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The Subject Was Roses

Lauritzen Gardens at 10 Years

Touch it. Experience it. Own it.

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What could be a more fitting start for a visit to Lauritzen Gardens than to be presented with a bouquet of … uh, weeds?

 

Fresh as a Bellis Perennis (you may know the familiar jewel by its more common name, the daisy), Joan Goldapp arrived bearing a fistful of what turned out to be the most undaisy-like of blooms. The eagle-eyed volunteer at one of Omaha’s most colorfully vibrant of cultural gems apparently can’t so much as make her way from the parking lot to the door without spying an interloping offender or three to pluck.

Goldapp is one of 22 volunteers whose contributions predate the building of the Lauritzen Gardens visitor and education center.

Seeds, both literal and figurative, had been planted years, even decades earlier, but the 2001 completion of the 32,000-square-foot facility represented the nonprofit’s permanent stake in the ground. The milestone went on to be considered its official “birthday” as the organization now celebrates its 10-year anniversary.

Don’t let her demure appearance in the accompanying photograph fool you. This 75-year-old diminutive diva of the dirt will not wilt, even when discussing the “thorniest” of issues whenever talk rolls around to – and it always does with Goldapp - her long tenure of digging and grooming in the botanical center’s famed rose garden.

Make that, as she repeatedly put it, “my” rose garden.

“There was nothing quite like the feeling you get after a nice day with friends deadheading in my rose garden,” she said in referring to a pruning term that is not to be confused with the moniker adopted by those who exhibit an almost cultish devotion to a certain acid-era rock band. “Oh, we’d be muddy and tired and scratched up from all those thorns, but I loved every minute working among my roses.”

While it’s fair to say that Goldapp sat up a little straighter whenever the subject was roses, she also admitted to having another favorite spot in the lushly variegated grounds that keep a hilltop vigil above the Missouri River.

Dodging swirling eddies of leaves kicked up by leaf blowers and keeping time with the rhythmic whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of water sprinklers, we made our way down the meandering lane that Goldapp had traveled thousands of times before.

 

“This is it,” she said as we came upon the space known as the woodland waterfall. “This is where I go to relax.” But the serenity of the otherwise idyllic scene was soon shattered when Goldapp made an unsettling discovery.

“Hey, where’d he go?” she said with raised eyebrow and a noggin’-scratching tone of voice. “Where’s my little boy?”

Goldapp’s “little boy” is the child portrayed in New Friends, the bronze of a young lad cupping a frog in his tiny hands. Perhaps his amphibian companion had bolted and the statue had darted into the dense undergrowth in pursuit?

Lauritzen Gardens is full of woodland magic, but unravelling this little mystery required no such fantastical plot twists. Goldapp had forgotten about Outside Kaneko, the crowd-pleasing exhibition (see our May issue for more on Outside Kaneko) that continues at Lauritzen Gardens through September.

No Amber Alert was needed for her sculpted friend; his pedestal was merely being temporarily occupied by an untitled work by the internationally acclaimed ceramic artist.

“I can’t quite explain why,” she continued, “but I love that little boy. This is where I go to chase away all the stress and worries in the world. It’s just such a peaceful, meditative place,” Goldapp said above the murmur of water gently cascading down the boulders that buttress the hillock.

Her “little boy lost” will soon emerge from storage to take his rightful place among the garden’s green-greener-greenest palette. And Joan Goldapp will continue to resist the temptation to carry pruning snips wherever she goes. In the meantime, wide-eyed visitors will continue to be welcomed by a virtual army of dedicated volunteers.

“Lauritzen Gardens began as a volunteer effort,” said Executive Director Spencer Crews, “and that spirit remains today.” Garden volunteers racked up over 27,000 hours of service in 2010 alone. That’s the equivalent of over 900 hours for each of the site’s 30 acres. “Our volunteers are an important part of our family,” Crews continued. “We grow together and we learn together and we celebrate together…and isn’t that a pretty good measure of what the best families do?”

 

Outside Kaneko continues through September at Lauritzen Gardens, located at 100 Bancroft St. in Omaha. Also this month is a George Washington Carver event on September 17th, a European Car Show on September 18th, and the popular Lauritzen Gardens Antique and Garden Show runs September 22 through 25.

Visit www.lauritzengardens.org for more on these and other 10th Anniversary events.

 

 

 

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