September 09, 2016

A Twin Cities Fling: Part III

1 conservatory

At this summer's Garden Bloggers' Fling, each day built on the last, with surprises around every corner and at every destination. (See day one summary here and day two summary here.) We spent day three primarily in St. Paul, ending with our final garden in the "wilds of Wisconsin."

Our first stop was the Como Park Japanese Garden and Conservatory, described by Fling organizers as the "go-to refuge from the winter cold" for Twin Cities residents.

2 bonsai

An impressive bonsai collection greeted us near the entrance. While I don't practice bonsai, the displays always capture my curiosity. How do they do this so well?

3 sign

Como Park also has an impressive Japanese garden. The City of Nagasaki presented St. Paul with plans for the garden in 1977, to honor the bond the two cities forged in 1955, becoming the first sister-city partnership established between an Asian and an American city. (Click on the photo to read more about it.)

4 conservatory

Quite an impressive conservatory: The 64-foot crystal dome houses more than 150 tropical palms and cycad species.

5 reflecting ponds

On our way in and out of Como Park, we were captivated by the water plants and magic of the reflecting pond. Every angle provided a new view.

Next, we headed to the home of garden writer Marge Hols, which is about two blocks from Minnesota's Governor's Mansion.

6 hols garden

The fencing and gardens at the entrance complemented the architecture of this stately home.

7 obelisk

Marge's was a comfortable garden, with artfully placed obelisks, trellises, and plantings. Bee Balms (Monarda spp.) were in full bloom during the Fling, adding color and character.

8 path

I enjoyed this path that combined attractive flagstones with mixed plantings of low-growing ground covers.

9 fence line

Plantings along a metal fence spilled through on both sides--a simple but beautiful effect.

Next, we headed for Lee and Jerry Shannon's garden, named one of the five best gardens in the Twin Cities.

10 shannon garden

An urban garden that looked like a typical bungalow from the front, the Shannon's garden featured countless little treasures in a "secret" garden in the back--two-thirds of an acre filled with whimsical decorations, amazing plants, and creative touches.

11 lilies

It was impossible to ignore this orange Oriental Lily and purple Penstemon pairing.

12 alliums

As always, the 'Summer Beauty' Alliums were a hit with gardeners and pollinators, alike.

13 peppers

It was nice to see colorful peppers used as ornamentals and edibles.

14 hypertufa

The Shannons shared their unique recipe for their hypertufa containers, filled with miniature plants, herbs, succulents, and semi-succulents.

The herbs whetted our appetites--good timing, because our next activity was lunch, hosted by Bailey Nurseries.

15 bailey

After lunch, we toured their impressive Display and Collection Gardens.

16 path

We saw great examples of how to design pathways, sitting areas, and planting arrangements.

17 alliums monarda

More masses of Alliums and Monardas ... gorgeous.

18 smokebush sumac

'Tiger Eyes' Sumac paired well with 'Royal Purple' Smokebush.

Our final Minnesota garden tour was at Squire House Gardens in Afton. The independently owned garden shop, located in an old historic house, is surrounded by formal and casual gardens.

19 squirehouse pond

This pond, surrounded by potted plants and statuaries, offered inspiration.

20 sea holly

I was mesmerized by the Great Black Wasps picnicking on the Sea Holly (Eryngium).

Then we headed across the border to Wouterina "Riana" de Raad's Concrete Mosaic Sculpture Garden, near Beldenville, Wis.

21 Wouterina mosaic

Words and a few photos really can't do this garden justice. Riana, herself, along with a friend gave us a tour of her whimsical property filled with one-of-a kind mosaics and an amazing collection of plants.

22 seat

She used pebbles as mosaics for some pieces, such as this garden chair.

23 nest

Others incorporated ceramics, glass, shells, and other fascinating shards of spent objects. I particularly enjoyed the mosaic planters like this one, welcoming a wee bird's nest.

24 planter

This large planter looked fabulous stuffed with foliage of various colors, shapes, and forms.

28 frames

It was nifty to see some of Riana's future projects in wire mesh form.

25 heart

Even the simple touches, like the heart on this bench, were strikingly lovely.

26 mother

My favorite pieces were Riana's deeply personal creations, like this sculpture depicting a loving mother and child, which she created during a trying time.

27 declaration

And this depiction of Riana pledging her dedication as caretaker of her magical garden.

If you live anywhere near Beldenville, Wis., a visit to Riana's sculpture garden is definitely worth the trip!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Thanks to all the organizers, sponsors, gardeners, and homeowners for a wonderful day three at the Garden Bloggers' Fling! For more excellent posts from the 2016 event, visit the Fling website.

28 flingers
Photo by Diane McGann

Most of all, thanks to my fellow bloggers and Fling attendees for your smiles, support, and friendship. Until we meet again ...

Next year's Fling will be held in the Capital Region--Washington DC, Northern Virginia, and suburban Maryland. Tammy of Casa Mariposa will be the host. For more information, visit the Fling website.


  1. Thanks, Beth. I'd missed the detail that Riana's "Miss America" sculpture was a self portrait. That's why I enjoy reading everyone else's posts from the Fling – there's always something new to learn. Hope to see you in DC next year.

    1. Hi Helen: Yes, I happened to overhear Riana explaining the "Miss America" piece. I don't have her exact words, but the paraphrase is pretty close to how she described the sculpture. I agree: I learn something new from every Fling post I read. And all our perspectives are slightly different, too. I hope to make it to DC--we will see.

  2. Excellent overview! I can hardly wait to see you next year!

    1. Thanks, Tammy! I hope I can make it next year. I'm not sure--at this point it's about a 50-50 chance because of some other plans. I know it will be an amazing Fling because you're planning it! Plus, I love DC!

