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.

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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

 

An oasis at the Rice County Fairgrounds, Part I July 18, 2022

Next to the conservation building, with an historic church and school in the background, the Teaching Gardens grace the Rice County Fairgrounds. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

AT THE RICE COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS in Faribault, an unexpected oasis brings nature into a setting of buildings, grandstand and roadways. It’s a welcome respite, this Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens.

I love the “tree stump” water feature that blends so naturally into the garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

On a Sunday in early July, Randy and I packed a picnic lunch and set out for the fairgrounds garden, a place we haven’t previously lunched. There we settled onto a fountain-side shaded bench, the soothing rush of water creating a peaceful ambiance.

Clematis. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Sedum. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Lilies. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Afterwards, I ambled through these gardens, admiring the plants and blooming flowers. Clematis climbing an arbor. Sedum. Hosta. Lilies and roses and Pig Squeak. Masses of milkweed for monarch caterpillars. Eggplant, prickly pear cactus, Mugo pine and much more.

An overview of the gardens with vegetables in the foreground. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

If you’re into gardening, and even if you’re not, this compact garden patch showcases a wide variety of plants that are beautiful to behold. Some are grown as seed trial plants for the University of Minnesota.

The Seed Library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Seed packets inside the library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

There’s a seed library, too, with packets of seeds tucked into a tiny red house similar to a Little Free Library.

Informational signage in the gardens. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Strategically-placed signs identify plants and provide information about gardening in general. This is, after all, a teaching garden.

The milkweed patch with the Rice County Historical Society in the background. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Roses. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I believe these are onions gone to seed. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

But for me, these gardens proved primarily a spot to retreat for a bit, to immerse myself in a place that feels restful, soothing, calming. Connecting to nature, whether in a natural or cultivated setting always, always renews my spirit.

TELL ME: Have you found a similar oasis mini garden where you live?

Please check back for more photos from this lovely teaching garden in additional posts.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling