Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An oasis at the Rice County Fairgrounds, Part I July 18, 2022

Next to the conservation building, with an historic church and school in the background, the Teaching Gardens grace the Rice County Fairgrounds. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

AT THE RICE COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS in Faribault, an unexpected oasis brings nature into a setting of buildings, grandstand and roadways. It’s a welcome respite, this Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens.

I love the “tree stump” water feature that blends so naturally into the garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

On a Sunday in early July, Randy and I packed a picnic lunch and set out for the fairgrounds garden, a place we haven’t previously lunched. There we settled onto a fountain-side shaded bench, the soothing rush of water creating a peaceful ambiance.

Clematis. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Sedum. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Lilies. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Afterwards, I ambled through these gardens, admiring the plants and blooming flowers. Clematis climbing an arbor. Sedum. Hosta. Lilies and roses and Pig Squeak. Masses of milkweed for monarch caterpillars. Eggplant, prickly pear cactus, Mugo pine and much more.

An overview of the gardens with vegetables in the foreground. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

If you’re into gardening, and even if you’re not, this compact garden patch showcases a wide variety of plants that are beautiful to behold. Some are grown as seed trial plants for the University of Minnesota.

The Seed Library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Seed packets inside the library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

There’s a seed library, too, with packets of seeds tucked into a tiny red house similar to a Little Free Library.

Informational signage in the gardens. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Strategically-placed signs identify plants and provide information about gardening in general. This is, after all, a teaching garden.

The milkweed patch with the Rice County Historical Society in the background. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Roses. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I believe these are onions gone to seed. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

But for me, these gardens proved primarily a spot to retreat for a bit, to immerse myself in a place that feels restful, soothing, calming. Connecting to nature, whether in a natural or cultivated setting always, always renews my spirit.

TELL ME: Have you found a similar oasis mini garden where you live?

Please check back for more photos from this lovely teaching garden in additional posts.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “An oasis at the Rice County Fairgrounds, Part I”

  1. Ruth Says:

    I love the idea of a teaching garden and especially the seed packets to take home. What a lovely place to lunch.

  2. Lovely post, Audrey. I love the seed library!! ❤

  3. beth Says:

    what a beautiful place of escape from the craziness of the world, and I love, love that it is a teaching garden. brilliant

  4. The sweetest thing about gardening is it can be done in small spaces. Our local library has a seed library – love that idea along with the books for check out. A garden (fruit/veggie or fauna or flora) helps the pollinators too – birds, bees, butterflies, etc. Plus the bonus is admiring it and enjoying it 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy!

    • The Faribault library also has a seed library and a small community vegetable garden. Thank you for always appreciating nature.

    • We also have Pantry boxes being setup – similar looking to the community ones for books, but stock with pantry ideas. I wonder if the library would be open to the sharing of locally grown produce. The library currently has what they call a butterfly garden. It would be nice to share fresh foods with the community too – not sure about the health standards with that though. May have to research.

  5. Love the seed library! What a great idea for a food desert maybe…
    Looks like a wonderful place to have a picnic.

  6. Valerie Says:

    This sounds like a place I want to visit. A great discovery.

    In the city of Tromsø, Norway we checked out an attractive library building and inside found a seed library! How fun!

  7. Shelly Miller Says:

    Hi Audrey, THIS is Shelly Miller. I wanted to tell you I really enjoyed your articles on the Master Gardener Teaching Garden. It was such a wonderful description of what we love doing and producing in our Garden’s. I’ve been a Master Gardener for I think 23 years. Thanks again for such a nice representation of our journey putting the gardens together. Shelly

    • You’re welcome, Shelly, and thank YOU and your master gardener team for creating and tending this teaching garden. I was just there yesterday and, my, how the plants have grown since my last visit. This space is beautiful. I took more photos, including of a Swallowtail on a zinnia. Other people were also enjoying the garden. Know how very much I appreciate this beautiful place of peace in Faribault.

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