Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Garden tour IV: Artscapes, landscapes & even a vineyard July 15, 2016

Like a scene out of a storybook.

Like a scene out of a storybook.

I CAN’T BEGIN TO IMAGINE the time invested in establishing the flowerbeds, the artscapes, the vegetable gardens, the vineyard, the everything that makes DeAnn and Randy Knish’s property so uniquely impressive.

Garden tour guests visit under a towering oak.

Garden tour guests visit under a towering oak on a brilliantly sunny summer afternoon.

Situated west of Faribault, this rural acreage is surrounded by trees that include a sprawling oak in the front yard and a two-centuries-plus aged walnut in woods bordering a creek. The waterway runs pea soup green from nearby Roberds Lake.

Shrub sculptures and art divide vegetable gardens.

Shrub sculptures, art and a path divide vegetable gardens.

When I arrived at the Knish property during a recent The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour Garden and Landscape Tour benefiting Full Belly, a Faribault soup kitchen, I didn’t know where to begin exploring. There was so much to see:

Sculptures abound in the gardens.

Sculptures abound in the gardens.

Perennials fill flowerbeds.

Strategically placed art enhances perennial beds.

A mirror

A mosaic framed mirror and gnomes are incorporated into the plantings.

A lily bursts a brilliant hue into the gardens.

A lily bursts a brilliant hue into the gardens.

Balls add a playfulness to perennial beds throughout the landscaping.

Balls add a playfulness to perennial beds throughout the landscaping.

This happy elfin face made me smile.

This happy elfin face in a petunia bed makes me smile.

Old-fashioned Holly Hocks rise to the summer sky.

Old-fashioned Holly Hocks rise to the summer sky.

The oversized jacks and balls draw the eye to a place to kick back on Adrionack chairs.

The oversized jacks and balls draw the eye to an inviting spot to kick back on Adirondack chairs.

I set my camera on the ground to photograph this perspective of a fairy garden.

I set my camera on the ground to photograph this perspective of a fairy garden.

Once I finished my self-guided tour and photo shoot of artscapes and flowerbeds, I boarded a golf cart for a ride across the creek and up a hill to the two-acre vineyard.

Touring the vineyard.

Touring the vineyard.

Here, the Knishes grow red grapes for Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls about 30 miles to the northeast. Their grapes go into GoGo Red wine, a pound of grapes per bottle.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources inspected this tree and estimates its age at 200-225 years, one of the oldest walnut trees in Rice County.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources inspected this tree and estimates its age at 200-225 years, one of the oldest walnut trees in Rice County.

While there was no wine to sample, I was pleased to learn of the Faribault connection to a notable regional winery. And I was pleased also for the opportunity to tour this beautiful place in the country on an equally beautiful summer Sunday afternoon in southern Minnesota.

FYI: Please check back for my final post in this five-part garden tour series.

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Garden tour II: Hosta haven in the woods June 30, 2016

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Hostas thrive in the full and dappled shade of the McAdam's yard.

Hostas and lilies thrive in the full and dappled shade of the McAdams’ wooded yard.

EDGED BY WOODS and in the woods, Rita and Colin McAdam’s property perched atop a hill overlooking nearby French Lake west of Faribault offers a shady respite in the heat of the mid-day summer sun.

Vehicles exit the McAdam property along a narrow wooded lane.

Vehicles exit the McAdam property along a narrow wooded lane.

On this June afternoon, I’m touring this couple’s land as part of the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour Garden and Landscape Tour benefiting Full Belly, a local “soup kitchen.”

An inspiring message in garden art.

An inspiring message placed next to lilies.

Rita welcomes me and offers a personal tour of her outdoor retreat 40 years in the making. “If you like digging in the dirt…” her voice trails.

A most impressive hosta with elephant ear sized leaves.

A most impressive hosta with elephant ear sized leaves.

I opt, though, to wander at my own pace through this shaded yard where hostas dominate. Here I see not only everyday common hostas, but a vast variety including one with leaves as large as an elephant’s ears.

Everywhere are multiple varieties of hosta.

Everywhere are multiple varieties of hosta.

