Seeds, Fertilizer, Varieties, Spring, Fall
Add a burst of color to mixed beds and containers with a rhizomatous annual or short-lived perennial. Aster flowers feature a central cluster of disc florets surrounded by petal-like ray florets, giving them a classic daisy-like appearance. Try Artist(r) Blue with a soft violet-blue flower or Aquilegia with bright bronzy orange blooms.
When Annelda “Nel” Schweiss moved into her apartment on St. Paul’s East Side about 10 years ago, she immediately started planting flowers on the mangy piece of land next door.
Schweiss cleared out weeds, rock and trash from the site, located near the Bruce Vento Regional Trail, and transformed it into “a pocket of beauty on Maryland Avenue,” said Marie Grimm, a longtime East Side resident. “It started out small. Each year, she would dig just a little bit more … adding more and more beautiful flowers, rocks arranged in small beds and a white bird bath.”
Schweiss, known around the East Side as “The Flower Lady,” died June 11 at Regions Hospital in St. Paul of complications related to cancer, eight days after she was diagnosed, family members said. She was 84.
Schweiss spent countless hours working in the garden and would chat with “anyone and everyone” who walked by, said Robert McNamara, a longtime friend and former neighbor.
“She cared about the community, and she was there to help them out,” he said. “If someone was homeless, she would give them whatever they needed: food, water, clothing, a couple of bucks. She took care of people all around the area, and everybody knew her. The bus driver knew her. He would honk every time he drove by.”
Schweiss’ death is “a huge loss to the East Side,” said Linda Gear, a friend and fellow East Sider. “Nel brought so much life to the area. She talked with everybody, and everyone seemed to know her.”
Gear said Schweiss walked everywhere around the East Side — to Walgreens, to the laundromat, to McDonald’s, to Dollar Store and to Cub Foods. “She was never afraid,” she said. “She would walk to Cub every morning, seven days a week, to buy the Pioneer Press. She really wanted to know what was going on in the world. She cared; she really did.”
Schweiss was an intrepid gardener, using sticks to pull herself up the hillside to work on the land, Gear said. “Her apartment was on the third floor, and there wasn’t an elevator,” she said. “She would carry containers of water down the stairs to water the garden.”
East Side resident Tom Russ said Schweiss purchased many of the plants and flowers in the garden, but also accepted donated plants. “She wanted something to do, and she also wanted to help out the neighborhood,” he said. “She grew up on a farm, and this was her way of contributing. Gardening was a way to connect with people — a way to start the conversation.”
Schweiss would talk with anyone — “young or old, no matter the color of their skin,” Russ said. “She saw the worth of everyone — the humanity of everyone. If you were homeless or down and out, she would take the time to talk and encourage you.”
In turn, he said, people in the neighborhood “would look out for her.”
Schweiss, who didn’t drive, use a computer or send text messages, had high expectations of people, he said. “She expected people to do good,” he said. “If someone littered in front of those apartments, she’d tell them to pick it up. She believed in people — that we could behave, and that each one of us can be contributors.”
Schweiss’ legacy lives on, he said. “The other day, one of the homeless guys was at Nel’s garden, weeding and cleaning up,” he said. “He hasn’t got a nickel. It was quite a tribute. Most people might ignore this guy, but Nel would take the time to talk to him. I would hope that people would be more like Nel. She was an inspiration to many.”
From farm girl to switchboard operator
Schweiss was born on a farm in Fairfax, Minn., the daughter of Benedict and Margaret Schweiss. She graduated from Holy Trinity High School in New Ulm in 1956 and moved to St. Paul after graduation.
Schweiss worked as a switchboard operator at a number of different St. Paul companies, including Peters Meat Market Co.; Economics Laboratory Inc., the precursor to Ecolab; Buckbee-Mears Co.; and Coopers & Lybrand, said her younger sister, Jane Skluzacek, who lives in rural Lonsdale, Minn.
“She loved being a switchboard operator,” said her sister Serena Garceau of Vadnais Heights. “She really liked to talk on the phone, and she was so good at it. You could tell she was smiling when she answered the phone. She always gave a good first impression of the company.”
Schweiss, who was married and divorced, also loved polka music and would go dancing every chance she got, Garceau said. “If there was a German festival out on the street, she always made sure she got there early, so she didn’t miss the dancing,” she said.
Schweiss was preceded in death by her parents, six brothers and two sisters. She is survived by three sisters and one brother.
Services have been held.