Highlights of the Minneapolis Fling

So I have been to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area about a thousand times. We have a son living in St. Paul, plus my brother and an old college friend live in Minneapolis. We felt that we had seen most of what there was to see. So our expectations for this year’s Garden Bloggers Fling were modest.

Plus, the phrase “Minneapolis Fling” sounds a little incongruous, like “North Dakota Bacchanal”.

Turk’s Cap Lilies at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Oh, but we were wrong to be skeptical. Thanks to the outstanding work of the (uncompensated) organizers, we found that there were a great many gardens in the Twin Cities we didn’t know about. And so many were full of delightful surprises and enchanting beauty.

Flingers in the flowery oak savanna: Lift your cameras on high!

For now I just want to cover a few of the best parts of the Fling program. I intend to cover the various gardens in greater depth after we slide into the long dark Chicago winter.

First, there was the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, a 15 acre native plant preserve. The Garden includes wetland, forest and oak savanna. Founded in 1907, it’s one of the first gardens of its kind. Summer blooms filled the open areas with yellow, orange, and white.

Lotus flowers (I think) at Como Park.

There was also the conservatory and adjoining gardens at Como Park. We liked the aquatic gardens best. We were so enthralled with the water lilies and the conservatory that we didn’t even visit the Japanese Garden.

Giant Assassin Bug at the Minnesota Arboretum.

We saw just a tiny slice of the Minnesota Arboretum, but what we did see made us determined to return for more. We especially loved the giant wooden insects, like this Assassin Bug.

Garden of Lee and Jerry Shannon

We visited a number of wonderful private gardens, but the garden of Lee and Jerry Shannon left us almost speechless. The Shannons managed to acquire land adjoining their city lot, so that their garden goes on and on – it seems to be half a dozen gardens in one, all of it lovingly cared for.

The Shannons have actually accomplished a fantasy that Judy and I frequently indulge in, namely extending our garden into the neighbors’ yards – and they’ve done it legally and without coercion.


Finally, there was the Mosaic Sculpture Park of artist Woutrina DeRaad. This is actually a few miles over the state line in Wisconsin. The sculptures are made of wire mesh, concrete, and bits of glass and ceramic. They are integrated into a garden that is lush and colorful.


It reminded me somewhat of the folk art of Watts Towers. However, while Watts Towers is solemn, Woutrina  DeRaad’s garden is mischievous and joyful.

There was a great deal more, and I have something close to a thousand of Judy’s photographs to sort through. More to come when the weather cools!

56 Comments on “Highlights of the Minneapolis Fling

    • They have a whole series of giant wooden insect sculptures. They’re a lot of fun! I think it’s a traveling exhibit.

  1. So glad you had a good time and found new places of inspiration. Hope to make a fling one of these days!

      • Very exciting. Hope to make it. Saw Helen Yoest from Raleigh, NC at our Chapel Hill Spring Garden Club Tour. She mentioned she’s hoping to have the year after that somewhere in NC.

  2. It was nice to see photos of you and Judy in others’ shots of Flingers on Facebook. I’m looking forward to checking out your winter Fling posts.

  3. I liked your photos of water garden and of Shannon’s garden , Jason, I think you had very useful trip and you will realize these ideas in your own garden, won’t you?

  4. Well, I love learning about a new place, and I know nothing about Minneapolis,(apart from Garrison Keillor of course) so I’ll enjoy seeing the gardens through your blog, over time. The gardens so far look very lush and green and the sculptures are wonderfully distinctive too.

    • Everything was pretty lush. Fortunately they’ve gotten a decent amount of rain this year, they’ve had some very dry years recently.

  5. oh my, another reason to look forward to cooler weather. These glimpses into some of the gardens make me excited to see more. Those water lilies are gorgeous. I like the speckled leaves and those sculptures…want to see more.

  6. Great highlight post…it was a wonderful Fling! I look forward to you future posts and Judy’s photos this winter.

  7. Awesome, awesome photos! (And the words ain’t bad either…)

  8. It was a great time with lots of learning opportunities. I am sorry we didn’t chat much. Next time for sure.

  9. I felt the exact same way when the Fling came to Toronto….and those water lilies were unbelievable, weren’t they?

  10. You know it’s a good Fling when you see gardens you never knew existed, even when you knew the city well. Looks like plenty of photos and thoughts to entertain us in the coming winter months!

    • Isn’t it? By the way, I saw your post with the very expressive tree trunk, but I couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment.

  11. This is a nice overview of what we saw! I especially loved Woutrina’s sculpture garden, which reminded me somewhat of Bella Madrona at Portland Fling. It was good seeing you and Judy again this year.

  12. Wonderful! Can’t wait to see more. I, too, really love the the sculptures.

  13. That last sculpture just made me smile:) I enjoyed all the postings on Facebook by Flingers–looks like you saw some amazing gardens. Looking forward to seeing all these gardens in more detail–something to get us through the depths of winter! I so wish I could have gone, but I had a chance to go to D.C. instead, which was my first time there. Now I want to go back to D.C. to see everything I missed–hmm, sounds like next year’s Fling is a definite possibility!

  14. I thought of going to this fling but could not go at the last moment. Perhaps next year. I think I will like the sculpture garden best (from whatever I can gather from your pictures and writings). It seems a magical place.

    Hmmm…how do you all get to use your neighbors’s property :-)?

  15. Hello Jason, it sounds like you had an unexpectedly good time in the Minneapolis Fling. I like the sound of the garden that was extended through purchasing acquiring land. I wondered if that would be something I would wish for here, but I think the plot we have (and the state it is in) is enough work to be getting on with!

  16. Gosh, how lovely! I enjoyed everything, especially the sculpture and that giant bug. Fanbloomingtastic!xxx

  17. I love the bug and last sculpture too, what fun. I’m also enjoying the picture of you illegally coercing your neighbour into letting you have part of his garden. It would make a wonderfully original script for a Chicago Gangster movie.

    • I had an academic friend who wanted to start a street gang called the Insane Hegelians. I like the idea of a gardening street gang. How does The Gardening Disciples sound, or the Horticultural Vice Lords?

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