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Lori Anderson said her and Mark's three sons who still live at home have been a tremendous help in transforming the plant farm into a retreat center. Left to right: Lori, James, Nathan and Zachary Anderson. Debbie Griffin photo

Plant farm blooms into garden oasis, open house Sunday

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Lori Anderson admits it hasn't been easy living without husband Mark since his death Sept. 28, 2007, caused by an accidental fall.

She says the dedicated father of 10, loving husband and gifted horticulturalist was the backbone of Anderson Plant Farm in the town of Martell.

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"This is how we raised our family," she said of the business.

Anderson said the vision they'd begun 25 years ago, changed suddenly. That darkness, pain and mourning led to a seed that sprouted and grew: "The love of green things and all that is good and serene in this world."

The Anderson family's thoughts and inspirations steered them to transform the plant farm into a natural atmosphere for healing, restoration and transformation called Mystical Rose Gardens. Everyone is invited to visit for an open house 4-8 Sunday, Oct. 10 (see related sidebar).

Located about 12 miles east of River Falls, Anderson said the plant farm began selling retail about three years before Mark died.

When asked if she thinks her late husband would like what the family has done with the place, Anderson stops, smiles and says, "He would love it."

She says he'd be happy they haven't allowed weeds to overtake everything.

She's excited to share Mystical Rose Gardens, a retreat center available for weddings, wedding receptions and hobby retreats like scrapbooking and quilting.

Seed takes root

The plant farm started with one greenhouse and had added more for a total of 17. Anderson said she had no idea what she would do with them until a man showed up one day and said he wanted all of them.

She said that was the first of many miracles and blessings to follow.

Anderson says she received a generous donation of kitchen appliances and cabinets that fit perfectly into an existing space -- in the farm's barn-like building where it stored soil and other supplies, which has been converted into a recreation room.

She says her at-home sons have worked hard and cheaply. One of her daughters studied horticulture and will do flowers for the open house, as well as some events.

Anderson said most of the people who worked for the farm have helped plant the extensive gardens. An uncle built trellises, a carpenter -- who'd learned from Mark when he built the family's home -- came back to help with the retreat center.

She envisioned a white picket fence, so installed one around the courtyard area. A gazebo in the far corner of it serves as a focal point for weddings or performances.

Anderson said it was an interesting experience learning how to pour concrete during the rainy spring of 2010. But it turned out looking nice and creating connectivity between the two main retreat buildings.

The widow commends her town of Martell board as well as Pierce County for helping negotiate the permits and requirements the business needed to meet.

She said, "This is really just kind of the beginning."

What used to be the plant farm's retail center is now a see-through building with retractable roof. Anderson said the 7,200-square-foot indoor space gives people options in case of bad weather.

Anderson lists the amenities found at the Mystical Rose Gardens: Close proximity to the Rush River and interesting wildlife, gardens, walkways, areas for reflection such as the fire pit, a sound system, bathrooms with a shower, full kitchen, a recreation room, a chapel in the woods, off-street parking, and, possibly in the future, small cabins in the woods and horticulture education classes.

Inside the space Mark used as an office now sits a cozy, elegant dressing room for brides and other guests. On the way to the Rose Room, guests can stroll down Memory Lane, a hallway that displays a family picture, an aerial photo of the former plant farm and other memorabilia.

Anderson thinks the Mystical Rose Gardens will probably evolve, but it is starting with weddings, wedding receptions and hobby retreats.

She said she isn't in a huge hurry. She won't advertise heavily or seek high-volume bookings. The Andersons will just let word of mouth tell most of the story.

Anderson gestures around, saying, "This is just how our energy came out."

She said facility prices will depend on what visitors want and need.

"I do have two weddings booked for next spring," she said.

Anderson thinks those bookings are pretty miraculous in and of themselves, considering that the brides booked after seeing the garden venue only on paper.

Anderson said she is excited about opening, and looking around the garden, she says about her late husband, "This is going to honor him and what he did."

Celebrate new beginnings

The Anderson family invites all to an open house of the Mystical Rose Gardens 4-8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10. Guests can tour the new gardens and enjoy live music, wine and appetizers. They will also see some sample scenes depicting how a wedding or hobby retreat might look.

The business' motto is: "If life hands you lemons, make lemonade -- vive di amore," Italian for "live for love."

The address is W5415 890th Ave., Baldwin. From River Falls, take Hwy. 29 10 miles east, turn left on County Road Y and go 2-3 miles, turn right on County Road Y and go through Centerville and over the Rush River, turn right onto Fourth Street and go 1/2 mile, turn right onto 540th Street.

Contact Mystical Rose Gardens online at www.mysticalrosegardens.com or at 715-821-0097.

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