A Whimsical Dreamscape of a Garden

So of all the gardens we saw in the Minneapolis area, this one was absolutely my favorite. It is nestled among the fields and woods of rural northwest Wisconsin, about 40 minutes from the Twin Cities. Here plants and sculpture are combined so bewitchingly that you feel you have entered into a sort of dream.

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A welcoming sculpture gives you a little taste of what is to come. Speaking of which, I have to warn you that this is an unusually long post, for me at least.

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The gardener/artist who inhabits and created this place is named Wouterina De Raad. She has an interesting personal story to tell, having grown up on a coffee plantation in Indonesia before moving to the Netherlands and finally to northern Wisconsin.

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Eventually, Wouterina moved into this old farm house and its 3 acre garden. The house is guarded by two unique sculptural planters: a matron with a bird in the hand and one in her heart (as birds seem to be close to Wouterina’s heart as well), and a much larger bird that looks like a mythical creature, though I’m not really sure.

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Here’s a closer look at the porch, partially screened by a huge Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris).

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Do you see what I mean about a dreamscape? Wouterina’s garden is full of colorful archways. This one looks like it could be a portal to a magical forest, filled with a dense and rich tapestry of foliage.

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Another archway in a more open part of the garden, with more dream birds, one riding the other, nearby.

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This archway is topped by grape vines and a tiered bird house.

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I especially liked the upper part of this archway, with its mosaic in multiple shades of green. They fit in so well with the green leaves of this wooded spot.

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The upper arch looks almost as if it could be tiled in green leaves turned ceramic or glass.

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“Please, have a seat! Don’t mind him, he’s always losing his head.” The dream images in this garden are usually but not always benign.

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This is Wouterina’s studio. She works on her own creations and teaches here.

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Her sculptures are made from wire mesh coated in concrete. They are often but not always covered in mosaics that use all sorts of materials: broken glass, crockery, or ceramics, tiles, etc.

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Perhaps a result of Wouterina’s childhood on a tropical island and her Dutch heritage, there is much here that evokes the sea. That drink next to the pineapple looks good.

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A Mermaid and giant fish planter, filled with Horsetail (Equisetum).

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This garden is partially open to the public, but you have to make an appointment. In 2017 visits can be arranged between the dates of June 14 and July 29. Wouterina also conducts concrete mosaic sculpture workshops for private groups. For details, click here.

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Here’s a sunny part of Wouterina’s garden, with a grassy path wandering through flowering plants. But what’s that hovering above the flowers?

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Why, it’s a fish, of course. I like the combination of orange Daylilies, purple Phlox, and (I think) pink Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra).

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And here’s another Mermaid, who looks like she is wondering how she ended up in northern Wisconsin.

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The fish bench from the opposite end. I like the way foliage plants are massed in this garden.

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The dream creatures of Wouterina’s garden are not just of the sea. As you’ve seen, she thinks a lot about birds. This is an interesting take on the idea of a Peacock Throne.

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A bench resting on two leopards outside one of the outbuildings.

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A man sprouting plants rides a crowned beast of some kind beside a tiny pond.

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Watch out for the giant alligator nearby.

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There are plenty of human figures in the garden, though many of these have either a magical or a humorous quality. I would like to know why this fellow is carrying a deer head.

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Is this a fairy using a Mayapple leaf as an umbrella? Or a full-sized person holding palm leaves? Either way, note the Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) blooming to the left.

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Portrait of the artist as the Statue of Liberty – dressed in overalls and accompanied by a chicken.

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Now, this looks to me like a woodland fairy, riding or perhaps just resting on a leaf.

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There are a few relatively prosaic figures here and there.

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The other end of the laundry line is held up by this all-American fellow. Note the bowling ball.

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Here the people are the chairs, or the chairs are the people, but either way I’m not sure if you can sit on them.

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Hard not to feel that this fellow is a sardonic comment on someone known to the artist.

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Mother and child in a woodland shelter.

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A brick path among the flowers.

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There is a vegetable garden here. When we visited it was full of blooming poppies.

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A gathering spot in the greenery, complete with outdoor fireplace.

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Another gathering spot around a fire pit. The bench has a built in space for storing firewood.

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There are a few real live chickens among all the dream fowl.

As a plant person, it is rare that my attention is riveted by a garden’s sculpture, yet that certainly happened in Wouterina’s garden. This seemed to be that rare place where sculpture and plants reinforce each other in creating the feel of a dream or a child’s fairy tale. There is a richness here of imagination and of botanical life, highlighted by flashes of humor. If you ever get an opportunity to see this garden, I would advise you to take it.

46 Comments on “A Whimsical Dreamscape of a Garden

  1. Wow, wow, and wow! No wonder you fell in love with this garden. I have, too, and just from looking at the wonderful pictures. Actually being there must have been a real treat. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Lovely! I have tried to grow climbing hydrangea for years…decades…and they never last more than a few seasons. I don’t think they are fond of our hot and dry August and September weather?

  3. Wow! I don’t usually like long posts but I was riveted by this. It would have been my favourite of all the gardens you’ve shared from the fling. It reminded me a bit of Niki di Saint Phalle. But I liked this much more. Brilliant

  4. That was such an enjoyable tour! Whimsical is the perfect description. I have been scrolling up and down to check I didn’t miss anything as the sculptures really capture your attention but the garden and plants are also worthy of a second look. If I visited it I could wander round several times without being bored. Thanks for sharing!

    • I wish I had paid more attention to the plants so I could say more about them. What really struck me was the variety of leaf shapes and textures.

  5. This is definitely a post I’ll never delete! I’ll enjoy seeing your great photos of this magical garden over and over!

  6. I can see why you saved the best for last. Most gardeners only dream of making such a fantastical place such as this. The artists hand is a wonder. I will have to see this some day. It is good that she has 3 acres to be able to make her mass plantings and fabulous sculptures. I love the arches. This was definitely worth the time and effort for the post. Fabulous photos. They make me feel like I was there.

  7. No one else, to my knowledge, has gone into such depth showing this garden. Thanks you for this fabulous post.

  8. I agree with your comment that sculpture and plants compliment each other, to make a fairy tale garden. What a lot of energy has gone into creating this garden! I like the cool guy in the glasses, on a bit of a lean…

  9. It is a dreamscape–resembling reality, but slightly askew and sometimes a little creepy. I imagine that it would be a treat to spend some time with the artist. There must be a story behind every piece of artwork. I loved this garden.

    • Yes, I would have like to have had a chance to listen to her more but there was a small crowd of us and of course she was trying to respond to everyone.

  10. Just stumbled on your blog. Wow, what a wild garden! Love the planter for the equisetum — great solution. Fun!

  11. Fantastic! I loved your presentation and comments about Wouterina’s garden. I was smiling all the way through, and laughed out loud about the mermaid who wondered how she ended up in northern Wisconsin. What a delightful, unexpected garden! Thanks for sharing!

  12. What a terrific garden. I can’t say it any better than anyone else has. I wish this artist lived near me so I could take classes from her. Indeed, as a comment above pointed out, your photos of this garden were more in-depth than some other Flinger photos.

    • If this artist lived close by I might be tempted to buy some of her smaller pieces. Incidentally, I think my comments on your blog are probably getting stuck in the spam folder.

  13. Hello Jason, you seem particularly taken by this garden and I can see why. The arches, sculptures and objects take me back to something like Alice in Wonderland. It’s familiar, yet so strange at the same time.

  14. What on earth can I say, I’m totally blown away, what a wonderland, fabulous it is, and what a talented lady!!! I’m so glad you shared this, it’s inspiring.xxx

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