Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An afternoon on a Minnesota peony farm & winery June 8, 2018

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An overview of one of the gardens at Aspelund Peony Gardens, located at 9204 425th Street, rural Kenyon (near Aspelund).

 

WE WERE ON OUR WAY to do some shopping last Sunday afternoon when Randy mentioned a radio ad for Aspelund Peony Gardens.

 

A view from Minnesota State Highway 60 on the way to the peony gardens and winery.

 

That’s all it took to turn the van around, make a brief stop back home for a Minnesota road atlas and bottled water, and then head east on State Highway 60 rather than south on the interstate. I will choose touring flower gardens any day over shopping.

 

Nearing Aspelund.

 

 

 

Now marks prime peony viewing time at the Goodhue County gardens of Bruce and Dawn Rohl. I first met the engaging couple two years ago at their rural Kenyon (northwest of Wanamingo) acreage, also home to Aspelund Winery. They are a delight, the type of neighborly folks who hold a passion for peonies and wine in addition to full-time off-the-farm jobs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both visits I felt comfortably at home, welcome to stroll the gardens and the oak-shaded grounds where the wind sweeps across the hilltop location. I feel as if I’m a world away from reality in this peaceful setting of natural beauty and farm field vistas. Dogs play. A cat roams. A tire swing sways.

 

 

 

 

As I walked through the freshly-tilled rows of peonies, I stopped many times to dip my nose into fragrant blossoms, to study the lush (mostly) shades of pink petals, to photograph the flowers that danced a steady rhythm in the wind.

 

 

There is something endearing and connective and romantic in meandering through a peony garden. The spring flower reminds me of long ago brides gathering blooms from their mother’s/grandmother’s gardens. Young love. Sweet. Poetic.

 

 

It’s been a good year for peonies at Aspelund Peony Gardens, according to Dawn. Perfect weather conditions burst the bushes with an abundance of blossoms.

 

 

 

Lilacs, not quite in bloom, are also found on the farm site.

 

At an open house from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday (June 9/10), visitors can peruse those peonies, choose favorites and select roots available in the fall. The Rohls sell 65 types of peonies and are currently growing 150 varieties.

 

The vineyard.

 

Additionally, they craft wine—from apples, rhubarb, grapes, elderberries, raspberries, cucumbers and more. High Country Spice, made from tomatoes grown on-site, is probably their most unusual wine, one that I loved. Peppered, made from bell peppers, debuts this autumn.

 

The small wine tasting room on the right is connected to the Rohls’ home.

 

 

Towering oaks populate the farm yard, although many were damaged and some destroyed during a downburst in 2017.

 

After touring the peony gardens, a sampling of wines or a glass of wine—sipped inside or on the spacious deck—caps a lovely afternoon in the Minnesota countryside.

 

Aspelund Peony Gardens and Winery are located about five miles from Wanamingo.

 

There’s a sense of neighborliness here, even among guests. Like the couple we met from Skunk Hollow after we’d discussed the differences between hotdish and casseroles with the Rohls. It is all so quintessential Minnesotan, and, oh, so much better than shopping.

 

 

FYI: Plan a visit to Aspelund Peony Gardens during this weekend’s open house which will feature a KOWZ 100.9 FM radio personality on-site on Saturday along with a food truck. Peonies may continue to bloom through Father’s Day, but there’s no assurance of that.

The winery is open from noon – 5 p.m. weekends only. Just like the gardens, open Saturdays and Sundays only.

Click here to read my 2016 post on Aspelund Peony Gardens and Winery.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Part III, outside the Paine: More from the gardens June 21, 2017

A lawn sweeps to the majestic front entry of The Paine.

A lawn sweeps to the majestic front entry of The Paine buffeted by the Evening Terrace. The public entry to the art center is to the left.

WHEN I TOUR an estate like The Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, my eyes lock on details. The heft of a door. The hue of a flower. The curve of a sculpture.

Massive doors define the entry.

Massive doors and architectural details define the entry.

The Paine presents many opportunities to embrace art. Natural and man-made. All connect to showcase an historic late 1920s mansion designed by Ithaca, New York architect Bryant Fleming. The English country house reflects three centuries of Tudor and Gothic styles all complemented by  beautiful gardens.

 

Details in architecture atop tne Kasota limestone walls.

Details in architecture and construction include the use of Kasota limestone.

Also noteworthy is the Minnesota connection to this Wisconsin site on the National Register of Historic Places. The home’s stonework is mostly Kasota limestone from southern Minnesota.

One of many garden "rooms."

One of many garden “rooms.”

 

A majestic native oak graces the front yard.

A majestic native oak graces the front yard.

 

Lucious planters frame a path to the patio.

Stately planters and lush plantings frame a path to the Morning Terrace.

The gardens, likewise, mimic perennials, trees and shrubs hardy to Minnesota. Given the climate similarities between the two states, this is logical. Annuals and bulbs are also incorporated into The Paine gardens.

Lilies bloomed during my July 2016 visit.

Lilies bloomed during my July 2016 visit.

Flowers in bloom during my mid-summer 2016 visit differ from those blooming earlier or later. The estate landscape is like an evolving art gallery. There’s a certain visual appeal in that, in observing nature’s art always changing.

BONUS PHOTOS:

The public entry to The Paine Art Center.

The public entry to The Paine Art Center.

 

The first sculpture I spotted, near the entry.

The first sculpture I spotted, near the entry.

 

My husband, Randy, plays a xylophone in a garden.

My husband, Randy, plays a xylophone in The Children’s Field Station.

 

One of many graceful sculptures.

One of many graceful sculptures.

FYI: For more information about The Paine Art Center and Gardens, click here. Then click here to read my first post from inside The Paine. Next, click here to read Part I and then Part II of my gardens series.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part II, outside the Paine in Oshkosh: Ever-changing garden art June 20, 2017

A view of The Paine Art Center from the reflecting pond garden located behind the historic 1920s mansion.

A view of The Paine Art Center from the reflecting pond garden located behind the historic 1920s mansion.

KALEIDOSCOPE. Even the word seems to hold a certain mystique. Rotate a kaleidoscope in your hand and the magic unfolds, there, before your eyes.

I’ve always loved looking into these tubes of mirrors and color that present ever-changing designs like a shifting gallery of art.

 

paine-gardens-113-garden-kaleidoscope

 

I’d never known the kaleidoscope as anything but a kid’s toy. But then I toured the gardens at The Paine Art Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and discovered the garden variety of kaleidoscopes. These oversized and sturdy garden kaleidoscopes are comprised of a metal framework surrounding a bowl of plants and a ball. What a visual delight.

 

paine-gardens-113-kaleidoscope-ball

 

Robert C. Anderson, a Sturgeon Bay artist, crafted the garden kaleidoscopes at the Paine. These sculptures bring an interactive dimension to the gardens. I like that.

And because my daughter Miranda was able to photograph through the eye piece with her smartphone, you can see the art of a garden kaleidoscope:

 

paine-gardens-garden-kaleidoscope-1-copy

 

paine-gardens-kaleidoscope-2-copy

 

paine-gardens-kaleidoscope-3-copy

 

Beautiful, isn’t it?

TELL ME: Have you ever seen a garden kaleidoscope or other interactive piece of garden art that especially intrigued you? Click here to see my blogger friend Valerie’s photos of these from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for one final post from The Paine as we further explore the gardens. Click here to read my first garden post. And click here to read my first post from inside The Paine Art Center.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Close-up kaleidoscope images by Miranda Boyd

 

Part I, outside the Paine in Oshkosh: Flowers and art and water June 19, 2017

paine-gardens-116-wire-basket-sculpture

 

HEAT AND HUMIDITY PRESSED heavy upon me as I wandered the gardens of The Paine Art Center on a summer day in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Yet, the heat didn’t stop me from appreciating the lush flowers and plants, the water features, the sculptures and more showcased on this estate.

 

 

 

paine-gardens-106-side-view-with-gardens-in-foreground

 

It’s a lovely place, this late 1920s mansion and the landscape surrounding it. An episode of The Bachelor was filmed here in October.

 

paine-gardens-120-zinnias

 

I realize most of you likely will never travel to eastern Wisconsin to tour The Paine. My second daughter lives in the area. So please join me on this walk around the grounds—a welcome visual summer respite for us dwellers of the North. And for those of you in other regions, I hope you, too, will appreciate the beauty of this estate once owned by Nathan and Jessie Paine of Wisconsin lumber business wealth.

 

A sweeping lawn stretches between the gardens and the rear of the late 1920s mansion.

A sweeping lawn stretches between the gardens and the rear of the late 1920s mansion.

 

Sculptures, water features,plants and flowers all intertwine in the gardens.

Sculptures, water features, plants and flowers all intertwine in the gardens.

 

Italian master sculptor created this marble sculpture titled "Girl with a Bird."

Italian master sculptor created this marble sculpture titled “Girl with a Bird.”

 

Artsy and beautiful planters abound, including this one outside the Carriage House.

Artsy and beautiful planters abound, including this one outside the Carriage House.

 

The Carriage House is available for rent, for events like wedding receptions.

The Carriage House is available for rent, for events like wedding receptions.

 

The showcase reflecting pond.

The showcase reflecting pond.

 

How lovely those lilies in the pond.

How lovely those lilies in the pond.

 

And how lovely the other lilies growing in the gardens.

And how lovely the other lilies growing in the gardens.

 

 

FYI: Because I have so many photos of the gardens, I will feature my images in two more posts. Click here to read my first post from inside this historic mansion.

Click here for more info about The Paine Art Center and Gardens.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

NOTE: These images were taken in July 2016.

 

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.

 

For the love of flowers September 8, 2015

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Phlox

Phlox grow along a fence in my backyard. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

THE SWEET PERFUME of purple phlox drifts through the open window, scenting my office with summer. I glance outside, where the phlox sway in a wisp of an afternoon breeze above clusters of snowball hydrangea.

 

Flowers, field of yellow flowers

 

My flower gardens are a rangy mess of overgrown plants. Tangle of leaves and flowers and stems. Nothing neat about them. I like it that way.

 

Flowers, poppy close-up

 

Flower gardens have always been a part of who I am. Not that I am a master gardener. But I have always been an appreciator and grower of flowers, a love learned early on when every visit to my maternal great grandmother’s or paternal grandma’s houses started, in the summer, with a tour of the gardens. Flower and vegetable.

 

Flowers, garden tours sign

 

To this day, when I arrive at the home of a family member or a friend who gardens, I self-start a tour. I admire the blooms, dip my head toward scented petals, appreciate the sweeps of color, delight in the beauty that unfolds before me.

 

Flowers, orange flowers

 

I shall always love flowers. They are memories, art which springs from the earth, bold bursts of color in a subdued landscape and the gift I give myself.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Flowers, hosta flowers

 

Flowers, hibiscus

 

Flowers, buds

 

Flowers, daisies

 

Flowers, John Deere planters

 

FYI: All of the flowers and plants, except the phlox, were photographed at my brother Brian and sister-in-law Vicki’s rural Lamberton, Minnesota, acreage in mid-summer.

© Copyright 2015 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