Arlene and Bob Savory -- A Garden Affair
Arlene and Bob Savory met in 1946. Love grew quickly and they turned their passions to their mutual love of the land. Their first joint work involved setting up greenhouses. They married in 1949.
Savory's started out selling orchids, perennials, trees and shrubs, and a few hostas. Polly and Dennis were born in the early fifties. In 1959 Bob developed tuberculosis and spent a year in the Glen Lake Sanitarium. Arlene was left to care for the business and the two small children. Members from the Men’s Garden club of Minneapolis helped out.
Bob's love of hostas took root in the 1970’s. He began hybridizing hostas and he became a pioneer of an industry that would one day paint thousands of shady backyards with foliage and flowers. Arlene served as Secretary of the Midwest Hosta Society and the American Hosta Society. Arlene was involved with the Peony, Hosta, and Daylily societies. She enjoyed her many friends in the societies and the customers, that became friends. Dennis joined the business in 1987 and Savory's Gardens hopped from one generation to the next.
While his home remained in Edina for most of his adult life, Bob's influence has been felt across our country and around the world. He was probably most well known for the hybridization of Golden Tiara in 1977. It revolutionized the industry with a small footprint plant that would become the parent of dozens of cultivars over the following decades. From the time of his early interest in the queen of the shade, registered cultivars have grown from a few dozen to over 3,000. It is truly an international industry with gardens in Europe, the Far East, and North America. Bob was a part of all of that. Sadly, he passed away in 1995. But the industry that he helped to create has not only lived on, it has exploded in size.
Arlene's involvement in the business was strong and steady from their marriage through to her death in 2016 at the age of 89. Even during the final years of her life, she was seen every spring and summer in the greenhouse, helping customers find the perfect plant to add to their collection. Nearly every plant that was sold by retail or mail order had her fingerprints on the container. And during the "off-season" (to the extent there is one) she was hands on in picking out plants and helping out with operations.
Arlene enjoyed having her three grandchildren, Anna, Robert and Joseph, come to the greenhouses and help out. They added a lot of sparkle to her life. The names of her children and grandchildren have made their way onto several of Savory's introductions. In a way, every shade gardener in the country has a bit of Arlene and Bob and the Savory family in their backyard.
Although Savory's Gardens' time in Edina is coming to an end, the work of the Bob and Darlene will be on full display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum just west of Chanhassen, MN. The Savorys worked very closely with the Dr. Leon Snyder, the leader of the Arboretum to create one of the nation's most beautiful hosta display gardens. Opening in 1980 when the American Hosta Association came to Minnesota, the garden is still beautiful and full of many of the plants dating back to the founding time. The Arboretum is one if the beautiful outdoor places to visit in the Twin Cities area.
A postscript from the author
I first began collecting the "Queen of the Shade" in the mid 1990s. I soon learned about a great little gem of a place tucked away in the residential part of Edina. Before Google Maps, it was a hard place to find. Every spring I would make a couple trips to visit the lovely display garden and pick out a few more plants for my growing garden. Over 25 years, my garden grew from a row of plain green hostas to over 250 unique plants. Mowing the grass required less time each year. Arlene helped me pick out many of those plants that now grace that beautiful backyard. She will be dearly missed by everyone who visited their little corner of the world. So many of us enjoy her influence every spring and summer.