The Garden of Don and Gail Dean
Ramsey, Minnesota
      Don and Gail Dean’s garden reflects Don’s passion—hybridizing. The number of cultivars and species on this 1.25-acre lot, purchased in 1987, has grown from 800 to more than 2,000. In some of the gardens, you will find hostas registered by Don intermixed with hostas introduced by others. Companion plants are interspersed throughout the display beds. Tall cedars guard the seedling beds near the front entry. Plants labeled with a combination of numbers and letters are unnamed seedlings still under evaluation or planted for landscape value. Notice one interesting specimen after another as you wander the paths that curve and snake throughout the property. Some beds feature one- to  three-year-old seedlings planted in rows, waiting for a final evaluation before being incorporated into the display beds…or doomed for the compost pile. Other beds contain cultivars rowed out for donations to societies and clubs for fundraising purposes.

Gail and Don Dean

   Daylilies grow in the sunnier spaces. From within a fenced garden, blueberry bushes provide tasty treats for the family. Gail enjoys growing herbs and flowers for cutting. In the spring, wildflowers abound.
Looking outward through the windows of their home, the Deans enjoy the shape, form and texture of their extensive gardens. And hosta aficionados are thankful for Don’s passion! ..........

Garden Tour Photos

My Visit: Debbie Hurlbert
Howard, Ohio, US

   While on a nice quiet bus ride with a little hosta trivia to intrigue the senses, great white egrets are spotted as we pass.
   Who is Don Dean, the quiet man standing in the shadows, sometimes in the pose of pondering? Will I see his character in his plants? His name is synonymous with blues, but by visiting his garden, I learned so much more. He hybridizes interesting variegated hostas, strong golds, textured greens, saturated blues, sculptural edges, hostas of good size, and, mix in a few red petioles.
   Yes, blue is beautiful, but Don’s definition of blue was very evident: “Bright, saturated plants that hold the blue color well into the season.” An example would be Hosta ‘Titanium’.[1] The distinction that I saw with this hybridizer was hostas that are not only pretty to look at, but have terrific plant habits, colorful flower scapes, textures, substance and character ( example ‘Fluted Fountain’) .
   Don Dean is a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. Married to Gail and retired from teaching Language Arts and Mathematics one year ago, he has been working on his ‘sanctuary’ where he gardens for pleasure. His seedlings are evident throughout the garden, along with plants he is evaluating for others, with miscellaneous shade perennials, trees, and conifers mixed in.

   His garden, a quiet, tranquil paradise, is located in Ramsey, MN, near the Rum River, where the Anoka Glacier deposited sand. The soil is almost sand box quality, which has been amended with composted and rich loam soil.
   One very nice specimen plant was ‘Silver Bay’[2], along with a striking yellow, glossy seedling featuring unusual cherry colored flowers. The colors all blended as if the garden was a quilt. Red petioles were being worked into blue leaves and yet meeting his exciting standard for blues. There were seedling areas where the plants have been under evaluation for two to six years. One place of interest to me was the array of blue seedlings with ‘Candy Dish’ in the parentage, creating very interesting sculptured edges and adding the visual intrigue of red petioles. He also explained a new technique he was trying growing in bags impregnated with copper to keep the tree roots out of recent plantings. In yet another area, he was growing cultivars for donations to support various clubs and organizations.
   Strolling along the loose, free-flowing paths ‘eye candy’ was created in every direction that you looked, with birds singing harmoniously and fresh scents around each corner.
   Other plants that I found throughout the garden were tricyrtis, bloodroot, Astilboides tabularis, daylilies, various ferns, martagon lilies, and blueberry bushes. No signs for "Best..." were present. His desire was that the awards go to the other gardens. As a hybridizer, his garden showed a great diversity of color, shapes and sizes rather than specific focus.
   I found this garden to be very peaceful, calming and relaxing. You really got a sense of whom Don Dean is and his personality shines through.
   Yes, I saw the Don Dean pondering pose in the garden. It was my privilege to learn more about who he is and now desire to grow more of his creations. 

 

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