Claude Monet famously said, “I must have flowers, always and always.”
I’m with Claude.
When I was dreaming up this blog, I always knew that garden tours would be a regular feature and I couldn’t wait to create and share these stories!
With a wealth of public gardens in and around Minneapolis where I live and destination gardens to be discovered when we travel, this is the first of many Wildflower garden tours both home & away.
I’m starting off with a garden that’s very close to home but one that I only recently got acquainted with:
Longfellow Gardens – Minneapolis, MN
I love being a tourist in my own home town. Longfellow Gardens and the buttery yellow Longfellow House nearby are local landmarks I’ve driven, biked and run past many time over the years.
But, like so many things in our everyday surroundings, I mostly rushed on by it without paying much attention until I made a point of “stopping to smell the roses” and really experiencing this place. I’m so glad I did.
The garden spans more than 13 acres and features a mix of annuals and perennials with an emphasis on building healthy soils and attracting pollinators. While the gardens have a long, rich history, the existing site was only completed in 2015 after the construction of a highway tunnel necessitated relocation of both the gardens and historic Longfellow House.
Each time I visited, the garden was bustling and buzzing with clouds of butterflies and bees. I can’t imagine more of a heaven-on-earth feeling than walking through fluttering butterflies in a warm summer breeze. The Mexican Sunflower was the hands-down favorite attraction with many monarchs, lots of painted ladies and even a black swallowtail or two.
Most gardens are full of surprises if you spend enough time exploring. There were hibiscus flowers playing peekaboo, artichokes, kale and fennel, a hummingbird and a chipmunk (both too quick for my lens). When I lowered my gaze, I was delighted to discover grasshoppers sunning among the low-growing sedums and ageratum tucked safely out of the wind.
I’m always surprised to learn how many amusement parks and zoos there were in the Minneapolis area back in the day. As it turns out, this unassuming flower garden was once home to camel rides and lion-taming shows! Owned and operated by local entrepreneur and fish seller Robert “Fish” Jones, the Longfellow Zoological Gardens existed from approximately 1907 to around 1924. (The full history and details can be found here).
Jones is responsible for naming the gardens after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow whose poem, “The Song of Hiawatha” popularized the surrounding Minnehaha Falls area. Jones built the house that stands nearby – a 2/3 scale replica of Longfellow’s home in Massachusetts – and commissioned a statue of the poet that still stands in the wildflower garden on the original garden site bordered by meandering Minnehaha Creek.
A public garden is a perfect place to slow down and connect with the beauty of nature. Wherever you live, I invite you to explore a nearby garden or other green space or discover a new-to-you place where you can be a tourist in your home town, too. There’s joy and wonder to be found in new adventures, no matter how small or simple they may be.
About the garden:
Longfellow Gardens, 2993 E. Minnehaha Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55417. Owned & operated by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board. Completed 2005. Free and open to the public daily.
All images Copyright Terra Rathai 2019.