At 12 years of age, Annika Torgerson of Canton has found a unique enjoyment in gardening for someone her age. She is interested planting flowers and milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and loves to create flowering pots to beautify her home. She has thrived under her grandmother Joan Michel’s tutelage and the Torgeson garden has benefited from the addition of plants thinned out of Michel’s own garden in Harmony.
Michel explained that Annika has been going on the Harmony Garden Club tours for many years. “She just soaks up everything,” she added.
This year, Annika officially became a member of the club and looks forward to hosting one of the meetings in the coming months with Michel and her mother, Liz.
She also earned her Junior Master Gardener status by completing the Minnesota Extension Program’s curriculum for soils and water. She and Michel worked together on the experiments and lessons necessary to earn her certification. She worked with soil samples and water distribution experiments to learn how water and soil interact and how water moves through certain items.
“We learned a lot and found it to be interesting,” said Michel.
As part of this project, Annika hopes to assist in the creation of the rain garden portion of Harmony’s community garden this year.
How it all began
Annika first started gardening on a small level, creating flowering pots that are placed around their home. She said she follows the “thriller, filler and spiller” rule for designing them, making sure there’s at least one of each kind of plant in each pot. A thriller would be an interesting or flashy plant; a filler would be one to fill the pot and a spiller would be a plant that would hang over the edge of the plant.
When it’s time to go shopping for the plants to put in her pots, Annika goes without a plan. “I find something I like and then I find other things to go with it,” she explained.
Each year pots are different, with Annika rotating the colors she features, depending on what she finds at the local greenhouses.
Another of her favorite creative gardening outlets is using old toys and other interesting objects to make fairy gardens.
Michel explained that the garden club toured the gardens of Lori Pfremmer, where Annika first became inspired to create her own fairy gardens. Hers, however, are usually on a larger scale than most fairy gardens, Michel pointed out. “Think big,” she said. “Think retaining walls and toys and toad houses.”
Annika’s largest garden has been established with the help of Michel’s already established plants that needed to be thinned from her own garden. Michel had some plants to divide and had suggested which ones Annika might like to plant in her own space. “But Annika had her own plans,” Michel joked.
Regardless of their differing ideas, the garden was a huge success.
Part of the plot is dedicated to attracting monarch butterflies. Annika and Michel worked together to file paperwork in order to get that designated as a Monarch Watch Waystation.
These Waystations are places that provide the resources necessary for the butterflies to produce eggs, support development and sustain their migration.
According to monarchwatch.org, without milkweeds throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarchs would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall.
Similarly, without the nectar from certain flowers, these fall migratory monarch butterflies would be unable to make their long journey to the overwintering grounds in Mexico.
Because Michel and Annika have established marsh milkweed and other butterfly-friendly plants, their garden has been named a Monarch Watch Waystation, something the two are very proud of. “We both feel it is really important,” Michel said.
Annika also helped protect the monarch caterpillars, bringing them inside and putting them in bug houses to complete their metamorphosis.
She actually had to add another bug house to accommodate her many caterpillars and Annika admitted they were still pretty crowded in the two. She named each one and watched over them until they became strong enough to fly away.
This year, Annika and Michel plan to go a step further and order tags from Monarch Watch to mark their butterflies. This helps in the study of the migration patterns and will be interesting to the gardening pair to find out where their butterflies end up.
Planting supportive plants for the butterflies is just one step in protecting and aiding in the monarchs’ survival. Annika refuses to use any pesticides in her garden that may harm the butterflies and other bugs.
This means weeding is an important and daunting task when one has a garden as large as Annika’s. However, she has a
“willing weeder” in her grandmother and she laughs that she takes advantage of Michel’s skills whenever she can.
To make the garden more manageable, Michel said they’ve divided the plot into quarters and work in different sections each day to keep everything under control.
This year’s garden
The plan for this year’s garden is still developing as Annika said she is waiting to see what she finds at the greenhouses. She does know, however, she wants to add a bench in the garden with a crop of Queen of the Prairie planted behind it. She saw the flowers in Lonnie Kemp’s garden during a tour and fell in love with them.
Annika leaves the vegetable gardening to her mother, Liz, but claims the majority of the garden plot for her plantings. She also threatened to claim part of that vegetable garden for more flowers, saying, “She (her mother) is the only one that eats vegetables in our family and she grows too much!”
One thing is for sure, Annika knows her garden “won’t be ugly.”
She and her grandmother will find just the right plants to add and will work hard together to make sure everything is properly taken care of – even if Annika has to rely on her “willing weeder” to keep things thriving.
Until the weather allows them to get back in the garden, to dig in the dirt, both Annika and Michel will be dreaming of the vegetation they may find growing in the greenhouses this spring and planning how those flowers and plants will fit into Annika’s garden designs.