And so I meander because the McAdams’ place calls for a slow pace. There’s so much to notice in the abundance of art tucked among plants. The art is an eclectic mix of whatever seemed to catch Rita’s fancy. Statues of deer, a rabbit, a duck, angels…a Road Runner whirly-gig…

A jolt of humor.

A jolt of humor.

The garden art is simultaneously quirky and charming, humorous and inspiring. No unified theme prevails. But it is what it should be—the result of four decades of work at Rita and Colin’s place.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Kitschy art propped against a tree.

Kitschy art propped against a tree.

My favorite sculpture in the McAdam yard.

My favorite sculpture in the McAdam yard. The tiny violets mimic the fawn’s spots.

The sun sculpture bursts color into the shade.

The sun sculpture bursts color into the shade.

A sweet surprise of angels on a ledge next to lilies.

A sweet surprise of angels on a ledge next to lilies.

Another of my favorite sculptures tucked by the hosta.

Another of my favorite sculptures tucked by the hosta.

Staged along the edge of the driveway/parking area.

Staged along the edge of the driveway/parking area.

This lizard sculpture holds jelly, for the birds I presume.

This lizard sculpture holds jelly, for the birds I presume.

FYI: Check back again as I continue my garden tour series. Click here to read my first garden tour post.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Waiting April 27, 2015

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My daffodils are in full bloom here in southeastern Minnesota.

Daffodils are in full bloom in southeastern Minnesota.

THEY’RE POPPING UP here in the north land. Daffodils. Crocus. Tulips. Bulging buds burst or about to burst into the vibrant hues of spring.

Fiddleheads are poking up along the foundation of my house.

Fiddleheads poke up along the foundation of my house.

I’m waiting, waiting, waiting for tulips to loosen their lips, for fiddleheads to unfurl in the rhythm of the wind.

Waiting, always waiting.

Why? Why must I always wait for tomorrow?

Wild day lilies are emerging.

Wild day lilies emerging.

I must delight in today. Green growth. The slow warming of days. The beginning. This transition of seasons.

Garden art that stays on my backyard fence year-round.

Garden art stays on my backyard fence year-round.

There will be time to seed zinnias and spinach, to fill pots to overflowing with greenhouse goodness, to climb the ladder and haul down the garden art, to pull out the lawn chairs and gather around a backyard campfire.

My artist friend Steve Denninger gifted me with this piece of original garden art created from recycled items. It hangs on an old wooden box in my backyard. The box is built from a recycled fence.

My artist friend Steve Denninger gifted me with this piece of original garden art created from recycled items. It hangs on an old wooden box in my backyard. The box is built from a recycled fence.

For now, on this day, in this moment, I must appreciate today. Stop waiting. Maybe tomorrow won’t be better than today and today is actually better than tomorrow. Yes, I must stop waiting and live in today’s season of life. Whatever that may be.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Fairy tale garden in Northfield inspires July 16, 2014

MAGICAL. ENCHANTING. DELIGHTFUL.

All those adjectives fit the gardens of Susan and Dale Kulsrud who’ve created a fairy tale world outside their south Northfield home.

 

One example of the fairy tale magic tucked into the Kulsruds' gardens.

One example of the fairy tale magic tucked into the Kulsruds’ gardens.

 

From streetside, you’d never guess this corner lot would hold such garden charm. So when my husband parked our van and we crossed the driveway past the Corvette to the side yard during the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour, we were surprised.

What a delight.

The side yard garden featuring Dale's handcrafted trellis sculpture.

The side yard garden features Dale’s handcrafted trellis sculpture.

 

First the side garden with an array of flowers—including magnificent towering delphiniums—grabbed my attention. But this plot includes much more than plants. An impressive wood sculpture trellis crafted by Dale defines the space that includes other works of art.

 

The garden shed, Valhalla.

The garden shed, Valhalla.

 

Art. It’s everywhere in this enchanting yard where a garden shed of Dale’s design and crafting anchors a rear corner.

I almost hesitate to dub this building a shed given its appearance and name, Valhalla. The name is an apparent tribute to the family’s Scandinavian heritage. Valhalla is a hall for the slain in Norse lore.

