Ruth WalkerComment

Kathryn Frerichs Brings Her Garden Memories Home

Ruth WalkerComment
Kathryn Frerichs Brings Her Garden Memories Home

Kathryn Frerichs’s first memory of gardens is of her immigrant father growing tomatoes. Because he was a fisherman as well, many fish heads ended up in the garden fertilizing his plants so the tomatoes were red, juicy and bursting with flavor.  Her mother had a good eye for design and often brought home samples of plants that appealed to her to add to the family’s garden and enhance their urban lot.


Today, the Kathryn’s garden has been created in the woods and open spaces around the couple’s home in Northport.   There NAHA tour participants will see how she has integrated growing vegetables and fruit along with a woodland garden.  And, they’ll be greeted at the entrance to the couple’s home by a colorful mixed garden of native and adaptable plants that are not only beautiful but planned to encourage pollinators.

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“These gardens represent a little bit of every garden I’ve been to in the places I’ve lived or traveled,” Kathryn says.

Like many avid gardeners Kathryn started out as a child – a nine-year-old in an urban 4-H program.  And there were gardens around her home in Detroit.  “We had lots of plants in a very small place,” she says.

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At the University of Michigan she was studying Math and Physics when she took a botany course and discovered how much she loved the study of plants

A few years later Kathryn and her husband were posted to Hawaii where she took the opportunity to learn about tropical plants.  Later they traveled a lot including a visit to Nikko in Japan, a Japanese maple forest. 

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Because of her scientific bent, Kathryn’s favorite garden books include Teaming with Microbes, The Organic Gardeners Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels.  Two other Lowenfel’s books Teaming with Nutrients, The Organic Gardeners Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition and Teaming with Fungi, The Organic Gardeners Guide to Mycorrhizea are also on her list of must read books for anyone who wants to garden. The books, she says, changed her whole approach to gardening.

As she had developed gardens around her Northport property, Kathryn has started using cardboard and rough compost to smother the tall grasses and weeds that had taken hold there.  The technique is one she began using after taking the Michigan Master Gardener training.  Reading Lowenfels books and gaining knowledge on how to develop the best possible soil, no matter where you live was further inspiration for improving her soil; a particular issue for many Northern Michigan residents who live and garden on very sandy soil.

Another book that guides her gardening is Ken Druse The Passion for Gardening, where Druse writes about inspiration for all gardeners, but Kathryn says the best gardening book she’s read this year is The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben! The Frerichs garden includes many inspirational plants including some unique to this area, like Thimbleberry which is typical in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula but rarely seen in the Lower Peninsula. 

Other plants that tour participants will be able to view include the American hazelnut, choke cherry, nannyberry, yellow Dogwood, snowberries and elderberries.  And that is only the beginning. The sheer variety of plants at the Frerichs garden goes well with one of Kathryn’s favorite quotes – Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The earth laughs in flowers.”  Its prolific production, both in food and in beauty suits another of her favorite quotes by English Dramatist Douglas William Jerrold – “Earth here is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” 


Kathryn Frerichs’s garden is located on South Shore Drive in Northport. It will be one of eight gardens on the Northport Area Heritage Association’s fundraising tour on July 31. The tour, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is $25. Students and children are free. Tickets are available at the Pennington Collection, Tamarack Gallery and the Northport Museum or they can be purchased the day of the tour at the various gardens.

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Several of Kathryn Frerichs’s favorite gardening books are listed below. All those listed are available through the Amazon Affiliates program.

Ken Druse: The Passion for Gardening
By Ken Druse, Adam Levine

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