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