Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In downtown Northfield: A garden respite July 28, 2014

THEY TERM IT “our respite in the city.”

An overview of the downtown Opera House garden.

An overview of the downtown Opera House garden. On the right, artist Judy Sayle-Willis displayed her jewelry, books and other art.

And that it is, a 200 square foot garden tucked behind the early 1900s Lockwood Opera House and former Jacobsen’s Family Store in the heart of downtown Northfield.

Today the historic building is home to several businesses and four luxury Lockwood Opera House Condos.

Streetside, you’d never know this garden oasis exists. But park in the city lot behind this block of downtown, and you’ll discover, if you look, this delightful respite recently featured in the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour.

The gateway garden entry.

The gateway garden entry.

Inside this fenced space, Knecht’s Nurseries and Landscaping and Jean Wakely/Lockwood have transformed an area that once grew only grass and weeds into an inviting courtyard.

Suspended from a tree...

Suspended from a tree…

Here you’ll find an assortment of annuals and perennials from limelight hydrangea to Boston ivy, moss roses, petunias, blazing stars, hosta and more. Potted dogwood trees, a red bud tree and a firecracker ornamental crab also fill the area.

I was impressed by how thought, planning and creativity can transform a small space. Even the choice of varied walkway materials—flat patio blocks, pebbles, rock (real or imitation, I’m uncertain)—adds textural interest.

This small scale bubbler fountain is perfect for the space, impressing but not overwhelming.

This small scale bubbler fountain is perfect for the space, impressing but not overwhelming.

Functioning art, like a mini bubbler fountain and a trellis, surprise.

Although my visit here was brief, I can imagine settling in on a summer afternoon to read a book or lingering on a perfect Minnesota summer evening, sipping a refreshing beverage in the company of family or friends.

BONUS GARDEN:

Professor Max Gimse and  sculptor James Wilson pose for a photo next to the tree limb Wilson is carving. A model of the cross sits in the foreground.

Professor Emeritus Max Gimse, left, and sculptor James Wilson pose for a photo next to the tree limb Wilson is carving. A model of the cross sits in the foreground.

At the Northfield Retirement Center, Minnesota wood sculptor James Wilson is working with St. Olaf College Professor Emeritus Mac Gimse to create a cross sculpture in the “Pathways of Faith Garden.” This garden was also featured on the tour.

A garden tour sign photographed at the Northfield Retirement Center.

A garden tour sign photographed at the Northfield Retirement Center.

FYI: To read about other gardens featured in the Northfield Garden Club tour, click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Waiting for the stoplight on a Saturday evening in Faribault July 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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Stop and go, red

STOP.

Stop and go, green

GO.

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Northwoods style Northfield garden features eclectic art July 25, 2014

Bird art perched on a front yard rock.

Bird art perched on a front yard rock.

AFTER SLIDING MY FINGERTIPS into bird poop while photographing a bird sculpture duo perched on a rock, I determined to be more watchful.

But often I get so lost in what I’m doing that I don’t notice the obvious. Like poop. Bird or dog.

A portion of the shady back yard.

A portion of the shady backyard.

Yet, in a northwoods style yard situated along a quiet residential street in Northfield far from the wilds of northern Minnesota, it didn’t take long for me to determine property owners Barry and Kerry Cipra have created gardens that call for focus.

At first glance, I thought this simply a woman draped in beaded necklaces.

At first glance, I thought this simply a woman draped in beaded necklaces.

On a second focused look, I saw this sculpture is part woman, part cat, "The Cat Lady."

On a second focused look, I saw this sculpture is part woman, part cat, aka “The Cat Lady.”

Fail to focus and you may miss some of the eclectic art incorporated into a property defined by six mature white pines, boulders and rocks, but no grass.

Beautiful towering pines fill the property.

Beautiful pines tower over the property.

No grass. Rather, pine needles layer the ground, creating a cushy carpet.

The garden art includes original sculptures by Jennifer Wolcott.

The garden art includes original sculptures by Jennifer Wolcott.

