Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In search of spring inside a Faribault greenhouse April 20, 2018

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

BLOCKS FROM MY FARIBAULT HOME, spring bursts in vibrant hues, a visual delight for winter weary eyes.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

I need to stop at Donahue’s Greenhouse, which opened for the season just a day prior to our recent three-day historic blizzard. I missed the “Mimosa Morning & More” event there during the winter storm. Shucks. I wasn’t thinking of flowers or anything tropical on April 14.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

But now I am. And it’s time to take a break from all the cold and snow and step into spring, or at least the illusion of spring.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

At Donahue’s I can meander through rows and rows and rows of potted blooms.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

Tables packed with colorful flowers fill the Faribault Garden Center during a 2012 visit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

Hot pink geraniums initially caught my eye during a 2012 visit to Faribault Garden Center. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Or I can stop by Faribault Garden Center and delight in the geraniums, petunias and other plants thriving in the balmy warmth of a greenhouse.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

I can mentally immerse myself in a warmer season, a warmer place. Yes, that’s exactly what I need to pull myself from this winter funk.

TELL ME: If you live in a cold weather state like Minnesota, how do you cope with a winter that’s been way too long, cold and snowy?

 

Twiehoff Gardens along St. Paul Road in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

NOTE: Garden lovers can also shop at several other Faribault garden centers for plants. Those include Farmer Seed & Nursery, Northstar Seed & Nursery and Twiehoff Gardens & Nursery

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Advertisements
 

Finding spring in Minnesota at the conservatory April 6, 2018

 

TO ALL MY WINTER WEARY readers in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and any other place where cold and snow are lingering too long into spring, I offer you a visual respite.

 

 

This is for you, as much as for me.

 

 

 

 

A spot exists in Minnesota where flowers now bloom, the air hangs humid and palm trees rise. The proof lies in the photos I took in February 2017 at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul. I should have gone there this winter, just to take in the greenery, to pretend for an hour or so that I wasn’t in Minnesota.

 

 

Since I can’t physically flee to a warm climate of sunshine and seashore, I must mentally and visually escape. I can imagine I’m in Hawaii or Florida or California or some such spot through these photos I took just a little over a year ago inside the Conservatory.

 

 

 

 

Currently, the Spring Flower Show is in bloom inside the Sunken Garden, differing from the flowers in the photos showcased here. Imagine daffodils, tulips, hyacinths…the perfumed scent and bright hues of spring.

 

 

Mostly, imagine that you are in a setting devoid of snow and cold, that winter has vanished and spring arrived.

 

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Attention, Laura Ingalls Wilder fans: A new must-read book by Marta McDowell September 21, 2017

 

WHEN A PACKAGE LANDED on my front doorstep some 10 days ago, I wondered about its content. I hadn’t ordered anything. But inside I found a newly-released book, The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes That Inspired The Little House Books.

Ah, yes, I had been expecting this. Sort of. But I’d forgotten about the book by bestselling author Marta McDowell that includes three of my photos. More than a year had passed since Marta and I connected.

Now I was holding the results of this New Jersey writer’s intensive research, multi-state visits and hours of writing. It’s an impressive book for the information and the art published therein on the places and plants in the life of author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 

Every summer, the folks of Walnut Grove produce an outdoor pageant based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books. Many pageant attendees arrive at the show site dressed in period attire and then climb aboard the covered wagon. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I have not yet read the entire book. But I am sharing this new Timber Press release now because Marta will be at Magers & Quinn Booksellers, 3038 Hennepin Avenue, in Minneapolis from 7 – 8 this evening (September 21) to present The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I expect the book to be enthusiastically received here in Minnesota and by Laura fans world-wide.

 

The southwestern Minnesota prairie, in the summer, is a place of remarkable beauty. I shot this image outside Walnut Grove. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

 

I am among those fans with the added bonus of having grown up only three townships north of the Charles and Caroline Ingalls’ North Hero Township home near Walnut Grove in Redwood County, Minnesota. Long before the Little House TV show, long before I realized the popularity of Laura’s book series, I loved her writing. A teacher at Vesta Elementary School read the books aloud to me and my classmates during a post-lunch reading time. That story-time instilled in me a deep love for the written word and a deep connection to The Little House books.

 

The prairie near Walnut Grove is especially beautiful in the summer. I took this photo at the Laura Ingalls Wilder dug-out site north of Walnut Grove in 2010.

 

With that background, you can understand my enthusiasm for Marta’s book which focuses on the landscapes and specific plants that surrounded Laura and her family. Laura writes with a strong sense of place, a skill I’ve often considered may trace to her blind sister, Mary. Laura became her sister’s “eyes.”

 

I cannot imagine so many grasshoppers that they obliterated everything. I took this photo at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna during a previous traveling exhibit on Minnesota disasters. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Marta writes of specific plants and places in her book, taking the reader from Wisconsin to Minnesota to Missouri and in between—wherever Laura lived. In the section on Walnut Grove, she notes the wild plums, the morning glories and the blue flags (iris) that Laura writes about in On the Banks of Plum Creek. I’ve walked that creek and creekbank, seen the Ingalls’ dug-out, wildflowers and plums. I am of this rich black soil, these plants, this land. There’s a comfortable familiarity in reading of this land the Ingalls family eventually left because of a grasshopper infestation and resulting crop failures.

 

My black-eyed susan photo is published in Marta’s book. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

To be part of Marta’s book on Laura Ingalls Wilder is an honor. The vintage botanical illustrations, original artwork by Garth Williams, historic photos, maps, ads, current day photos like my three and more make this volume a work of art.

There is much to learn therein, much to appreciate. So for all of you Laura fans out there, take note. You’ll want to add The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes That Inspired the Little House Books to your collection.

 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this book and was paid for publication of my three photos.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Returning to photography, starting in my Minnesota backyard September 1, 2017

Brilliant red canna lilies splash color into my backyard patio.

 

IN THE THREE MONTHS I couldn’t use my Canon DSLR EOS 20-D this summer because of a broken right shoulder, I feared I would lose my photography skills. But I didn’t. This week, with my muscle strength returning and weight restrictions eased, I did my first photo shoot using my 2.5 pound (with a short lens) Canon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I experienced joy, pure joy, picking up my DSLR and focusing on subjects in glorious light. I started in my backyard, easing myself into the comfortable familiarity of pursuing my passion. I felt giddy with excitement as I photographed a monarch caterpillar clinging to a leaf near milkweeds that free-range seeded.

 

Coleus

 

A segment of a canna leaf.

 

 

I moved to potted plants and blooming flowers and garden perennials.

 

 

And then I noticed, as I roamed about seeking photo ops, a mini chrysalis dangling from the side of the garage and camouflaged against the green siding. I moved in close, delighting in my discovery.

 

Coleus

 

Canna lily seed pods

 

Polka dot plant leaves up close.

 

As I shot more frames, trying different angles, new perspectives, I remembered just how much I love this art. I seek interesting ways to present what I photograph. I seek light that will enhance an image. I consider textures and color and backdrops and distance. I challenge myself to think and photograph outside and beyond the norm.

 

Coleus leaf close-up

 

All of my skills, retained in my rote memory, returned. And so did the passion, full-blown and beautiful and aching to be released.

 

Hibiscus acetosella soar in pots on my patio.

 

It’s good to be back, camera in hand.

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

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

 

Waiting April 27, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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