  3. Looks and sounds like a wonderful three day garden experience, Fling!
    Not sure how I missed Day two . . .
    Surprisingly, the Mosaic Garden I found a favorite.
    The artistry, design, creativity . . . mixed with green and flower
    seems almost sacred . . . lovely . . .
    How wonderful you were able to experience this Beth . . .

    1. Yes, it was great! Thanks, Lynne. You would have loved it. Interestingly most of us had very strong reactions to the mosaic garden as you describe.

  4. Hi Beth, gosh, I love your first photo of the tropical palms in the conservatory dome, makes me want to grow more palms and tropical plants in my own garden!
    Another photo that I found particular striking is the one with the orange Oriental Lily and purple Penstemon. What a great color and plant combination.
    It must be so much fun to go on a blog fling and meet all the fellow bloggers and passionate gardeners, I am so glad that you could make it this year.
    Thanks for this great post!
    Warm regards,

    1. Thanks, Christina. Conservatories are always a treat, because we get to experience plants that otherwise can't survive our climates ... without having to travel much! I agree the orange/purple combo was striking and works well in certain settings. The Flings are wonderful! You would enjoy them, too!

  5. Sounds like a full and wonderful itinerary!! What gorgeous places to visit. Those mosaic sculptures are stunning!

    1. Hi Indie: Yes, it was fabulous! It really is difficult to get the full effect of the mosaic garden without going there. Of course, I could have done an entire post about each garden, but I'm still trying to catch up on other posts about other events/happenings this summer. Some of the other posts on the Fling website go into more detail about particular gardens. :)

  6. It is fun to see all the highlights of the Fling through your eyes. I love that sculpture garden. I hope to see it sometime.

    1. Yes, Lisa, I do believe you would LOVE the mosaic garden! It's full of whimsy and character and surprises around every corner. It would be nifty to see it at night, too. :)

  7. You visited wonderful gardens,Beth; so much to see here I had to read the post twice. Would love to attend the Fling and next year it's within driving distance ... P. x

    1. Hi Pam: Oh, yes, I'm sure you'd enjoy any of the Flings! How wonderful that the DC Fling will be closer for you. That one will be fabulous, too! I hope to meet you at a future Fling!

  8. Great photographs. I liked the conservatory - though we were so taken with it that we didn't get out to the Japanese Garden. The Sculpture Garden, I thought, was the highlight of the entire fling.

    1. Thanks, Jason. Yes, it seems we all had powerful reactions to the mosaic/sculpture garden. Mere words and a few photos don't do it justice. I'm already planning a trip back to the Twin Cities -- hopefully next summer. :)

  9. What a wonderful recap of our final day - as Helen mentioned, there were many details, especially about the Conservatory, that I didn't pick up on either, so your post was very enlightening, even though I was there! But what struck me the most about your photos was what WASN'T in people! How on earth did you manage to do that? :)

    1. LOL. Well, a few of these shots are cropped. Many times during the Fling I purposely included a wide area and calculated how much I could crop and adjust to use the photo on the blog. I guess you're right--in this post, I didn't include people until the end. Although my previous post included a few people shots. :) Another thing I tried to do several times was to purposely move to less populated areas of the gardens or to lag behind for photo ops after people had passed through. It is tricky, isn't it? ;-)

  10. Thank you for sharing your trip. You did an amazing job with your photos.

    1. Hi Carla: You are most welcome. Thank you--you are so kind. It was a wonderful Fling, and if you ever have a chance to attend one, I'd say go for it!

  11. What an absolutely fabulous set of photographs! You are amazing.

    1. Oh gosh, Pat, you are kind. The gardens were inspirational settings for garden ideas and for photography, weren't they?! I've only been to two Flings, but I can tell they're all fun. It was so wonderful to meet you and to spend some time chatting. :)

  12. What a grand tour! So many great ideas. Thanks for sharing these inspiration gardens.I hope to get to a Fling one day. Not only for the treasure of the gardens, but also for the opportunity to meet other passionate garden bloggers.

    1. Hi Deb: You are welcome! Yes, I hope you get to a Fling, too, and I hope we can meet in person. Those are among the greatest joys of the Flings--meeting bloggers you've known online for years, meeting new friends, and spending quality time with "old" friends. :)

  13. Thanks for sharing all these beautiful gardens, Beth! It just amazes me how Fling organizers can come up with such amazing gardens every year. And you've just given me an idea where to plant that little sumac that has been sitting in a pot for a year:)

    1. Hi Rose: You're welcome. My kudos to the Fling organizers, as well! I've only been to two Flings, but they were both top-notch! I'll look forward to photos about your Sumac in its new placement!

  14. (I'm wondering if the trying time, had a happy future?)

    1. Hi Diana: I think you probably mean my previous post lamenting how quickly the summer passed? Well, yes, I learned my lesson, anyway. All the activities this summer were extremely fun and rewarding! I simply tried to pack too much into three months. LOL.

  15. Your images from the conservatory are just wonderful, and everything I've seen on the Concrete Mosaic Sculpture Garden just looks so darn fun. Hope to see you in DC!

    1. Hi Loree: We missed you, for sure! Yes, the mosaic sculpture garden was magical. It's one of those places that one should go out of one's way to experience--like, if you're ever in the Twin Cities area or Western Wisconsin, it's worth a side trip. Flings are sooo much fun! I hope we both can make it to DC. At this point, I'm unsure because of some other activities next year, as much as I WANT to go. :)

  16. Great pictures! I'm in love with the sculpture garden and have been relishing pictures of it. I'm glad you had a good time! Must make an effort to go to another fling!

    1. Thanks, Peter! Yes, the sculpture garden was special and I know you'd have loved it. If you're ever in the area, it's well worth a side trip. I hope we'll meet at a future Fling!