Benson’s landlady creates her perfect world in the plot next door
The Dahlia House gardens have reached a crescendo.
Hundreds of dahlias of all colors bloom. Dragonflies, butterflies and hummingbirds floated through a small meadow filled with cosmos, zinnias and blanket flowers.
It is a feast for the senses, for both humans and insects.
“It’s like watching a show,” owner Angie Norman said. “It’s just full of life.”
Visitors, she said, can’t believe this garden oasis is in the heart of the city, nestled between 57th and the Northwest Radial in Benson.
It’s also a wonderful surprise for Norman’s Airbnb guests, who stay in the black-tinted A-frame house that sits so conspicuously in the middle of the property.
“I created a world that I wanted to share with other people,” Norman said.
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The house and gardens are next to the first home she and her husband Andrew bought in 2011.
After purchasing the property, they sat on it for eight years until they were ready to move forward when the pandemic began in 2020. About 50 trucks of dirt had to be removed before Carlson Projects of Lincoln cannot build the Airbnb.
Norman has furnished the house with a mix of old and new furniture. The focal point is a 1960s Malm fireplace she bought from a man who decided she was the perfect buyer and made her promise she would never sell it.
There is a lamp made of shells on the ground floor and another in wood in the shape of a dahlia on the second. Moroccan tiles cover the bathroom walls.
She tries to make every stay special, with a welcome bag, snacks in the fridge, and a bookcase full of used books. The kitchen is stocked with local items such as Artemis tea and Hardy coffee.
“I try to make the experience as elevated as possible,” she said. “They all have slippers to wear. There is a built-in round shelf in the room filled with pottery by ceramicist EARTHENjoy that holds fresh flowers for each guest.
Of course, Norman only has to go outside to get those flowers in the summer. They decided that instead of grass in the garden, they would fill it with flowers.
The upper and lower beds are filled with dahlias – over 300 of them. Norman likes to find those whose names relate to the people in his life. There’s Papa’s Favorite for her husband, and Linda’s Baby for herself, because her mother’s name is Linda. She is always on the hunt for the perfect strain for her son.
“They’re fascinating,” Norman said. “The thing with a dahlia tuber, it’s not a pretty thing you plant in the ground. But it does create a beautiful work of art.
Norman sells cut flowers weekly during the growing season, and buyers often stay to wander the property. Florists turn to her for her dahlias, called the diamonds of the Midwest because they aren’t always easy to grow.
When it’s at its best, the garden is green and lush and full of color, Norman said.
Although she’s been in the Airbnb business for just under a year, it’s become a big hit. She also has other plans for the house and property.
She sees it as the ideal place to hold painting and photography workshops. People could come in small groups to tag the butterflies or enjoy a seed exchange. There is also a sauna that people could enjoy.
She welcomes big ideas, even though being a housekeeper, curator, designer, gardener and Airbnb administrator has already become her full-time job.
As she prepared the place for her next guest, Norman could see that the flowers were starting to look a little tired as the gardening season ended and winter approached. She is already feeling excited about next year after seeing how well the wildflower meadow did in the second year.
She will pick up trash bags of seeds to plant next spring. She will sell some of the many dahlia tubers she digs up, but many more will go to the community she has grown with the flowers.
Meeting other enthusiastic gardeners and creatives has been an unexpected and wonderful bonus to his plans for the property.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Norman said. “I’m really obsessed with it.”
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