 

Shade-loving plants fill the Valhalla garden.

Shade-loving plants fill the Valhalla garden.

 

With the use of carefully chosen shade-loving plants like hosta, King Kong coleus, ivy, impatiens, begonias and more and the integration of garden art, the Kulsruds have created a fantasy world in their backyard.

 

A view of the garden behind and to the side of Valhalla.

A view of the garden behind and to the side of Valhalla.

 

The area surrounding Valhalla calls for an inchworm pace with multiple pauses to examine the details. I literally lowered myself to nearly lying down at some points to take in and photograph the scenes created here. Kids would love this mini world of surprises tucked in among the plants:

 

I placed my camera on the ground to photograph this cat napping among hostas and impatiens.

I placed my camera on the ground to photograph this cat napping among hosta and impatiens.

 

A jolt of color among hosta.

A jolt of color among hosta. Perfect.

 

Some of the art is more serious, like this bust.

Some of the art is more serious, like this bust among flowering hosta.

 

Garden gnome humor.

Garden gnome humor.

 

The stuff of fairy tales...

The stuff of fairy tales…

 

Looking down into a fairy garden.

Looking down in to a fairy garden created in a bird bath.

 

A ground level view of the gnomes' rocky woodland home.

A ground level view of the gnomes’ rocky woodland home.

 

My favorite scene could have come straight from the pages of a Scandinavian storybook with a gnome house situated against a tree trunk and the resident gnome sweeping his front stoop. It’s absolutely magical.

 

Impatiens spill from a tipped pot.

Petunias spill from a tipped pot.

 

This entire yard enchants with plant life and art complementing each other. Flowers and accent plants spill from pots and window boxes, mingling with all that art.

 

Impatiens and butterfly art add color to a plant situated along a walk way.

Impatiens and butterfly art add color to a planter situated along a walk way.

 

I left undeniably inspired.

CHECK BACK FOR MORE POSTS from the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Memories of a boy who loved fireflies June 30, 2012

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A plaque marks the entry to Justin’s Memory Garden.

I NEVER IMAGINED, when I published a post here on June 16 about the Memory Garden which honors my nephew Justin, that you, dear readers, would so fervently embrace a sculpture from that garden.

But I suppose my enthusiasm for the little boy holding a jar of fireflies ignited in the words I wrote.

Now, because of that story and accompanying photos, five more gardens—four in southeastern Minnesota and one at a Colorado hospital—will become homes for the little boy.

My husband, Randy, and Little Justin on the back steps before I moved Justin to a spot on the patio by the brilliant pink wave petunias.

He’s already in my backyard, my Little Justin, as Justin’s uncle, my husband, calls the garden sculpture.

Every evening as darkness settles in, the fireflies in the jar begin to glow, reminding me of my nephew who died too soon of Hodgkin’s disease 11 years ago at the age of 19.

Fireflies glow in the sculpture I recently purchased in memory of my nephew Justin.

Says his mother, Vivian:

Justin liked watching fireflies, especially when sitting at a bonfire. He loved looking at the stars and he loved Christmas tree lights, especially blue ones. He would often holler, “Mom/Dad, come and look at the sunset,” or the rainbow, or “there’s a shooting star.”

He didn’t want us to plant a tree in a particular spot because it would ruin the sightline for the sunsets—we never have planted one there.

Though we never talked about it specifically, he enjoyed light, from the heavens, in various forms.

And so, when the mother of the boy who loved light and fireflies and the heavens, saw the “Lightning Bugs with Boy” sculpture in a brochure the day before Mother’s Day, she felt moved to purchase it for Justin’s Memory Garden.

“As I’ve gotten older, I follow those instincts more readily,” Vivian says.

It is the first sculpture she’s purchased for the garden that honors her son. The other garden art—a plaque, dove, angel and birth bath—have come from friends as have most of the plants.

That, she says, makes it a true Memory Garden.

If you’re one of the gardeners who has purchased/is purchasing a Little Justin, hold close this story and imagine the little boy who loved light and is now living in the light.

A close-up of my Little Justin’s endearing face.

