Spring Residence: Gardening within the golden years – Detroit Lakes Tribune

Spring Residence: Gardening within the golden years – Detroit Lakes Tribune

Editor’s Note: The following originally appeared as a cover story in the Detroit Lakes Tribune’s Spring Home magazine, which was included as a free insert in the April 13, 2022 issue of the Tribune. Read the full length of the magazine online HERE.

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Gardening is active, often hard work, but for two local retirees it’s a favorite pastime and a rewarding part of their post-career years.

Arthur “Dean” Carr, a 78-year-old Height Land resident, took early retirement from his position as a concrete worker after a car accident 22 years ago. Although he didn’t discover gardening straight away, he has been doing it every day since 2010 during the warmer months.

Arthur “Dean” Carr became interested in gardening after his retirement and has developed a deep love for the hobby.

Dawn Duncan / Spring Home

“I didn’t like gardening at all growing up,” he laughs, explaining that for him and his siblings, who grew up on a farm where his mother had a large vegetable garden, gardening meant chores, including weeding. “It wasn’t fun or relaxing back then, but it is now.”

Carr and his wife Rosa, originally from Germany, have been married for 55 years. They have one son together who lives in Thief River Falls with her daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. The Carrs often entertain the family on their 12-acre property, which they bought in 1968. In recent years, they also hosted many parties for friends.
When they bought their property it was heavily overgrown with scrub, so their first attempt was to clear the area before thinking about landscaping.

Today Arthur Carr loves to grow many types of plants and continues to develop the yard areas; There are now multiple seating areas with varying amounts of shade and foliage, and different types of tables and chairs. One shows handcrafted patio stones he made – concrete squares that have embossed impressions of different types of leaves and flowers.

“Leaves continued to cover the concrete squares as I would make and set them,” says Carr. “And after getting frustrated with how they were messing up my work, I figured I’d just integrate them and make a design.”

Carr property before.jpg

The Carr estate before the couple’s improvements.

Contributed / Arthur Carr

Carr property after.jpg

The Carr estate after the couple’s improvements.

Contributed / Arthur Carr

The end product is a unique series of squares that form the Carrs’ patio, where a table and four comfortable chairs are provided for al fresco dining.

One of Carr’s favorite plants is the hosta, which includes more than 10,000 varieties; about 6,000 of them are registered. He is a member of two different hosta-related clubs, including the American Hosta Society and the Midwest Regional Hosta Society. Through this he travels to various events and conventions each year where he meets other gardeners, attends educational seminars, shops at various nurseries and connects with friends from the area. The conventions he has attended have been in Minnesota, Kansas City, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Hostas are his favorites for their variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, plus they grow well here in zone 3, he says. They are considered a hardy plant and they thrive in the hot, humid summers. In particular, the strains named Snake Eyes, Beyond Glory, and War Paint are Arthur’s top picks.


Stone paths are a unique feature of Carr Gardens.

Contributed / Arthur Carr

In addition, he grows 15 species of peonies, seven versions of hibiscus and zinnia, 10 species of hydrangea, and many gas plants, various ornamental grasses and trees, and shrubs. Tidal Wave Petunias, a hardy and colorful flower, grow in several areas of his garden.

Gardens and a greenhouse are also part of Carr’s extensive operation and he has recently started growing shrub roses. He has also ordered 25 new daylilies, which will be added this year. Although weeding is a constant chore to be tackled, Rosa helps him maintain the property and unlike his younger days when he would have preferred to play with friends than spend time weeding, this makes him do it nothing from the upkeep anymore.

Carr Peonies.jpg

Peonies are one of Arthur Carr’s favorite flowers. He grows 15 different varieties on his property.

Contributed / Arthur Carr

“I’m out in the garden every day and I garden as best I can every year,” he notes. “I just find it so comfortable and relaxing.”

His tips for those new to gardening are to never expect big results right away and start small. He also encourages others to design their gardens the way they want and not feel like they have to match the designs of other gardeners or gardens they’ve seen.

Carr Hibiscus.jpg

A red hibiscus plant, one of several varieties on Carr’s property.

Contributed / Arthur Carr

“Choose plants for the zone you live in and go from there. The most important thing is that you like your gardens and think they are pleasant; You don’t have to follow the crowd,” he says.

Another local retiree who has found a love of gardening is Marilyn Tinjum, an 83-year-old resident of Long Lake in Detroit Lakes, where she has lived with her family since 1966. She actively tends her gardens year-round, including the many perennials that dot the property.

Marilyn Tinjum.jpg

Marilyn Tinjum of Detroit Lakes is a lifelong gardener and was Becker County’s master gardener from 1994-2006.

Dawn Duncan / Spring Home

Tinjum and her husband are former business owners who owned Detroit Marine and Tinjum Appraisal before retiring. Tinjum also taught home economics in Wahpeton for two years before moving to the Lakes region.

Like Carr, Tinjum grew up on a farm and helped her parents with daily chores, including helping her mother with a large vegetable garden. Unlike Carr, Tinjum enjoyed this task and was a lifelong gardener.

She was even the Becker County master gardener from 1994 to 2006 after completing master gardening classes at the University of Minnesota.

The Tinjums owned some of the perennials that survive today and Tinjum has planted others over the years including peonies, lilies, many types of shrubs and a yellow rose bush that she received from her mother.

Yellow roses from the bush of Marilyn Tinjum's mother.jpg

This yellow rosebush has a special place in Marilyn Tinjum’s heart as it was gifted to her by her mother.

Contributed / Marilyn Tinjum

There is always something blooming in the Tinjum house and she loves the color and visual appeal the plants bring to the garden. Gardening is also a stress reliever for her, and she finds rest and relaxation among her many plants.

Tinjum encourages aspiring gardeners to keep a journal as they design and manage their gardens. This helps keep track of what has and hasn’t grown well and helps develop best practices for care.

Giving the plants water, fertilizer, and regular weeding is the key to success, she advises. Also, as Carr has indicated, it is crucial to select plants suited to Minnesota’s harsh climate.

“Gardening is a peaceful way to spend time,” says Tinjum. “And for me it is a lifelong activity. I plan on doing it for as long as I can.”

1/2: Bright pink lilies add a touch of color to the Tinjums’ estate.

2/2: Tulips are spring bloomers in Marilyn Tinjum’s garden.

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The Health Benefits of GardeningGardening is one of the most popular hobbies for people of all ages, and it comes with all sorts of benefits for the mind and body—especially for older adults.

  • It helps to stay fit and active. The labor and exercise involved in creating and tending a garden keeps the body engaged and utilizes core strength, balance and mobility.
  • It’s good for mental health. Scientists have found that being outdoors in a green space like a garden creates a sense of well-being known as biophilia. Gardening not only gives a sense of accomplishment from admiring a job well done, but it also keeps the mind busy, which is good for mental health.
  • It reduces stress. Stress is closely linked to mental health, and many studies have shown that gardening is a great way to unwind and relieve stress. Reducing stress also improves the body’s immune system, making the system better able to fight off viruses and diseases.
  • It can reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases. Speaking of the immune system, some studies have shown that interacting with garden soil, which is rich in natural bacteria and microorganisms, helps build an immune response.
  • It can reduce the risk of dementia. Studies have shown that gardening helps prevent cognitive decline and dementia. It is estimated that gardeners’ risk of dementia drops by a third.
  • It lowers blood pressure. Being active and relaxed lowers blood pressure.
  • It gives you your vitamin D. Being out in the sun provides plenty of vitamin D, a nutrient the body needs to build and maintain healthy bones.
  • It can lead to a healthier diet: Fresh fruits and vegetables grown in food gardens are eventually becoming a healthy part of gardeners’ meals.
  • It can reduce loneliness. For many gardeners, the hobby has a social aspect as they join local gardening clubs or chat and share ideas with other gardeners.
  • It’s also healthy for the environment. As more plants grow, more carbon dioxide is absorbed and oxygen released, helping to prevent global warming. Plus, growing and consuming your own produce reduces your carbon footprint.