If ever there was someone that would have been a treat to know, it would have been Louise Koehler. Her life was "packed full" with interests and activity. Louise was a farmer's wife, a mother, gardener, writer, speaker, plant breeder and a collector of wild flowers. Her gardening enthusiasm was infectious and few ever left her garden without a few choice plants.
The family farm was located outside Bixby, Minnesota. There she found many wild flowers in the woods. After moving from the farm to Owatonna, she grew hundreds of varieties of wild flowers including 17 kinds of trillium, 7 kinds of lady slippers, and a double red hepatica that she grew from seed. She seemed to have a "double" of many kinds of wild flowers. Double hepatica, double bloodroot, double trillium, double marsh marigold, but it was the double rue anemone that brought her fame. Shared with her by a man named Shoaf who discovered the little plant in a cemetery, Louise grew and increased the plant for 12 years before marketing it. "They wanted to name it after me, but I insisted it be named for Mr. Shoaf because he found it" and so it is now known as 'Shoaf's double pink anemone.' This plant was named as one of her achievements when she was presented the Distinguished Service Award by the Minnesota Horticultural Society. Also cited for this award was her other interest in growing fruit trees from seed. Apples were a specialty, but she also grew peach and pear trees that produced fruit in Owatonna.
While Louise grew just about every kind of perennial and wild flower imaginable, her heart belonged to lilies. She started growing them in 1952. That year she also joined the North American Lily Society after seeing an ad in a catalog. She grew species lilies, L. michiganense collected near Bixby and L. canadense ordered from a catalog. She started hybridizing in 1954. Her work eventually met with success with the naming and registering of L. 'Paul Bunyan' and L. 'Hiawatha.' Later, a pink hybrid - ahead of its time - L. 'Hawaiian Punch' went on to become the parent of many great lilies in the pink and white category.
Louise had 10,000 seedlings when she left the farm in 1965. These were given to Merv Eisel. 1,500 others were brought with her to her new garden in Owatonna to further her work. She had many lilies on the market by way of auctions and exchanged hundreds of bulbs. Including the lilies previously mentioned, a total of six were officially registered and introduced: L. 'Dazzler,' L. 'Louise,' and L. 'Pixie' rounded out the list.
In 1967, Louise helped promote the founding of the North Star Lily Society. She contributed articles to North Star Lily News, the North American Lily Society yearbook and many more horticultural publications. In her honor a NSLS service award "The Koehler-Tesca Award," and a NALS show award, "The Tesca-Koehler Award" - given to the best stem of a named lily of Minnesota origin - are presented in her honor and memory.
It's impossible to know how many people became interested in lilies and wild flowers due to the enthusiasm and influence of Louise Koehler. Julius Wadekamper called her a "Grand Lady in the plant world of the United States." NSLS is proud to call her our own.