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Two scarecrows on exhibit.

"Birds on the Brain," by Mary Boehlke and Roberta Steele, is on display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Goodbye crows, hello fall

U's arboretum hosts first juried scarecrow exhibit

By Pauline Oo

Oct. 11, 2006

They've been called bird scarers and protectors of plants, but scarecrows, at least in this modern day and age, are more than just mannequins used to discourage birds from disturbing our crops. They're whimsical creations that can decorate the front yard of a home or they can draw crowds to a public garden.

While scarecrow exhibits have been a traditional autumn event for places such as the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Bethel Woods Harvest Festival in the Catskills region of New York and Emma Krumbee's Orchard and Farm in Belle Plaine, Minn., such an exhibit is a novelty at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. This year, through Oct. 31, the University of Minnesota's more than 1,000 acre public garden--the largest public garden in the upper Midwest--is hosting its first scarecrow exhibition. "Scarecrows on Parade" has a collection of 33 scarecrows and other garden folk that will wow you, stop you in your tracks and make you wonder, "Hmm, what were they thinking?"

"We all have ideas of scarecrows and garden folk, and this juried exhibit is a neat opportunity to see how other people interpret them," says Thom Dreeze, arboretum events coordinator. "In this case, [the interpretations are] very artistic. 'Scarecrows on Parade' is almost like an art exhibition; people just really took the concept and ran with it."

Entries came in from across the state, from Willmar to Austin to Eden Prairie, and a panel of judges picked winners in three categories. "Gunther the Garden Guard," made by Bill Krumholz with silverware, muffin pans and paperclips took first place in the individual/family category; "Something to Crow About!" by Weber's Westdale Flowers, Home and Garden, won top spot for design professional; and "Autumn Fairy" snagged the Girl Scouts Junior Troop #19 of Eden Prairie a first in the organization category. The top three entries in each category received an Arboretum gift card for gift store, classes, membership, admission and restaurant purchases. "I've always liked galvanized metal and jiggly, upright hair," says University of Minnesota alum Marjorie Pitz, when asked what inspired her second place entry in the design professional category. Pitz created "Crow-Bot" out of pails, drain tiles and sticks. "Coming up with the idea seem to happen in an hour," she says, "but making it took about two days."

The landscape architect with Martin and Pitz Associates is a familiar face on the arboretum's exhibit circuit. In 2004, she designed "Tree Man" for the "Totally Terrific TreeHouses" exhibit; in 2005 she made "Ravenous Bird" for the "Wild about Birds;" and earlier this year, she built the "Sensory Secrets" for the "Secret Gardens" exhibit. "What I like about these competition exhibits is that they're temporary and you can experiment with ideas, materials or forms that you haven't worked with before," says Pitz.

Vote for your favorite!

After you've checked out the scarecrows in the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's "Scarecrows on Parade," be sure to vote for your favorite entry. You can pick up a ballot for the People's Choice Award in the Oswald Visitor Center through Oct. 31. One lucky person will have their ballot selected at random to win a $100 Arboretum gift card. The People's Choice will be announced on Nov. 13.

On display in the visitor center is "Apples with A-Peel" through Oct. 31. The exhibit highlights the University of Minnesota's fruit breeding program. On weekends, from noon to 3 p.m., you can participate in on-going apple research by tasting and giving your opinion on promising new apples in the U's apple research program. And if you want to take some apples home, head on over to the Apple House, a mile west of the Arboretum. All proceeds benefit the U's apple research program.

The arboretum's "Scarecrows on Parade" serves as a supplement "that reinforces the fact that September and October are absolutely gorgeous times of the year to be here," says Dreeze. "If the weather is beautiful, people are here especially for the color. But having the scarecrows at the arboretum just magnifies or amplifies the impact of the visitor experience. They have something else to enjoy, and [the scarecrows] can be very easily enjoyed by all sorts of groups."

In addition to the scarecrows in the juried exhibit--they're positioned in between the two visitor centers (Snyder building and the new Oswald Building)--the Arboretum's horticultural staff headed by Jewel Engstrom and Duane Otto have also created some original scarecrow and garden folk figures to dot the Arboretum.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is part of the Department of Horticultural Science within the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota. It is located on Highway 5 in Chanhassen, and it includes the Horticultural Research Center, which is responsible for introducing more than 80 fruits, including the Honeycrisp and Zestar! apples. For hours and driving directions, see visitor information.