Soil Sisters and Misters Garden Club. The house was built in 1889 by entrepreneur-businessman George Washington Frank and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the year after it was deeded by the state to Kearney State College.
Club members meet on growing season Saturdays to transplant, trim, clip past-their-prime blooms and remove weeds.
“This garden is kind of our home away from home,” said Del Hemsath, who is the project leader. His wife, Alice, said they live in a Kearney condo with only a small outdoor space, so they go to the Frank House and their daughter’s home on Sweetwater Road to garden.
The garden club was formed and federated with state, regional and national organizations in 1967. It now has 36 members.
There are monthly meetings, with most at 1 p.m. on third Tuesdays in the South Platte Room at Kearney Public Library, to hear guest speakers on many garden-related topics.
“It’s a very diverse group of people who just love gardening or gardens,” Alice Hemsath said, and who love to talk gardening with other enthusiasts.
Other activities over the years have included maintaining gardens at the Frank House, the Woman’s Club house and The Archway; having gardening programs, garden walks and community service projects; and being involved in the Buffalo County Fair horticulture show.
A new project was helping second- and third-graders tend a garden at Faith United Methodist Church as part of the Kearney Community Learning Center’s summer programs.
Plant exchanges such as the one April 23 at the Frank House are the club’s major fundraising events.
“We had people from the community bring in things as well as us,” club President Sina Martin Lehn said.
Alice Hemsath said eight or nine international students worked with club members during the The Big Event volunteer day at UNK in April. “They hadn’t used shears before. … But they had so much fun and so much enthusiasm,” she said with a smile.
Martin Lehn said some students shared their experience internationally with Facebook postings.
The students helped with a project to replace a rose garden in the shady back yard with azaleas, hydrangeas and a tree hydrangea. The roses were transplanted to more sunny spots on the south side of the grounds.
Lu Krueger, a longtime garden club member and Sisters and Misters historian, said the gardening project started in the 1990s in cooperation with the Friends of the Frank House group that helped with house restorations over the years.
“We plant for maintenance-free,” Del Hemsath said, so Frank House garden work can be done every week or two.
“One year, we had someone designated for each section. I had the herb garden and just stopped by when I had the chance,” Krueger added.
The four garden club members grew up in rural Nebraska in families that gardened.
“My grandfather gardened, and my mother gardened,” said Martin Lehn. She lives between Kearney and Gibbon on land that has been in her family for more than 100 years.
The Hemsaths taught at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture while living in Curtis for about 30 years. Alice has a master’s degree in horticulture and Del’s master’s is in soils. His career also included serving as an extension educator in northeast Nebraska.
Krueger was an extension educator in Sidney for Cheyenne, Kimball and Banner counties and taught in UNK’s Family and Consumer Sciences Department.
Despite such garden-friendly backgrounds, Alice said, “Anybody could come and help (at the Frank House) as long as they bring their enthusiasm and whatever tools they need.”
Kueger said club members ensure that plants in Frank House gardens are “period friendly.”
“We try very hard to be sure they are typically Victorian, although the design may not be Victorian,” Alice said, adding that there is one pink climbing rose that is original to the Frank House.
Del said an obvious change in the look of the place is there were no trees there when the house was built.
Club members make sure any plans to change the landscaping are sent to Museum Director Will Stoutamire for approval. “It’s not our house. UNK is the property owner,” Alice said.
The gardeners said their priority now is to remove a small moss-covered rock garden pond on the south side of the house because no one is taking care of it.
“When we started working here, we didn’t know the pond was here,” Krueger said, explaining that it was discovered during the late 1990s during the major garden restoration.
Martin Lehn said the UNK grounds staff have asked for the garden club’s help to find a solution.
“We’re looking to replace it with a fountain,” Alice said. “Will found a photo of a fountain on the grounds near the Frank House.”
She said a project will require fund raising and/or a fountain sponsorship.
Information from: Kearney Hub, http://www.kearneyhub.com/
An AP Member Exchange shared by Kearney Hub.