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Books share garden's beauty

Books share Garden’s beauty

Two years ago, Kari Barchenger and her father visited the International Peace Garden for the first time. Barchenger, a professional photographer in Fargo, left that day inspired to capture the Garden’s beauty through her camera lens and share her enthusiasm with the world.

Since then, she has written and released two books. “The International Peace Garden” is a hardbound coffee table photo and history compilation. “Hens and Chicks: The Vitko Collection” is a colorful companion book featuring the Don Vitko cacti and succulent collection.

“If you haven’t been to the Peace Garden, you have no idea what a treasure it is,” Barchenger exclaimed. “We need to do more to make it a destination for everyone. I've run into people here in North Dakota that don’t even know where it is! There are so many amazing stories there. I’ve been there many times now and every time I see something different. Every time!”

In the process of compiling the first book, she said she learned to appreciate the magnitude of IPG and the challenges of maintaining its beauty on a limited budget in a severe, unpredictable Northern climate. On repeat trips, she became captivated by the “beauty, detail and symmetry” she found among the cacti and succulents in the Vitko Collection donated by Minot native Don Vitko. When she heard Vitko’s story, she decided to do the second book.

“I really don’t think there is an equivalent story to this,” she commented. “We have a world-class indoor collection grown by a private North Dakota collector who started it as a child. Over the years, he expanded it to more than 6,000 plants and twice, it was almost lost. And then he gives it away to a good cause so everyone can see it and appreciate it.”

Barchenger and her father, Art Norby, worked together on the books. (Norby is the artist commissioned to sculpt the Promise of Peace erected last summer.) The books are available at the Peace Garden (which is served by North Central Electric Cooperative), online at Pride of Dakota and at various locations in North Dakota and other states.