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Find solitude in urban oasis

An oasis of flowers, shrubs and trees lies within the urban setting of Dickinson.

The gardens of the NDSU Dickinson Research Extension Center offer an inviting place for a leisurely stroll, a bench to observe the birds and an opportunity to stop and smell the roses.Its one of the best secrets in town, said research technician Timothy Winch. Its my backyard. Thats what Im trying to do is make it look like a backyard.

Winch encourages the public to take their time while walking through the gardens.

You need to study and look. Be with nature. Theres wildlife out there. We have deer and pheasant. We have owls and hawks. Yesterday, I saw a fox, he said.

Winch has been associated with DREC for 11 years, working with livestock at the DREC ranch near Manning. This year, hes assigned to the DREC gardens and grounds within Dickinson.

He supervises a crew of workers, who mow the lawn, prune the trees and care for the gardens. He also works closely with horticulturalist Jerry Larson.

A leading research project involves a bed of 50 hybrid tea roses. Every Thursday, the flowers are measured for height and budding success. The flowers are watered with a drip system, three times a week.

Were checking two kinds of fertilizer, he said.

Winch also plans to apply bone meal to the roses, which is designed to promote root growth.

The rose study began a year ago with shrub roses. Part of the study involved the roses survivability over winter.

Im guessing out of 50, five survived. Thats what research is here for, he said.

Winch said the xeroscape plot features about 50 new plantings. This plot of land focuses on plants that rely on rainfall as their only source of moisture.

The raised beds are filled with various varieties of petunias.

Winch likes raised beds for their beauty and the ease in managing weeds.

A second plot of flowers is managed by Fargo extension researchers. The flowers are filled with rows of geraniums&.. and & A second set of studies involves the beds of shade plants, which are tucked between rows of trees.

Winch said the plantings were completed during the third week of May.

Its a good time to plant. Sometimes, you get frost in the third week. The flowers look very good, I think, even the shade flowers are nice, he said.

Winch said his crew continues removing tree limbs lost to the October, 2005, snowstorm. He estimates over 100 trees are being chipped as mulch.

Were pruning right now, he said.

The loss also represents an opportunity to plant new trees on the grounds.

Were talking about fruit trees, black walnut, maple, white birch, he said. Id like to see more leaf trees. Oak should do well in some areas.

Winch waters the immature trees in the spring when the nutrients are going to the tips of the branches, and in the fall when the nutrients are being stored in the roots.

Research also includes studies of peppers in raised beds and tomatoes planted in wooden whiskey barrels. The research focuses on fertilizer types and the number of tomato plants that can successfully grow in one barrel.

Look, but dont touch. It affects the program, he said.

Next year, the researchers are considering studies of fall-planted vegetables such as garlic and shallots, which are a type of onion.

Winch said the center is redesigning an educational brochure for the nature trail. It was originally compiled by Marcus Leggate as an Eagle Scout project. The booklet identifies 20 stations along the 45-minute walk. Look for the golden current, bush juniper, Colorado blue spruce, white spruce, Siberian elm and ponderosa pine.

We just found the rhubarb the other day, he said.

Winch also wants to develop brochures of the flowers and xeroscape plantings.

Its a work in progress, he said.

Winch said horticulture discussions are part of the Centennial Field Day program Thursday, July 13.

Ron Smith is talking about grape production at 9 a.m., while Dale Herman explains how North Dakota State University develops trees and shrubs at 10 a.m.

The afternoon presentations from 2:30-4:30 p.m. cover a proposal to develop a North Dakota arboretum at the Dickinson station, tree planting and landscaping with perennial and annual flowers.

Assistant director Frank Kutka said the station plans to expand the horticulture plantings.

We put in a new well at the hilltop west of agronomy fields, with the intention to develop some gardens and horticulture experiments out there, he said.

Weve started planting some wind breaks, just one step at the time. We intend to be here the next 100 years and were getting started right now, he added.

Our master plan calls for some additional native grass plantings. Of course wed like to do more work with native perennials. Theyre so beautiful and so adapted to our climate. Wed like to see how easy or how hard it is to grow them and let people know, he said.

Kutka appreciates the beauty of the gardens.

I think the gardens are absolutely stunning this summer, I love walking past them every time I come to work and go home, he said.

I really hope people come out to check them during our field day and throughout the summer, he added.