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Denver senior’s mother was early 'Better Homes and Gardens' editor

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Guest Post by Chuck Montera:

For 93-year-old Jane Headstrom, gardening is a more than just a hobby: Gardening keeps her connected to her past, busy in her present and excited about her future. Mrs. Headstrom has deep roots in the garden: She grew up the daughter of an editor for Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

Mrs. Headstrom’s parents separated when she was two years old, so her mother Fleeta Brownell Woodroffe went to live with her parents, Otto and Inez Dean Brownell, in Des Moines, Iowa. According to Mrs. Headstrom, her mother became enamored with a new variety of iris in Inez’s garden. When Fleeta’s baby girl was born, she named her after her favorite flower: Isoline. “Isoline was a very unique name in Des Moines, so I became known by my nickname: Jane,” said Mrs. Headstrom.

In her grandmother’s garden, she explored and began her life-long love for gardening. “My grandmother was both an expert gardener and artist,” said Mrs. Headstrom. “She had a wonderful English-style garden, and my earliest memories are of the goldfish she purchased from our local five-and-dime store and placed in the fish pond.”

In 1925, when Mrs. Headstrom was five, her grandmother made four garden benches, including one for her granddaughter. The bench made of concrete and wood includes supports molded into the faces of African lions.

Mrs. Headstrom’s mother, Fleeta, combined her love of writing and gardening into a successful career with Better Homes & Gardens magazine. Fleeta started out as a freelance contributor to the magazine and eventually became a full-time editor in 1942, a position she held for 17 years. It should be noted there are varieties of iris and day lily named “Fleeta.”

In 1947, she married Dick Headstrom and moved to Connecticut. They left Connecticut in 1950, and moved to Colorado. They moved flowers and benches from her grandmother’s garden, too, and transplanted them to Colorado.

Mrs. Headstrom was not the first person in her family to transport plants across state lines. Her great-great grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Joel E. Hendricks, brought a trunkful of plants, including a rose bush, with them by stagecoach when they moved to Des Moines from Indiana, in 1866, just after the Civil War.

Once in Denver, the Headstroms settled in a little bungalow near Colfax and Verbena. It was there that Mrs. Headstrom began practicing the gardening lessons passed on by her mother and grandmother. “Once I had my own home, my passion for gardening took off,” she said.

As a house-warming gift, Fleeta order 24 fruit trees, including peach and plum trees for the young couple’s new home. “My mother wanted her grandchildren eating food out of the garden. We planted lots of strawberries, so many in fact that my son Dean’s first word was ‘berry,’” added Mrs. Headstrom.

The Headstroms’ second home was in the University Hill neighborhood of Denver, near Eisenhower Park. It was there that the Headstroms designed and installed their dream garden and landscape, including an outdoor room designed for entertaining long before outdoor rooms were a mainstay in many homes. As a licensed architect, Mr. Headstrom's utilization of idle space was so creative that their home and garden was featured in The Denver Post in 1975.

In March 2013, the Headstroms made their third move in Denver, this time to the Clermont Park Retirement Community--just a few blocks from their Eisenhower Park home. “I’ve still been able to continue my passion for gardening at Clermont Park and I even brought some things from my previous gardens that are now part of Clermont’s community garden,” said Mrs. Headstrom.

She and Clermont Park were a perfect fit since the community’s tagline is, “Deep roots lead to new growth.” Her 88-year-old garden bench and hostas from her grandmother’s garden now grace the gardens of Clermont Park, near the fish pond, for all residents to enjoy. The other three benches made by her grandmother were donated to the Denver Botanical Gardens.

“I love being outdoors and gardening is good exercise,” Mrs. Headstrom said. This spring, Mrs. Headstrom and about 10 other residents planted all the community containers. Mrs. Headstrom took on the task of deadheading the community rose bushes and planting the bedding plants. “There’s always something to look forward to,” Mrs. Headstrom said as she gazed over the community garden.

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