For over six years, Rex and Ellie Boots have maintained a public garden on Mill Street; if they can't find volunteers willing to maintain it, the plot will go to weed.
About 10 years ago, Rex and Ellie Boots faced a problem.
“We owned a building downtown, and there was a vacant lot there,” said Rex this week.
“There was just a big hole in the ground, filled with cats and rabbits,” said Ellie.
“The basement of our building would freeze in the winter, so I approached the city and said, ‘If you fill it in, I’ll make it into a garden,” said Rex.
That was big talk from Rex, who didn’t know much about gardens before that. However, the long-time Redwood area farmer was willing to learn.
Once the city filled in the hole with dirt, Rex and Ellie went to work.
“When word got out what I was doing, I’d go out every morning and find buckets of plants people had just donated. Five gallon buckets of plants! Then I had to figure out what to do with the stuff. It just kind of evolved,” Rex said.
Rex hit the books and learned as much as he could about gardening and landscaping.
He admits much of the garden was put together on the cheap.
“The rocks were donated by a friend in the country. We brought in load after load in the trunk of our car,” Rex laughed. “I hope he doesn’t want them back after this.”
The wood chips on the walking path was actually found on the city compost pile.
“Someone did a great job of chipping a tree, so we just took it for the garden,” Rex said.
For at least the past six years, Rex has nurtured the garden into a public space the city could be proud of, setting up chairs and walking paths between the buildings.
However, in June, life-long Redwood area residents Rex and Ellie plan to move to West Branch, Michigan. It wasn’t an easy decision.
“We lost our apartment at Lakeside Manor, and Ellie’s cancer came back,” Rex said. “Most of our family lives on the eastern side of the Mississippi River now, so this just seemed like the time to be closer to our children and grandchildren.”
In addition to all the normal hassles of moving to a new town, Rex and Ellie have had to deal with letting go of the garden.
“I saw Keith (Muetzel, Redwood Falls City Administrator) and said I was concerned about what would happen to the garden since it’s been a tremendous amount of work.
“I told Keith that on the day we leave Redwood, to just bring in a payloader and cover it up,” said Rex. “It would be too painful to see the garden grown up in weeds.”
At this point, the Boots and the city are putting the word out to any interested gardeners or garden clubs who might be interested in maintaining the garden on Mill Street.
“Sometime soon, a lot of perennials will start popping out,” said Rex. “It would be ideal if someone were to take it over right as the plants grow up so they can be familiar with it.”
For more information, contact Keith Muetzel at the city at 507-637-5755.