July 25, 2016
Have you heard of the Garden Bloggers' Fling? In 2008, a visionary group of garden bloggers organized a conference and welcomed bloggers from all corners of North America and beyond to join them in Austin, Texas. Since then, garden bloggers have convened in a different city each year to tour gardens, share information, and form friendships.
I first attended the Fling last year in Toronto. This year, the Fling was in the Twin Cities, an easy drive for me. It was great to reconnect with friends I'd made last year, spend time with bloggers I'd previously known only online for many years, and explore amazing gardens in Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Our first day started in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, the oldest native-plant garden in the U.S. In addition to featuring woodland, wetland, and prairie habitats, it's home to more than 130 species of birds. It reminded me of the UW-Madison Arboretum, one of my favorite places here at home. The sign welcoming us to the garden invited us to "Let Nature Be Your Teacher."
Along the paths were plentiful native North American perennials, including Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) and Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).
Acres and acres of wildflowers.
I also saw one of my new favorites, recently added to my own garden: Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea). At a recent conference, a presenter mentioned beekeepers like this plant because their bees' honey is more flavorful when Purple Prairie Clover is a food source. It also has special value for native bees.
Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)--a tall, architecturally pleasing plant--also was in full bloom.
As were the always lovely Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).
Our next stop was the garden of Donna Hamilton. Donna converted a former grocery store and grounds into a studio and gardens. Bright summer blooms--annuals and perennials--were on display here.
My favorite part was her creative flair with her hellstrip--a simple sign flanked by graceful, low-growing plants, planned for blooms and texture throughout the growing season.
Earthy stones marked the border, and an ornamental gate door added class and whimsy.
Next stop: Lyndale Park Gardens. The most rewarding part about the Garden Bloggers' Fling is that we get to see so many gardens in a short time. That's also the most frustrating part. I could have spent hours in this garden. We barely had time to scratch the surface.
As you can see from the photo above, the bloggers enjoyed the wide open spaces and the dramatic display gardens.
Many pollinators, including this Red Admiral butterfly, found Lyndale a welcoming habitat.
Roses were a highlight of this public garden: I must get back to explore it in more detail!
I was pleased to find this lovely photo on my camera memory card of fellow blogger Gryphon at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange walking the path to the beautiful home of Rhonda Fleming Hayes. Rhonda, an award-winning writer and photographer, is author of Pollinator Friendly Gardening. Elegance and grace marked her entire property.
I loved her use of colorful planters spilling into a waterfall ... spilling into an ornamental pond.
Rhonda also combined ornamentals with edibles in stunning displays.
For lunch, we stopped at Bachman's Floral Gift & Garden for a tour, a chance to shop, and tasty refreshments.
Bachman's has been a Twin Cities fixture for more than 125 years. As one local conveyed to the group, area residents realize that an arrangement or product from Bachman's is always something special.
The tour continued with a stop at "Latham Park," as neighbors describe the home of Dianne and Dan Latham. Their pond, surrounded by beautiful flagstones and plants of all textures and sizes was one of many highlights.
The Lathams' garden was exquisite--both in its grand design and its tiny details, like these lovely pots of succulents.
The plant combinations--here, Rudbeckias, Daylilies, and Ligularias--were familiar ones for me, but combined exquisitely.
Next, I truly wish I'd had more time to sit on this bench and take in the magic of Noerenberg Memorial Gardens. This place was comfortable and magical.
Native and pollinator-friendly plants welcomed visitors--for example, a Monarch butterfly on Spotted Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum, formerly Eupatorium).
The light magically captured the candelabra effect of Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata), which was covered in honeybees and native bees.
This public garden also had dramatic hardscapes, including this tall (10 feet?) grape arbor, surrounded by plants originally planted by the Noerenberg family.
Care and creativity were evident at every turn. I enjoyed the artful combinations of plants, such as Panicle Hydrangea (H. paniculata), framed by Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia).
Our final stop of the day was the private garden of Steve Kelley and Arla Carmichiel. Arla is the horticulturist at Noerenberg Gardens and Steve owns Kelley and Kelley Nursery. I loved the graceful elegance of their garden.
And the plants were amazing, like this gigantic lily. I neglected to get the name, but this might be 'Table Dance,' an Oriental-Trumpet (OT) hybrid.
At Noerenberg and at the Kelley/Carmichiel home, Panicle Hydrangeas were pollinator favorites.
It was a delight to see Beebalm (Monarda didyma), another pollinator favorite, in full bloom.
And, of course, the gentle softness of Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).
Most of our first day was spent in Minneapolis and near suburbs; the other days we ventured to St. Paul and even into Western Wisconsin. After a full first day of garden touring, we enjoyed an evening of networking, discussion, and hors d'oeuvres, sponsored by Garden Design magazine.
Thanks to all the organizers, sponsors, gardeners, and homeowners for a fabulous first day at the Garden Bloggers' Fling! More to come here on this blog, and others to be posted in the future at the Fling website.