I’ve never seen a yard quite as northwoods style unique as this one. Here the greenery of shade-loving plants like ferns and hosta provide a neutral backdrop for quirky and one-of-a-kind sculptures.

Art pops with color.

Art pops with color.

Art infuses color and interest.

Yes, that's a goat hiding in the greenery.

Yes, that’s a goat hiding in the greenery.

See for yourself, as viewed through my camera lens. Just remember to focus.

I had a little fun pairing my foot with garden art on the back steps.

I had a little fun pairing my foot with garden art on the back steps. Yes, I should polish my toenails.

Sea life in the backyard.

Sea life in the backyard. Maybe northerns or walleyes would be more appropriate for this Minnesota garden.

Washtub coleus add a spot of color in a sideyard space next to the house.

Washtub coleus add a spot of color in a sideyard space next to the house.

A rustic arbor and rocks define the front yard created by Switzer Landscaping.

A rustic arbor, Jennifer Wolcott sculptures and rocks define the front yard created by Switzers’ Landscaping.

BONUS PHOTO: Woodcarver Dick Zawacki was the featured artist in the Cipra garden. He created this life-like mountain lion:

Dick Zawacki says this is one of his favorite carvings, so realistic it stopped a dog in its tracks.

Dick Zawacki says this is one of his favorite carvings, so realistic it stopped a dog in its tracks.

FYI: The Cipras’ property was one of six featured on the recent Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour. Click here to read previous posts from the tour and check back for one final garden tour.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Garden art: In planting & in painting July 24, 2014

A rear view of Elizabeth Olson's house shows the steep hillside that defines her lot.

A rear and side view of Elizabeth Olson’s house shows the steep hillside that defines her lot.

I ADMIRE GARDENER ELIZABETH OLSON. She gardens on a property that I would term challenging given her home’s hillside location.

Hydrangea nestle a fence along a side yard stairway.

Hydrangea nestle a fence along a side yard stairway.

Numerous retaining walls and lots and lots and lots of stairs mark her south Northfield yard. Cautiousness proceeded my every step as I tread downhill, up more stairs to the backyard patio, then back down to side yard gardens and back up the hill during the recent Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour.

Yellow Columbine.

Yellow Columbine grow near the entry to Elizabeth’s home.

In between all that stepping, I stopped to admire the plants—156 of them tagged for identification. I suppose that’s a good plan if you’re participating in a public garden tour.

Sculpture art mixed with plant art.

Sculpture art mixed with plant art.

During a brief chat with Elizabeth, she claimed no artistic talent except in gardening. She creates art via plants. That, I think, makes her an artist.

Artist Marsha Kitchel paints on the patio.

Artist Marsha Kitchel paints on the patio.

On the backyard patio, another artist had set up an easel to create en plein air. I watched as Marsha Kitchel daubed oils, recreating one of Elizabeth’s hanging baskets.

Marsha was painting the basket in the background.

Marsha was painting the basket in the background, just to the right of her easel.

I love this concept of incorporating artists and their work into garden tours. It makes sense as an unassuming way to introduce artists to the public. Other artists in the Northfield Garden Club Tour were Derrin D. O’Connell, Judy Saye-Willis, Tom Willis, James Wilson and Dick Zawacki.

I failed to check Elizabeth's cheat sheet to identify these lovely peach flowers. Anyone know their identity?

I failed to check Elizabeth’s cheat sheet to identify these lovely peach flowers. Anyone know their identity?

BONUS PHOTOS:

This area features a raised vegetable garden.

This area features a raised vegetable garden.

Here's a close-up of the sculpture in the photo above.

Here’s a close-up of the sculpture in the photo above.

This turtle tucked next to a pot of ivy and other plants belonged to Elizabeth's mother.

This turtle tucked next to a pot of ivy and other plants belonged to Elizabeth’s mother.

FYI: Click here and here for previous posts from the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour. And watch for additional posts.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

These youthful musicians give me hope July 23, 2014

Songs of Hope performers present a selection from India.

Songs of Hope performers present a selection from India.

IF EVER YOU DESPAIR in today’s young people, consider the youth participating in Songs of Hope, a six-week St. Paul based performing arts summer camp that is part of Sounds of Hope, Ltd.

Labeled suitcases were placed on the grass to inform the audience of the culture featured.

Labeled suitcases and stands denote countries of origin during featured songs.

Consider these young people who travel from all over the world—places like Vietnam, China, Italy, Turkey, Israel and Guatemala—to spread messages of peace, hope, understanding and more via song and dance.

As the sun sets, performers in traditional Vietnamese attire present selections from Vietnam.

As the sun sets, performers in traditional Vietnamese attire present selections from Vietnam.

These musicians lifted my spirits during a 90-minute outdoor concert last Saturday at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

Ready to perform in traditional Chinese attire.

Ready to perform in traditional Chinese attire.

They give me hope that, despite the unrest in the Gaza Strip, the tense situation in the Ukraine, the continuing war on terror in Afghanistan, the situation along the U.S. southern border, and, yes, even the gun violence in Chicago, we can resolve our differences, overcome cultural and other barriers, and live in peace.

Participating youth from all over the world paint their names on the underside of boxes upon which they perform.

Participating youth from all over the world paint their names  and hand prints on the underside of boxes upon which they perform.

Hope, though sometimes an elusive word, is worth believing in.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Featuring Albania...

Featuring Albania…

Waiting to perform.

Waiting to perform.

Song and dance from Vietnam.

Song and dance from Vietnam.

After the concert, goods from various countries and more were available for purchase. The young woman on the left is a native of Argentina who works as an opera singer in France. She's in the U.S. for a month with Songs of Hope.

After the concert, goods from various countries and more were available for purchase. The young woman on the left is a native of Argentina who works as an opera singer in France. She’s in the U.S. for a month with Songs of Hope.

A sample of the merchandise being sold.

A sample of the merchandise available for purchase.

From Italy...

From Italy…

FYI: Click here to learn more about Sounds of Hope, Ltd.

And click here to view my previous blog post on the Songs of Hope concert in Faribault.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Youth from around the world bring songs of hope to Faribault July 22, 2014

On a perfect summer night, Songs of Hope performed an outdoor concert at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

On a perfect summer night, Songs of Hope performed an outdoor concert at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

AS THE GOLDEN ORB of the sun shifted across the sky, as dragonflies dipped above the audience, as a distant train rumbled, Songs of Hope musicians performed before a rapt audience at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault on Saturday evening.

The performers focused on hope, like their name.

The performers focused on hope, like their name.

And the message they brought—in their dancing and in their singing—was hope.

Songs from Guatemala.

Songs from Guatemala.

Inspirational defines these performers who have been attending the St. Paul based international performing arts summer camp, Songs of Hope. Seventy musicians from 15 countries are currently on tour, presenting 33 concerts in 18 days.

Chinese youth perform as the sun sets.

Chinese youth perform as the sun sets.

Songs of Hope is “about people getting together and sharing culture and lives,” Program Director Tom Surprenant said as he introduced the group.

Performing outdoors at River Bend.

Performing outdoors at River Bend.

But with audiences, like the one in Faribault, they share so much more: possibilities, hope, peace, freedom, justice…

In nearly constant motion.

In nearly constant motion.

I was beyond impressed by these young people who sang with such force and enthusiasm and rarely stopped moving as they presented 90 minutes of songs spanning multiple nations from India to Jamaica to Guatemala to Italy to Russia and many other places.

The band provided upbeat music that made you want to dance.

The band provided upbeat music that makes you want to dance.

Even though I could not always understand, music bridges language and cultural differences.

Selections from Jamaica included "Linstead Market" and "Stand Up For Your Rights."

Selections from Jamaica included “Linstead Market” and “Stand Up For Your Rights.”

Truly, skin color, eye shape, height nor any other physical characteristic mattered as these youth performed.

Nevaeh, the daughter of friends, wore the perfect shirt for the concert.

Nevaeh, the daughter of friends, wore the perfect shirt for the concert.

They were to me just kids sharing a hopeful message through song and dance, showing us that we are all human beings who can get along if we make the effort, living in harmony and peace with one another.

Look at the fun these youth were having singing a song, "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream" about ice cream.

Look at the fun these youth had singing “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream,” a song about ice cream, a universal treat.

Especially moving was the group’s performance of “I Am Malala,” based on the experience of the young Pakistani girl who was shot simply for pursuing education. “Fight for what you believe in…for education…infinite hope.”

Hands joined in hope.

Hands joined in hope.

After attending this concert, I am, indeed, hopeful.

My heart went out to this boy from Israel given the current situation there.

My heart went out to this boy from Israel given the current situation there.

And I expect so is the young soloist from Israel who sported a t-shirt reading “PEACE & HOPE from ISRAEL.”

FYI: CLICK HERE to see a schedule of the remaining performances in the summer concert schedule, which ends on July 27. The final concerts are in St. Paul, Roseville and Montgomery.

Please check back tomorrow for additional photos from the Faribault Songs of Hope concert. If you have an opportunity to attend a performance, do. Songs of Hope will inspire and uplift you.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Northfield: Lovely gingerbread house and gardens July 21, 2014

OH, FOR THE SWEETNESS of this butter-colored 1879 gingerbread house.

Derrin and Paul O'Connells' Northfield home, built in 1879.

Derrin and Paul O’Connells’ Northfield home, built in 1879.

Arched windows and roof-line architectural detail. And that porch, oh, that porch—a cozy place to read or simply relax on a summer day. Pure white Adirondack chairs are positioned at a front corner of the house as an invitation to sit a spell and perhaps observe passersby or a game of croquet. And then a corner picket fence adds the perfect accent to this period home.

An inviting spot, complete with trellis, to sit a spell next to the garage.

An inviting spot, complete with trellis, to sit a spell next to the garage.

Derrin and Paul O’Connell are only the third owners of this 135-year-old house located by Central Park in Northfield. And, recently, their property was among six showcased in the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour. Not the house specifically, but the yard and gardens, although my attention was focused as much on the historic house as the plants. I love old homes with character.

Latticework accents a corner garden pergola.

Latticework accents a corner garden pergola.

The O’Connells have done a fine job of complementing their home’s style with garden rooms that call for lingering under a pergola or settling onto a bench next to a trellis.

Windowbox charm complements the historic home.

Windowbox charm complements the historic home.

Window boxes hold pink geraniums, hardy English ivy and airy Diamond Frost. Spruce trees, more than 100 years old, grace the yard.

And just off a sprawling 1980s enclosed porch addition that blends so seamlessly with the house in architectural style and detail that you would think it original, a swath of wide deck steps extend a warm visual welcome.

Some of Derrin's creations displayed next to a vintage suitcase in the porch.

Some of Derrin’s creations displayed next to a vintage suitcase in the porch.

Inside that porch, Derrin O’Connell showcased some of her creations, like sweet little girls’ dresses and headbands. Her artistry style of hand-stitching, upcycling and more fits this house as does her business name, Tillie’s. Derrin’s mom called her this endearing name when Derrin was growing up. Tillie’s will be among the featured vendors at the Fall 2014 (September 25 – 27) Junk Bonanza Vintage Market at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. Click here for more info.

I love the interesting plant, right, tucked into a corner of the home's exterior. Anyone know its identity? I should have inquired.

I love the interesting plant, right, tucked into a corner of the home’s exterior. Anyone know its identity? I should have inquired.

Now if only I could have toured the O’Connells’ house, I would have been even more pleased. But I was grateful to wander around their yard, imagining the history this house, this land, holds.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Love the message on this plaque.

Love the message on this plaque.

Garden art in the hosta.

Garden art in the hosta.

FYI: Click here to read an earlier post from the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour. Watch for additional tour posts.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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