The Garden Inside the Wardrobe
You know that book, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe? How the child heroes open the door of the wardrobe and find an entire world inside? The garden of Lee and Jerry Shannon is kind of like that. From the street, their place doesn’t look too unusual. The house they bought nearly 50 years ago seems like a fairly typical single family home in St. Paul, Minnesota.
But walk around back, as we did during the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling, and you will discover something unique: a private garden that never seems to end, that transforms itself repeatedly as you wander from cottage garden to vegetable garden, shade garden, rock garden, roof garden, and formal English garden.
Back in the 1980s, the Shannons did what I have only fantasized about: they purchased additional land adjoining their city plot. This is what makes possible the amazing variety of their garden. The Shannons had too many plants for their space, so they bought more space! These are my kind of people! Which is to say, the kind of people who lavish love, devotion, and a tremendous amount of hard work on their patch of ground.
When you first walk out back, you are struck by the abundance of cottage garden flowers, like these Larkspurs and Poppies.
The plantings are lush and colorful.
Looking across the dense plantings you can see a shed topped by a roof garden.
I like the ladder painted blue, and the Dianthus spilling over the edge.
More Dianthus and a bird house at the other end of the shed.
Nearby is a vegetable garden featuring roses and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) along with an unusual assortment of edibles (I thought I saw okra here, not something you expect in a Minnesota garden).
Pollinators were enjoying the blooming dill in the edible garden.
Just when you are feeling impressed with the Shannon’s garden, you realize you are just at the beginning. A wide grassy path undulates deeper into their property, to destinations unknown.
It’s hard to see in this picture, but a large section of the Shannon’s garden is cordoned off with shrubs and small trees. There’s a vine-covered arbor providing a link between the two areas.
Here’s a better picture of the arbor.
Passing through the arbor you come upon a rock garden. I was told that those Prickly Pear Cacti are one of three Cactus species native to Minnesota. Who knew? Actually, the Shannons are enthusiastic plant collectors, with a taste for unusual species.
And there’s a formal English garden nearby, with clipped hedges of boxwood.
Wow, look at that massive clump of tall Lilies!
This gazebo sits in the midst of a deeply shaded area. The Shannon’s garden feels a bit like it extends into some kind of magical dimension. You think you’ve come to the end, but yet there is always more.
Could this be ‘Sally Holmes’? Certainly looks like her. Nice to see a familiar face.
The Meadow Rue was just starting to open.
The Shannons also have a whole bunch of planters made from styrofoam containers. The containers, which they got free from a fish store, were coated with something to give the appearance of stone and filled with succulents.
We left the Shannons’ garden feeling a little dazed but very satisfied. This was definitely one of our favorite gardens from the Minneapolis fling. For myself, if I could acquire more space I would maintain the same basic garden types I already have – a woodland garden for part sun and a naturalistic prairie garden for full sun. I would indulge in more plants and bigger drifts of plants, though.
The Shannons went in another direction, however, expressing their love of a variety of garden styles.
What would you add to your garden if you could obtain more space?