Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by 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

 

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

 

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:06 AM
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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

 

Joy in a memory garden April 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:16 AM
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Valentina's memory garden

MY FRIEND JOY lives up to her name.

Everything about her speaks to pure joyfulness. She’s always positive, happy, industrious, creating, caring, giving…

So Sunday, when I stop briefly at Joy’s house to shoot photos for a church project, I am taken with the evolving garden she is designing in honor of her granddaughter Valentina. With Joy, everything is a work in progress.

The memory garden, ringed with stones and rocks, is a testament to a grandmother’s love for the sweet baby girl who died two days after birth in 2006. Valentina’s twin, Samantha, lived.

Joy first showed me this developing memory garden several years ago. On this day, I am treated to a circle of blooming blue hyacinths and a cluster of blossoming white tulips. Also scattered in the hard soil are a few lonely white pansies. A white-budded tree hydrangea grows as a focal point inside the circle.

Joy’s garden, admittedly, needs some upkeep with dandelions and other weeds creeping into the space. But it’s easy to overlook that and focus on the love and thought that went into this small spot of earth.

My eyes gravitate to the word “COURAGE” that centers this garden.

“Why courage?” I ask.

Joy explains that Valentina means courage.

I marvel at how Joy crafted Brazilian agates into letters—C-O-U-R-A-G-E—carefully  placing the stones into concrete. I also marvel at how this determined grandmother and her son Dan, Valentina’s father, hauled hefty bags of Brazilian stones onto airliners and back to Minnesota so Joy could incorporate Valentina’s homeland into this memory garden.

There is so much love here, in this spot, in this earth. And even though Dan lives today in Brazil with his family, back in Minnesota, one grandmother holds close her precious granddaughter in a garden that exudes courage and joy.

Dandelions mingle with hyacinths in Valentina's memory garden. The rusted scissors adds interest. "I never throw anything away," Joy says.

Joy formed COURAGE from Brazilian stones.

Looking down into a cluster of blooming hyacinths.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling