Flowers, fuel pumps create landscape of Minnesota home

MOORHEAD -- Mark Cossette doesn't have to mow much of his front lawn. But neighbors need not worry -- it's far from unkempt. In fact, his entire front yard of his north Moorhead home is meticulously landscaped with a variety of beautiful flowers ...

Mark Cossette's backyard includes more landscaping as well as many antiques gas pumps he has restored, buildings he has built to resemble old service stations and a railroad crossing sign. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

MOORHEAD - Mark Cossette doesn't have to mow much of his front lawn. But neighbors need not worry - it's far from unkempt. In fact, his entire front yard of his north Moorhead home is meticulously landscaped with a variety of beautiful flowers and shrubs as well as a trickling water feature.

"It was not for me to have a plain yard," Cossette says.

He's lived in the house, which was built in 1913, for 22 years, but started his landscaping extravaganza after he built an addition 11 years ago. Cossette says he doesn't like following specific plans for projects, so for the yard, he simply selected plants he liked and ones that would flower during the spring, summer and fall.

"It's a lot of work, maintaining all of these," Cossette says. "I have to do a lot of weeding, and I add fresh mulch every other year."

Gardening is a hobby for the warehouse manager at Karl's, where Cossette has worked for 19 years. He has approximately 450 different plants throughout his yard, and each year he complements his perennials with annuals.


The impressive landscaping doesn't stop in the front yard either; it continues into his backyard, which also boasts an impressive collection of antique gas pumps and other transportation-related memorabilia.

"I started collecting gas pumps about three years ago after I built the car port," he says.

Cossette scours the area for old pumps that he can purchase and refurbish. He orders decals and globes online to ensure the pumps look authentic.

Restoring the pumps often involves a great deal of research, but he loves learning about the different companies and the pumps they produced. He's especially tickled to point out a 1928 Mobilgas unit with a hand pump people used to get gas into their vehicles.

Cossette has created a backyard hangout that is like stepping back in time along Route 66; he built a garden shed that resembles a 1940s gas station as well as another building similar to an old service station, complete with maps, oil cans, a typewriter and glass bottles of Coca-Cola. Antique oil cans dot the landscape.

He found two parking meters to grace the entrances of his buildings; both still work, although Cossette says he can only get his money back from one of them. He recently found an old Pepsi bottle machine in Downer, Minn., that was faded and rusted. He bought it from the bar owner and refreshed it at home with some new paint.

Cossette has learned a few things about his hobby as he's become more involved, and he often watches the TV show "American Pickers" about two antique collectors to get an idea for what items are worth.

"I'm not afraid to dicker with people if I don't think I should be paying full price, but I always end up being fair," he says.


The landscaping and his backyard end up being big draws for onlookers, and Cossette says he has found people admiring his collection in the backyard before.

"That's completely OK, as long as they're looking and not touching," he says.

His collection is especially alluring at night when pieces and buildings light up, illuminating the night with their historic glow.

As if his extensive landscaping and backyard collection isn't enough to look at, Cossette also created a mancave-style garage complete with refrigerator, flat-screen TV and mini-bar. Beautiful cabinets display glassware and sleek granite tops the bar. Cossette originally built a typical garage but later decided to purchase a Corvette, so he knew he'd need to improve the space for the new vehicle. He has since sold the 'Vette but a Dodge Charger resides in the garage, along with a motorcycle, scooter and bicycle. 

Cossette, who grew up in Fargo, has always loved cars. A self-described "motorhead," he used to race cars and remembers driving a 1969 Pontiac Catalina down old Highway 52 when he was a younger man. Now, at 56, Cossette appreciates collecting items that remind him of those fun-filled days and sharing them with anyone passing by his home.

Danielle Teigen has a bachelor's degree in journalism and management communication as well as a master's degree in mass communication from North Dakota State University. She has worked for Forum Communications since May 2015, first as a digital content manager before becoming the Life section editor and then deputy editor. She recently moved back to her hometown in South Dakota, where she works remotely for Forum Communications as managing editor of On the Minds of Moms.
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