As a little girl, Betty Vos Hemstad's mother grew a prolific garden with acres of flowers blanketing the yard, lining the walkway and spilling out of flowerbeds.
"You didn't go to the florist when you got married, you went to Henrietta's garden," Vos Hemstad recalls of her mother's landscape. She remembers how people would come asking for gladiolas and her mother would cut every last stem she had and give them all away. "I would say 'Mother, how can you cut them all?" She would say, 'for everyone I give, I get two back.'"
It's a philosophy Vos Hemstad carried with her through the years. And if it's true, she is due a lifetime of bouquets.
Vos Hemstad's first book, Wildflowers of the Boundary Waters: Hiking Through the Seasons (Minnesota Historical Society, May 2009), contains more than 620 photos of 140 types of native flowers. She took every photo herself with her trusty Olympus 35mm camera on Kodachrome film; the project took her more than 20 years.
She considers each photograph a gift to people who will never be able to see one of Minnesota's most beloved areas--physically handicapped people who have trouble with mobility, people who live across the country etc.--as well as people who have experience the North Shore, but who want a closer look.
"It's like sharing, and I want people to see what I have seen, the wonder in wildflowers," says the self-taught amateur photographer. "it's so satisfying to think that [the book is] actually here.It feels like I'm smiling inside."
As she discusses her book over a cup of tea and slice of graham cracker pie at Pearson's Edina Restaurant, she seems more like a cookie-baking grandma than an intrepid nature explorer and author. In fact she is admittedly overwhelmed with the attention the book has already garnered (including 16 publicity events around the state), but she couldn't be more proud of her two decades labor of love.
Above all she hopes it encourages readers to get out and discover the bliss she has found in one of the most revered natural areas in the country.
"What you have on a wilderness trail is silence, and the world doesn't have enough of that anymore," she says. "That's something I really wish people could catch onto: this is just sitting there, waiting for them, Nature is so friendly."
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