Still WorkingPublished 9:57am Thursday, August 9, 2012
For almost three decades, Ann Larson has worked at the Garden House in Battle Lake.
Not everyone knows about the Garden House, not even people who live in Battle Lake. For one thing, it’s only open mid May through early July each summer. For another, it’s hidden behind the vegetable shed, which is located on the southern edge of town on Highway 78.
But people who know the Garden House know Ann.
She runs the show. She opens and closes the greenhouse each day; hangs the sign on the vegetable shed to let people know the greenhouse is open and brings the sign in each evening; waters and grooms plants; rings sales; arranges and rearranges flats, baskets and pots; answers questions; gives advice; washes flats; deposits daily sales; takes care of the books — even rounds up the flats used for customers to cart plants home. She does this five, sometimes six days a week. On her occasional day off, people want Ann. They will come in and say, “Where is that older lady who works here?”
And older Ann is. She graduated from Fergus Falls High School in 1944. On her next birthday, she will be 87 years old, and yes, she is still working. But then Ann has never shied away from work – even hard work.
Shortly after high school, she found herself on a tractor. Her brother had been drafted into the Army and her parents needed help on the farm. Ann quit her job at the defense plant and worked alongside her father and mother to keep the farm going during WWII.
In 1946, Ann married Bob Larsen and the young couple made their home in Battle Lake. She worked at the Red Owl, first for Ruben Swenson and then Howard Noyes. She and Bob owned and operated Laker Lane, the bowling alley and café downtown, for fourteen years (located downstairs of what is now Seip Drug). Then they bought Modern Rental Rugs and serviced lakes area businesses with entry rugs as far away as Detroit Lakes. Ann and Bob had four children and were married 57 years.
Now a great grandmother 20 times over and grandmother of 10, Ann works at the Garden House. She didn’t really intend to work after retirement, but one day Harriette Walvatne stopped by Ann’s house and said: “I want you to come and work for me.”
Harriette, of the family-run nursery Lake Country
Gardens on Otter Tail Lake, operates the Garden House.
She needed to find someone reliable to work at the greenhouse and thought of Ann.
Ann told Harriette she couldn’t work in a greenhouse…
she didn’t know enough about flowers. Harriette assured her she would be there to help.
Ann laughs and says, “Harriette stayed with me a couple hours and said I was doing fine and left.”
That was almost 30 years ago.
Now Ann knows more about flowers than just about anyone, and the flowers show it. It’s a joy to walk into the Garden House and see row after row of well-cared for, beautiful blossoms.
But people come for more than the flowers – they come to see Ann. She’ll help with color combinations, tell you which plants for shade and which for sun, give advice on the best tomato, and even keep husbands at bay. She loves to tell the story about a couple who came in four or five years ago. The woman was shopping and the husband was growing impatient. Ann says to him, “Why don’t you sit in that chair while your wife shops?”
He sat in the chair that day and whenever they come
now he teases Ann and says he better go sit in his chair.
Why is Ann still working after all these years? “It’s because I love my job.” she says. “ I love flowers, I meet so many wonderful people, and I have such wonderful people to work for and with.”
And for sure, everybody loves Ann.