Hamline News

Artist in Bloom

artist article

Where some artists use watercolors or clay, Betty Lou Patsche ’47 uses flowers. Patsche, who said she “grew up in the garden” with her mother, has been growing and creating with flowers her entire life. It is her passion, and her art. For more than fifty years, Patsche has been creating and judging flower arrangements with the Minnesota Horticultural Society and many other garden clubs. She also teaches certification courses in judging and has won many awards and competitions. Her love of design and color, once cultivated as an art major at Hamline, shines through her beautiful, modern floral arrangements.

Patsche attended Hamline in the mid-forties, “good days,” as she described them. She lived in Manor Hall with a group of friends nicknamed “The Dirty Dozen,” who still hold a reunion every year. They weren’t as “dirty” as all that—in the days when the dorms were “pretty held down,” her crew earned the moniker for such pranks as putting newspapers in the dean of women’s bed.

“But art is what I remember most,” she said. “I came to Hamline to take art [though she also had to major in English] from Lowell Bobleter. We had pottery class in the basement of the library. I didn’t have enough money for a lot of paints, so I would take a very long time to complete a painting. Professor Bobleter finally caught on and let me charge the supplies. There were such good instructors.”

After graduation she taught art at the Summit School in Saint Paul, and then married Gil Patsche and had three children, Ronald, Barbara, and David. When her youngest started school, she began work as a teacher’s aide.

Then, one year, she went to a flower show put on by the Parkway Garden Club. She said, “That looks like fun,” and was hooked.

“I’m lucky I found floral arranging to go with art. It is a form of art. You use all of the principles of design, and I love color. It takes time to learn how to do it and do it well,” she said. “I’m learning all the time.”

Patsche prefers modern art and her arrangements follow suit. Many competitions involve choosing a piece of art or sculpture and then interpreting it with flowers. Others provide themes, such as “Wonders of the Galaxy” or “Football Fun” and entries are judged on how well they represent the theme. A favorite show that Patsche has been participating in for twenty-seven years is “Art in Bloom” at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Floral artists are invited to choose art pieces to inspire their arrangements that are displayed with the piece during the exhibit. (You can see Patsche’s work at this year’s Art in Bloom, to be held April 26–29, 2007. For more information see www.artsmia.org.)

Patsche is modest about the awards her work has won over the years and says it is more important “if you feel good about it and someone says they liked it.” She and the rest of the “Dirty Dozen” are looking forward to their sixtieth class reunion this fall, and they plan to make the best of it, both at Hamline events and some they are planning on their own. “Hamline was a good school— I wish I could go there now!” she said. “[But] the best thing is the friends I made. We’ve been friends for such a long time.”

In Betty Lou’s Garden

Betty Lou Patsche’s arrangements aren’t limited by her Zone 4 garden; she frequently orders special flowers that fit her artistic vision. Still, she tends a large garden every summer, for blooms to enjoy both outdoors and in, and, of course, to enter the State Fair’s contests each year.

One feature of her garden is a mum like no other that was noticed by one of her plant propagation instructors. He took a cutting and propagated it, naming it the “Betty Lou.” The “Betty Lou Mum” is a large variety, growing to the size of a shrub, with a rust-pink flower.

“Someone said, ‘Why don’t we name it Big Betty,’” Patsche said. “But he said ‘I don’t think Betty would stand for that!’” The Betty Lou mum can be ordered from Dooley Gardens in Hutchinson or Mums for Minnesota in Faribault.

Patsche’s recommendations for flowers that can be used in arrangements are what she calls “the old-fashioned flowers”: dahlias, marigolds, zinnias, snapdragons,and sedums. She often tries out-of-zone flowers, too, and has learned to live with the risk.

“I’ve had a lot of failures in the garden,” Patsche said. “I’ve learned that if you lose a flower, it isn’t anything to cry about. It used to hurt. But I’m growing up.”


By: Jen Thorson