FYI: Vivian and I both ordered our “Lightning Bugs with Boy” sculptures from our local True Value hardware stores, hers in Morris, mine in Faribault. My sculpture had to be shipped in from Oregon. The product cannot be ordered online from True Value, but if you would like to view it, click here.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A summer evening in my Minnesota backyard June 23, 2012

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The setting in my southeastern Minnesota backyard Friday evening.

GIVE ME A PERFECT summer evening in my Minnesota backyard.

I set my margarita on a vintage TV tray and settled into a lawn chair next to the fire.

Mix it with a margarita or a bloody Mary.

Add a dash of fire flaming from the fire pit and from tiki torches.

I purchased this garden art at a dollar store many years ago. Tea light candles can be placed below each flower head. It’s one of my favorite pieces of garden art.

Toss in the soft glow of candlelight flickering on a whisper of wind.

My husband relaxes with the local daily newspaper as we enjoy the evening in our backyard.

Give me a magazine or a book and the man I love relaxing next to me, the two of us, side-by-side in our lawn chairs. Quiet conversation and the rustle of papers.

Fireflies court, flitting across the yard on an uncharted course to find love.

Fireflies glow in the sculpture I just purchased in memory of my nephew Justin.

We observe them. I wish aloud to photograph their magical light and my husband rises to capture a firefly, to clasp it between his hands. I try, without success, to photograph a bug I cannot see. “This is impossible,” I say, and settle back into my lawn chair near the fire.

I resume reading, thumbing through recipes for cheesecake until pinpoints of intermittent rain splatter upon my magazine.

It is time to put away the reading materials, to grab the ingredients for smores and roast marshmallows. Just as I extend the marshmallows over the fire, the rain begins falling at a rapid rate, soaking my bent back.

My husband picks up lawn chairs and tiki torches and tends the fire.

I hurry along the toasting and then rush inside to assemble the smores.

Even with the rain, it’s been a perfect summer evening in my Minnesota backyard.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering Justin, with love June 16, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:07 PM
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An overview showing a portion of a beautiful western Minnesota memory garden graced with flowers and garden art and a bench for quiet contemplation, photographed Friday evening.

SUNLIGHT DAPPLED THROUGH the trees as the summer day transitioned into evening during that magical hour(s) of light beloved by every photographer.

I was cognizant of the fleeting, perfect light as I meandered, camera in hand, along the stone path in the garden edged by swamp grasses on two sides, by manicured lawn on the other borders.

The buttercup yellow of a columbine.

I admired the columbines and Russian sage, the zinnias and the day lilies, the promise of daisies, the sedum and the ground-hugging creepers that crept between the stones laid as a walking path.

A bee sips in the early evening.

Beautiful angel. Beautiful light.

Once I bent close to photograph a busy bee and then an angel, hands clasped in reverent prayer, wings spread wide, stones from Montana ringing her feet.

For the love of playing baseball and watching baseball with Dad.

Half way through the garden I paused beside four baseball bats laid end to end in a rectangular shape honoring the boy who loved baseball.

The newest addition to the garden, a solar-powered sculpture of a boy holding a jar of fireflies.

I circled along the back edge of the garden and knelt before garden art of a boy holding fireflies captive in a jar. I returned later, when darkness crept into the day, to photograph the fireflies aglow. I smiled at the memory of the boy catching fireflies.

And when darkness began to descend upon the prairie, the fireflies were aglow. I plan to get a sculpture just like this for my flower garden.

I read the marker at the garden entrance, before entering and then again upon leaving. I wondered how a mother and a father could bear such grief.

The entry to Justin’s garden.

And the next day, I hugged the parents of the boy—my nephew—who would have celebrated his 30th birthday. Today. And my husband and son and I gave Justin’s mother half a dozen red roses and a blue balloon to release with the other blue balloons she and my brother-in-law will send heavenward today. To celebrate the young man whose life held such promise, such love, such hope for the future.

THIS POST IS WRITTEN  in loving memory of my nephew, Justin, who was born on June 16, 1982, and died at the age of 19 on August 20, 2001, from Hodgkin’s disease. His parents created a beautiful memory garden in their yard honoring their son.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling