Garden Art in Public Places

During the recent America in Bloom competition, this sculpture was installed at the Northfield Public Library. Made by artist Jennifer Wolcott, the steel sculpture has the working title of Bookheads Dancing. In creating the piece, Wolcott walked all around the library looking for the right place to put the sculpture, and settled on this shady hosta garden near the Washington Street entry.

Placing art in a garden is tricky. It needs to complement the garden around it, without overwhelming the garden or being so small that the garden obscures the art. In a northern climate like ours, the art will be a dominant view in the garden for several months of the year. [While taking photos of the Wolcott piece, I found myself wishing (horrors!) that it were January so the sculpture would stand out more.] What I like about the Wolcott piece is it has many places for snow to rest, allowing the view of the work to change as seasons progress. This is a piece viewers would find intriguing even after it had been in place many years.

Northfield Note: I’m a member of the board of the Friends of the Library, which last night decided to offer partial funding for the purchase and permanent installation of the Wolcott sculpture. Others in the community are looking for additional support for the sculpture. If you would like to assist in funding the sculpture, contact Lynne Young at the library.

Inside Look at Knecht's

Northern Gardener’s publisher, Tom McKusick, visited Northfield and Faribault last week, as part of his efforts to stay in touch with nursery and garden center owners around the Midwest. I joined Tom for a tour of Leif Knecht’s nursery. Leif’s a life-long Northfielder, graduate of St. Olaf College and self-taught plantsman, and he really knows his trees. We talked at length about the new disease resistant elm varieties, several of which Leif carries in the nursery and grows in his tree-growing ranges around the area. One of the big advantages for home gardeners of purchasing trees from a local nursery is that you can buy trees that have been grown in your climate. If it’s a good sized tree–and if you can afford it, I say plant ’em big–you know it has survived several winters in your area.

Leif and his crew also maintain display gardens on the nursery site, which helps buyers see how perennials, shrubs and trees can work together to create a landscape. They have a good-sized collection of hostas, too. After the tour, Tom and I grabbed lunch at Hogan Bros. before he headed off to Faribault to visit Donahue’s.

Northfield Joins America in Bloom

verticalcmykbig.jpgMy town, Northfield, Minn., has decided to enter the America in Bloom contest this year. This morning, I attended a presentation on the program sponsored by the Northfield Downtown Development Council. Other Minnesota cities involved in AIB are Bemidji, Buffalo, St. Paul, and Red Wing, which will not be able to enter this year’s competition because it won the overall award last year.

img_1526.jpgThe Northfield Garden Club is spearheading the project locally, and club President Judy Code (in pink, next to the cow) and America in Bloom planning chair Pat Allen (left) made the presentation. Also in attendance was former garden club President Jerry Nord (right) and the as-yet-unnamed cow that will be a mascot for downtown Northfield this year.

The goal of America in Bloom is to promote beautification and community pride through gardening. The group has a half-dozen projects it would like to undertake this year to make Northfield even more charming and welcoming. These include business floral displays (downtown and on Hwy. 3!), flower boxes on the pedestrian bridge downtown, cleaning and painting the rails along the river from Second to Fourth Street downtown, plantings in the same area, a window box competition in residential districts, and cleaning up and fixing up the unused railroad depot on the west side of Hwy. 3 downtown. One of their great ideas is to encourage container gardens on the balconies along the river. As Judy says, “Our goal is to tie things together so the town feels cohesive.” The group will be involving as many organizations and individuals as possible and has gotten a positive response from neighborhoods interested in becoming garden districts, the police department and Mayor’s Youth Council, and businesses. The group has received financial backing from a police department grant, the Northfield Area Foundation, as well as in-kind help from Knecht’s Nursery and Landscaping and Switzer’s Nursery and Landscaping.

The AIB competition is described as a friendly competition and one of the benefits is the comments and advice communities get from the AIB judges, who are usually retired experts in horticulture, forestry and urban planning. The judges will be visiting Northfield July 28-29.

This is a wonderful community building activity. Anyone who is interested in helping out should e-mail the group at

Definitely, a Par 5

img_1359.jpgimg_1371.jpgThe Northfield Public Library was a real flurry of activity about 5 this evening as members of the Teen Advisory Board set up the holes for tonight’s Cabin Fever Mini Golf Tournament. My hole, number 6, is at least a par five. It is a dog-leg, and golfers will need to go around several obstacles and through some fenced pathways before reaching the hole. Special thanks to John Daniels of Bachman’s for providing the plants, which included a couple of gorgeous Cineraria and a cool little shrub on a stick. Tee times are at 6 and 8 p.m. tonight. I believe there are still some open slots.

img_1381.jpgThe hole that will probably inspire the most conversation is this one at left, sponsored by College City Beverage. Golfers will need to get their ball in the plumbing pipe, which takes it from the top floor of the library to the lower floor where the hole is. As always, librarian Lynne Young takes the ruckus in stride. Good luck to all the golfers!

Fore! A Garden Hole at the Library

I’ve been a member of the board of the Friends of the Northfield Public Library for about eight years. We raise money for the library and literacy in Northfield, and we have a good time while doing it. For years, the Friends sponsored a great silent auction, and more recently, we have sponsored the Northfield Adult Spelling Bee. The bee raised money for Booker the Book Bus in 2006 and for an expanded and improved teen and children’s area this fall.

The Library Teen Advisory Board is doing some additional fund-raising for the teen area, and the teen board has come up with a great idea for a mucky March weekend: Mini-golf at the Library! The event will be held Friday evening, with scramble starts at 6 and 8 p.m. Sign your foursome up at the library or see the Teen Board blog for more information.

When I heard the Teen Board was looking for sponsors and would let you choose the theme for your hole, I signed right up. So, hole number 6 will be a dog-leg through the adult non-fiction section, sponsored by My Northern Garden and Northern Gardener magazine. The hole will have a garden theme, and John Daniels, a Northfield resident who works at Bachman’s Lakeville growing range, will provide some plants. (Thanks, John!) I brought over some pots, an old trellis, and a spade. We’ll see what the kids come up with for a design. I’m sure it will be creative and challenging. Other holes are sponsored by Tiny’s Downtown Dogs, College City Beverage, College City Homes, Healthy Community Initiative, Mayor’s Youth Council, Friends of the Library, Weiland Landscaping, and By All Means Graphics.

There will be plenty of prizes, and Tiny’s will be running the clubhouse. Whether you are a family with young kids, a group of teens looking for something unusual to do, or an adult looking for a cheap date night, the library is the place to be on Friday!