Cruising the St. Croix for Plants

The foliage is the star with a 'Golden Spirit' smoke bush.

Gardeners in Minnesota tend to do a big percentage of their plant shopping on the three or four weekends around Mother’s Day. While it’s exciting to shop as the season is just getting going, I think June is really the best month for plant shopping. Many nurseries are holding sales then, and you get a chance to see how their plants have held up in real weather.

Friday, with its near perfect temperatures, seemed like a great day to take a spontaneous road trip to some distant nurseries. My first destination: Funkie Gardens, for years a plant lover’s haven in Prescott, Wis., which is now located near the William O’Brien State Park north of Marine on St. Croix.

A small part of the hosta area at Funkie Gardens.

Funkie Gardens is a plants-only nursery. You cannot buy grass-seed, a hose, or even mulch there — just plants. But the plants it offers are gorgeous and you will get plenty of knowledgeable advice about where to put your plant and how to take care of it. Funkie Gardens is known for its shade plant collection and there were hundreds of hosta in the wooded area behind the store as well as many woodland and shade-loving plants. The sunny area had a number of interesting plants, including a Baptisia called ‘Screaming Yellow’ and the smoke bush pictured above, which I ended up buying. Called ‘Golden Spirit’, this golden-lime smoke bush really stands out in a sunny bed. I’ve got a couple of possible spots for it.

The new location is about 13 miles north of Stillwater and Funkie Gardens is located next to Crabtree’s Garden Gate, a store that sells garden accessories,  Adirondack chairs and other doodads. Buck, the manager at Funkie, told me it’s been a great pairing so far since the plants and the accessories enhance rather than compete with each other.

'Super Hero', an Easy Elegance rose, at Sam Kedum's Nursery.

After stopping for a quick lunch on the River Market Community Co-op’s deck overlooking the St. Croix River in Stillwater, I headed down Highway 95/18 to Afton. I’ve visited and written about Squire House Gardens before and I stopped there partly because I wanted to take a photo of the lovely formal garden there for a story I’m working on. Whether you are a plant person or you like art and decor, Squire House is worth a stop. I found a simple water feature pump for a project that I’m planning to do next week there.

That's a variegated basil in the center of the pot -- wonderful fragrance and taste.

My final stop of the day was at Sam Kedum’s Nursery a few miles south of Hastings, just off of Highway 61. Sam Kedum’s is located on what I’m guessing is a former farmstead, and the nursery specializes in roses and other sun-loving plants. The nursery features you-pick fruits and vegetables in season as well as homemade preserves. It’s one of the few places where you can get Bob’s Custom Mix, a special organic fertilizer for flowering plants. I’ve wanted to test this for some time, so I bought a 10 pound bag for the annual bed in front of my house.

I put a few miles on the car, but a day of nursery-hopping is surprisingly satisfying — like a mini-vacation. Do you have any suggestions of nurseries worth a drive? I’d love to check them out.


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