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Hobby farm's 'lilac labyrinth' survives Memorial Day storms

Mike Nistler's "lilac labyrinth" near St. Cloud is a sight worth seeing — but it only happens once a year.

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — On a hobby farm between St. Cloud and Cold Spring, around 500 lilac bushes are in bloom. Fortunately, those Memorial Day storms left them relatively unharmed, still, the annual window to see them will soon close.

The property is owned by Mike Nistler and family, who settled onto the century farm in 1994. In 2005, Nistler decided to purchase lilac bunches from Stearns County for $1 each and plant them in a labyrinth pattern on the farm.

"I didn't know what kind of bush and I thought, well, lilacs were always one of my favorites," Nistler said. "Two of my children helped me do the weeding and we planted them about every five feet apart."

After about five years, the bushes were about three feet tall. Now taller than most adults, Nistler says they're hearty and require trimming but are otherwise low-maintenance plants that do well in light soil.

And unlike a corn maze, which needs to be planted every year, lilac bushes are "one and done." You won't get lost in the lilac labyrinth, either, Nistler says. 

"It just keeps wrapping around and around," he said. "There's about three different ways out." 

There are also several benches throughout the labyrinth. Without stopping, it takes about four minutes to complete.

And now is the time to see it. The lilacs started to blossom five or six days ago and Nistler says there may be another week, tops, before all of the fragrant petals fall to the ground. He says the public is welcome to check it out while it lasts.

Next year, he plans to host a Memorial Day event.

"In my family, I had 10 uncles that were in the service," he said. "I had one first cousin, Joe Schoolmeesters, that died in Vietnam … What I want to do is start having a Memorial Day, where people can come out and just walk through the lilacs and enjoy them … You know, bring maybe a flag just to carry with you."

"We also have a neighbor boy that passed away and I want to memorialize him. His name was Isaac Goerger," Nistler continued.

Nistler's property, Boomerville Lodge, also offers events, including outdoor weddings and recreational activities. It's located at 25417 Co. Rd. 2, St. Cloud.

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