Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Garden connections in Faribault, Part II July 25, 2022

In early July, lilies bloomed in the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

IN MY FARIBAULT BACKYARD, wild tiger lilies stretch above a tangled mess of greenery, popping orange into the hillside. On the other side of town, domesticated orange lilies grace the neatly-cultivated Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens at the Rice County Fairgrounds.

The master gardeners’ milkweed patch. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Also in my yard are scattered milkweeds, food for Monarch caterpillars. In the gardens tended by the experts, a mass of intentionally-planted milkweeds flourishes.

Clematis. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Blocks away from my home, Donahue’s Greenhouse grows one of the largest selections of clematis in the U.S. That’s their specialty. Across town at the master gardeners’ garden, clematis climb an arbor, lovely blooms opening to the summer sky.

The Berry-Go-Round. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Within a short distance of my home is the birthplace of the Tilt-A-Whirl, a carnival ride no longer made in Faribault but in Texas. On the edge of the master gardeners’ garden, a giant strawberry sits. It’s a Berry-Go-Round, a spin ride produced by Sellner Manufacturing beginning in 1987, before the company was sold.

Prickly pear cactus. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

More than 150 miles to the southwest of Faribault near the South Dakota border, prickly pear cactus thrive in the rocky lands of the prairie. I’ve seen them at Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne. And now I’ve seen them in the gardens at the local fairgrounds.

An overview of the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens, photographed in early July, with an historic school and church (part of the county historical society) in the background. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

It’s interesting how, in life, so many connections exist. Even in a garden.

One of several benches in the master gardeners’ garden in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Gardens connect us to people, places, memories. A life that touches others goes on forever. I come from a family of gardeners tracing back generations. Vegetables grown in my mother’s massive garden fed me, and my family of origin, for the first 18 years of my life. I worked that garden with her, planting, weeding, tending, harvesting. I left gardening when I left southwestern Minnesota. But I still appreciate gardeners and gardens.

An artsy scene of clematis on arbor. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I value the beauty of flower gardens, the purpose of vegetable gardens to feed. And I appreciate, too, the peace a garden brings. To sit among the blooms and plants in a garden oasis like the Rice County master gardeners created is to feel a calm, a sense of serenity in the midst of chaos and struggles and challenges.

The water feature is shaped like tree stumps. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Water, especially, soothes me. The Rice County master gardeners understand that and added a water feature to their garden plot. I delighted in watching a tiny yellow bird (I think a goldfinch) splash in the water. Such a simple joy.

One of many educational signs in the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

And isn’t that part of a garden’s purpose—to bring joy? Joy to those who work the soil, seed or plant, tend and care for that which grows. Joy to those who delight in the all of it.

A sedum patch planted by the master gardeners. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I feel such gratitude for gardeners, for the nurturing hands that link me to nature. It’s all about connecting to each other in this world we share, in the commonality of humanity.


Please click here to read my first post about the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens. Watch for one final post in this three-part series.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The shifting of seasons in Minnesota August 14, 2020

Sumac are already turning red.


THE CHANGING OF SEASONS edges into Minnesota, ever so subtly.


You can see the changing of the landscape around this pond, the subtle changes in hues.


August marks the month of transition, of shifting from summer to autumn.


Beautiful black-eyed susans.


Of wildflowers in full bloom.


Milkweed, necessary for Monarh butterflies.


Milkweed pods will soon burst with seeds and fluff.


Milkweeds edge the trails and ponds at Faribault Energy Park.


Of blooming milkweeds and those heavy with pods.


Unidentified berries.


Of berries ripening.


A trail winds through Faribault Energy Park. This isn’t a quiet place because of the interstate. But it’s a place of natural beauty and mostly undiscovered (meaning never busy).


Evenings fall earlier and cool temps sharpen the air. Folks pull on sweatshirts and jeans to keep off the chill. The urge to get outdoors prevails. Backyard campfires blaze warmth.


Plums ripen despite a Japanese beetle infestation.


Crickets chirp. Squirrels scamper. And gardeners bustle to bring in the bounty. Preparing for winter.




And, in the landscape, hues morph from the greens of summer to the softer, earthy hues and fiery reds and oranges of autumn.


In the light of the setting sun, cattails and grasses.


Cattails rise in swampland and tall grasses sway.


Randy and I laugh at our long-legged shadow selves.


At sunset, shadows lengthen, foreboding and dark. As if hinting at days ahead. The dark days of winter that draw us indoors to snuggle under fleece throws, to crave comfort foods, to shelter in place.


An unknown wildflower.


And this winter to wonder what lies ahead in the uncertainties of COVID-19.


This sign marks the entrance to Faribault Energy Park on Faribault’s north side and visible from Interstate 35.  The wind turbine in the park landmarks this spot near the northbound lane of I-35.


Note: These photos were taken during a recent evening walk at the Faribault Energy Park.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling