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Gimlets, Robot Set the Stage at Sawtooth Botanical Garden
Friday, September 10, 2021


The gimlets could wait. First, Derek Hagberg and Stephanie Cook had to check on an old friend at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden.

That friend stood a mere six inches high and had a footprint of about two square feet. And the robotic lawnmower nicknamed Edward Scissorhands spends five days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays rolling around the grass at the botanical garden south of Ketchum, trimming the grass.

Hagberg has placed 13 of Edward’s cousins in Gimlet, East Fork and Ketchum. The mowers were developed 20 years ago by a Swedish company that has a couple hundred years under its belt developing shovels and other yard tools.

"I have a degree in horticulture from Iowa State and I love the Sawtooth Botanical Garden--it's a magical part of the valley," said Hagberg, who owns East Fork Landscape. "I've volunteered my time planting and cleaning up the garden, but I figured programming this, mapping out the lawn with a GPS and setting the mower free, was another way to volunteer even when I can’t be here. I bring it in every May after winter. It plugs itself into a charger every night for 20 minutes and it's ready to go the next day."

Hagberg and Cook were among dozens of people who showed up for the Sawtooth Botanical Garden's annual Gimlets in the Garden fundraiser Wednesday evening. With the world still reeling from a pandemic, it was a scaled-down affair--one which Sharon Heitur called "a quiet, relaxing end to a summer in which everyone has been working hard."

In the past, the dinner has been held under a tent. But this time tables were scattered around the lawn in front of the gazebo where David Janeski and Tess Makena from the new Liberty Theatre Company sang "Moon River" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

"This is very special because it's the first Gimlets in the Garden held outside," said Jeanne Cassell, who has volunteered with the garden for 20 years. "Being outside really showcases the garden."

Her daughter Susan Snyder, who lives in Chicago but is a frequent visitor to Sun Valley, agreed.

"I love how the garden blends into the natural backdrop," she said, gesturing towards the Pioneer Mountain foothills, which were basking in the glow of the evening sun. "It's amazing. It makes the garden feel endless. I love that the garden has different plants--native plants- than we have in gardens in Chicago. And the way it's backlit is spectacular."

The talk over chicken with capers and cheesecake topped with apricot sauce prepared by caterer Eileen Reiss was jovial.

Jeanne Cassell related how she'd learned in one of her four book clubs that black cap chickadees utter “chickadee dee dee dee dee,” rather than a simple “chickadee,” when they're warning others.

William and Patsy Pinney lamented that their rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon had been cancelled because the Boundary Fire was creating too much smoke for planes to fly rafters into Indian Creek. But, in the same breath, Patsy recounted the story of how a 4-year-old that her daughter Julia cared so loved the garden that he insisted on riding his scooter all the way from Lane Ranch in Elkhorn to the garden.

"I love this place," she added. "It's peaceful and lovely. It's an oasis."

Though the blooms are beginning to wind down, the garden has plenty of life going forward. Executive Director Jen Smith said there will be "a very ceremonious planting of daffodils" Oct. 20 and 21. for an inaugural Daffodil Festival on Mother's Day 2022. And everyone in the community is invited to help plant.

The garden also hopes to host New Moon Dinners, complete with a snow bar, greenhouse dining and astronomers leading participants on trips through the stars November through February. And there are many more classes lined up for both adults and children.

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