Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The greening of Minnesota May 3, 2020

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THIS TIME OF YEAR—early spring in southern Minnesota—I become a tree watcher.



That may sound odd to an outsider. But to us Minnesotans, who’ve come through another winter, watching trees leaf into a canopy of green doesn’t seem all that strange.



You can almost see the buds grow and leaves unfurl, a process now well underway. Green tints the skyline. And with warmth and sunshine, those once dormant trees are beautiful to behold.



Likewise the hillsides are awash in green with plants pushing through the cold earth.



And tulips open petals, popping vivid hues into the landscape. This is spring in Minnesota. Lovely. In color and in warmth.


These tulips from Paula in Holland are popping color into my life. They are in full bloom now in three vivid hues. Just beautiful!


See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in the land. (Solomon’s Song of Songs 2:11-12 NIV)


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Sisterhood in bloom on May Day May 1, 2020

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The tulip bulbs arrived in a pot and covered by moss.


THE RATE AT WHICH THE TULIP bulbs erupted, then bloomed, surprised even me.


The bulbs, once exposed to light, grew at a rapid pace.


A week after receiving a surprise cluster of bulbs from my blogger friend Paula in the Netherlands, I now have a flower pot of wine-hued tulips in bloom and yellow ones about to open. I’d wondered at the color and that proved part of the fun, waiting to see.


Just beginning to bloom…


What a delight this gift of flowers from someone I’ve never met but to whom I’m connected via writing and being home-grown Minnesotans. But even more, there’s the connection of spirit, of understanding how supporting one another, especially now, is so important.

I can tell you that Paula, who blogs at The Cedar Journal, loves the outdoors, especially canoeing in her cedar strip canoe. She returns to Minnesota often to paddle and explore. She’s a military veteran. Strong. Opinionated. Resilient. Respectful of the natural world and appreciative of its beauty. She’s compassionate and kind.

I’ve never talked to Paula. But I feel like I know her via her blog and the comments she posts on my blog. There’s a sisterhood that comes from a shared love of Minnesota and of blogging and of the simple beauties in life. So when I see those lovely tulips in bloom, I think of Paula so distant, yet so close.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Tulips, through the eyes of a child May 9, 2018

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EACH SPRING, when tulips push through the dark cold soil of Minnesota, as tight buds form and petals unclench in bursts of color, I think of my eldest daughter.

I remember her words, spoken as a toddler: “The flowers are opening their mouths.”

That may not be an exact quote. Amber may have said tulips. Too many decades have passed for me to recall. But, in her mind, those opening blooms resembled open mouths.

This week, as tulips open their mouths in my front and backyard flowerbeds, I remember Amber’s observation and the beautiful poetry of her words.


© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Hope unfurls May 4, 2013

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LAST WEEKEND, MY DAFFODILS bloomed, bright and brilliant in the first blush of spring.

Photographed Saturday afternoon, the seven inches of snow have mostly melted off my daffodils.

My daffodils, photographed Saturday afternoon, emerging from seven inches of disappearing snow.

Today they lie in a pathetic heap, heads bowed, even buried, in a veil of snow.

A tulip bud, bent to the snow.

A tulip bud, bent to the snow.

Nearby, tulip buds droop, leaves splayed, vulnerable to the frigid air and the rough crystals of melting snow in this endless winter.

Determined day lilies.

Determined day lilies.

In my backyard, determined day lilies soldier up through the snow.

Bendy raspberry branches in bud.

Bendy raspberry branches in bud.

A stone’s throw away, wild raspberries defy the weather, arcing branches, buds unfurling into the promise of spring.

A raspberry bud unfurling.

A raspberry bud unfurling.

Hope. I saw hope today that this longest of all winters may finally exit Minnesota.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Tossing the Christmas tree and welcoming spring May 6, 2011

The remains of our dried up Christmas tree, now properly disposed of at the local composting pile.

ON WEDNESDAY EVENING we tossed the Christmas tree which has been buried under snow for, oh, about six months. Well, not quite, but winter seemed to linger into half a year.

I’m serious. As recently as this morning, we had temps in the 30s and several days ago wisps of snowflakes whirled in the sky.

But enough of that. With the official disposal of the Christmas tree at the finally-opened Faribault Compost Site, I can declare that spring has finally arrived here in southeastern Minnesota.

You don’t have to simply take my word for it. Join me on this photographic tour of my yard, where spring has clearly, finally (I hope) ousted winter.

Hostas push through the soil, unfurling bright green leaves. Why does green always seem brighter in the spring?

Most of my tulips are clasped shut yet, waiting for more sun and more warmth.

A plump red tulip about to burst into bloom.

A yellow tulip edges ever closer to full blossom in the spring sunshine.

Unfurling wild raspberry leaves hold the promise of summer.

Dainty violets, so easy to overlook in the splendor of spring.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


No April fooling April 17, 2011

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IF YOU LIVE in Minnesota, you can get fooled into thinking spring has arrived…until you wake up one morning and snow covers the ground. This is mid-April for gosh sakes, not March.

Weren’t temps a humid 80 degrees a week ago?

Wasn’t I raking leaves in short sleeves?

Digging out the flip flops?

Throwing open the windows to air out the stale, closed-in house after a long, long winter?

Wasn’t I suggesting that I pick up romaine lettuce at the garden shop and plant it? But my husband stopped me, warned me that temps could still drop to freezing. I listened, for once. Thankfully. But he didn’t say anything about snow. Oh, no, not snow.

I was fooled, duped, misled into believing spring had arrived.

Saturday morning I followed the limestone path through my backyard to check on the flowers that had already erupted. I paused to photograph the walkway. The circles, created by snow dripping from tree branches, made an interesting pattern. Faribault received 1 1/2 inches of snow overnight Friday into Saturday morning.

A few days ago I intended to photograph my daffodils, but, of course, I didnt. Now they are drooping in the snow.

Snow encases the daffodils Saturday morning.

I hope the budding tulips can survive the cold and snow.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling