A Gardening Couple’s Magnificent Obsession

As an obsessed gardener, I can sense right away when I am visiting a garden belonging to fellow fanatics. Dianne and Dan Latham’s garden gave me that feeling right away during the visit that took place as part of the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling back in July. In fact, I’m compelled to say that their dedication is awe-inspiring.


A focal point of the Latham’s garden is a 1,000 gallon pond lined with  bluestone. The pond is full of water lilies and lotus flowers


Oh, and fish. The Lathams keep the fish and the water lilies indoors in tubs and tanks during the frigid Minnesota winter.



The Latham’s garden mixes literally hundreds of varieties of perennial, annual, and tropical plants. This means that every fall they dig up hundreds of tubers and bulbs for overwinter storage in their heated garage. Like I said: dedication.


A view of the pond from a little distance.


Crates of excess plants are donated to non-profit community gardens as well as to plant sales held by various civic groups.


Lilies are a particular favorite of the Lathams, and an amazing variety was on display


No idea what variety this is but I really like the apricot spotted with maroon color.


Dan Latham has a strong interest in edible gardening, so edible plants are mixed in with ornamentals. Here’s an espaliered apple tree.


In addition to the pond, you can’t miss the Latham’s gazebo. It looks very comfortable, but for seem reason if feels like there should be a band playing in there.


Here’s a view from the back deck that includes both the gazebo and the pond.


On the deck we found another facet of the Latham’s eclectic gardening interests: cacti! Cacti in pots, to be exact.


Below the deck is a luscious shady bed packed with Hostas, Ferns, and Astilbes, among other things.


North American natives are not a focus of this garden, but they are not completely absent. For example, here are some Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) mixed in with the Lilies and Daylilies. I also saw some very impressive Red Baneberry (Actaea rubra).


The Latham’s colorful borders have no shortage of excitement. I love that big clump of yellow spires from the Ligularia.


I like the combination in this picture: a tropical leaf, lilies, and a white cultivar of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

The Lathams are both retired patent attorneys. I imagine that retirement makes it easier to devote the time needed to maintain such a large and complex garden. I devote a lot of time to my own garden, but I can’t imagine putting in the time needed to overwinter all these tender plants. (Though there are my container tulips, of course …)

What about you? Do you grow a lot of tender plants in your garden? Do you feel that they are worth the effort?

48 Comments on “A Gardening Couple’s Magnificent Obsession”

  1. I have a few pots and plants that have to come in for the winter, but only a few because of storing them. Also because we carry on gardening through the winter, it never stops here! A lovely garden to visit, I can understand why you enjoyed it.

  2. I don’t grow tender plants in the ground that I have to dig up every winter. That is way more work than I am willing to do. I have lots of potted plants though, that spend the winter in the greenhouse. They’re easy to move to and fro.

  3. I have been retired for eight years and the only plants I am bringing in this fall are some thyme. Then I will not have to purchase it for the holiday cooking. Hard enough to take care of a garden in three seasons without having to babysit plants over the winter. Though their yard is lovely and I wouldn’t mind having them as neighbors.

  4. Very nice garden. I don’t have the right place for plants to overwinter indoors, and all that digging and lifting would be beyond me! I have two sensitive plants that come in if it gets really cold: a cordyline and an agapanthus. 🙂

  5. Do you grow a lot of tender plants in your garden?
    Do you feel that they are worth the effort?
    Definitely! As you know I have a lot of tender succulents that must be kept from the rain over the winter, some even too tender for our temps that must go inside. I am cutting back on what is tender in the ground though. A few things still sneak in, I can’t help myself.

  6. I have 21 Potted plants that I brought in this year. Fewer than I have brought in in the past. I keep telling myself that I will cut back more but the ones I have now are older larger and they feel more like pets, must take care of them. I did dig up some bulbs and tubers this year. I rarely have luck doing this but I always have hope it might work if I try again, so here I go. I think this garden is gorgeous. Super neat.

  7. That’s a really beautiful garden. I love the lotus leaves, which are something I never see.
    The hosta bed with hanging ferns makes a nice place to rest the eyes for a bit. I have over 200 hostas, and I guess I should buy some ferns.
    I also used to collect cacti, so I can understand how they’ve fallen for them.
    I’m not a gazebo type person but I think this garden is one of the nicest you’ve shown.

  8. Lovely but what a lot of work. I love the lotus flowers, how exotic. And gorgeous lilies. I think it is impossible to avoid having lots of tender plants if you are a fanatical and undisciplined gardener as most of us are. But what a pain it is each autumn to have to move great swathes of your garden under cover. Of course non- gardeners think the whole process is insane. And no doubt it is.

  9. What a beautiful garden & the dedication of moving plants & even fish! I was amazed to see the English gardener Monty Don (on Gardeners’ World) moving his banana tree into a green house every winter..Just could not imagine doing that!

  10. Hello Jason, I saw the photo of the lotus flowers, water lilies and other tropical plants, then read it was in Minnesota and I thought, “surely they don’t dig everything up..?” but they have and that is indeed dedication given the sheer amount of work involved to protect the plants (and the fish) over the cold winter, then replace them all in Spring. It is a stunning garden and that lawn is immaculate!

  11. I have a few porch plants I bring into the heated garage in winter, but there is too much work do to around our place to dig up tender plants every year. We have hot dry summers, and cool, wet winters. Outside plants have to be able to cope with those conditions.

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