Photo gallery — Gardens of Bridgeland, July 2007

A Naobe clematis in Sonny Schneiderhan’s Marcy-Holmes garden.

Photo by Kathy De Foe

Bridge-area gardeners show off their creations

This summer, The Bridge is highlighting gardens — and the gardeners that grow and build them — in our neighborhoods. Read more below and then visit our corresponding photo gallery of Bridgeland gardens.

Beth Landahl and Heather Cusick, Cooper

As first time homeowners, Beth Landahl and Heather Cusick wanted to do something special, so, in 2006, they added a rain garden to complement the daisies, hostas and lettuce in their traditional gardens.

Landahl explained their inspiration, saying: “We desired to be better stewards, especially of the Mississippi River, this treasure that winds its way south, just twelve blocks from us.”

A rain garden was a great way to do it. Native plants soak up rainwater more effectively than other plants, and the water — primarily run-off from the roofs of buildings — slowly filters into the ground rather than into a storm drain and eventually, the river.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) describes the process on its website: “As cities and suburbs grow and replace forests and agricultural land, increased stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces becomes a problem,” states the DNR.

“Stormwater runoff from developed areas… carries pollutants from streets, parking lots and even lawns into local streams and lakes… By reducing stormwater runoff, rain gardens can be a valuable part of changing these trends.”

Landahl and Cusick went even further with their garden, installing a “rain chain,” a string of square, copper cups that descend from the roof. The two women saw the rain chain on display at the State Fair and decided to give it a try. When it rains, said Landahl, “it’s a celebration of water.

“It’s truly beautiful,” she said. “Who knew a rain shower could be such a joy!”

The rain garden took three days to construct and cost only $150, using the University of Wisconsin’s Rain Gardens Technical Manual as a guide.

Sonny Schneiderhan, Marcy-Holmes

Sonny Schneiderhan loves her Southeast Minneapolis garden. She calls it her sanctuary, and she spends a lot of time there: reading, drinking wine and sitting on her favorite rock.

Schneiderhan started the garden in 1995 with the help of a friend whom she called a “landscape artist.” It’s not necessarily an English garden, she said, but it has those influences. Wrapping around her house, the garden is a marriage of plants and boulders, a “garden full of surprises, around every corner,” Schneiderhan said as she described the garden’s forms and textures and its unique vision.

It’s a place where people become curious, she said, as they wind though myriad plants, rocks and flowers, wondering, as she put it: “What’s in this room?”

In summertime, the outdoor “rooms” feature several varieties of clematises, ranging in color from purple and lavender to mauve pink and deep red; Reiger begonias; lilies; gas plants; a host of evergreen species; and more. Amidst the flora is an array of accents, including a dragonfly candle holder and a statue of the Buddha, which she acquired while working as a volunteer in Sri Lanka after the tsunami of December 2004.

Barbara White, Southeast Como

Barbara White grew up in the country near the Red River Valley, where she had chickens in her backyard and gathering the eggs was her responsibility. So, it’s not surprising that she describes her Southeast Como home as “a country house with a country garden.”

The garden started out small in 1995 with a few plants — hydrangeas and some perennials — but it transformed gradually and is now filled with hostas, columbines, lilies and other plants she spends a lot of time tending.

“I can start at seven in the morning and probably not be done until nine at night,” said White, adding that she never waters at night, though. “They really don’t like being wet at night,” she said of the plants. A humid day and a windless night can leave water on foliage and can cause mildew.

She refers to the shed in her backyard, where she keeps her supplies, as her “office.”

An herb garden of thyme, rosemary, basil and other herbs grows in an area protected from critters by an organic mixture that “smells terrible,” White said, but, “the rabbits hate it!” She said her homegrown herbs have a stronger flavor than those bought in stores, so she can use less to season her food.

No pesticides are applied to White’s garden — they’re bad for the environment, she said. She uses corn gluten fertilizer instead.

Country birdhouses and a variety of plant holders, one in the shape of a chicken, accent her garden. None was chosen for any particular reason, said White, except for the chicken; it reminds her of her childhood.

Bernie Waibel, Seward

Tucked away in the backyard of Bernie Waibel’s Seward home — beneath the towering cottonwood tree next to his wife Donna Rodel’s flower garden — is a Japanese garden in the tsukiyami, or hill-and-pond, style.

A small stream flows from a waterfall past the small mound — symbolic of a mountain — into the pond, where orange koi-like fish swim around the tiny island of a moss-covered rock. The scene is a microcosm of a natural landscape, full of symbolic elements, like certain rocks that symbolize a salmon struggling upstream or a wizened old monk.

A path winds through the garden, past a bamboo bench, across a wooden bridge — crooked, so spirits cannot follow — and among the rocks and shade-growing plants: mosses, rhododendrons, yews, azaleas, Japanese spreading juniper and painted fern, Irish and native mosses, and a weeping Norway spruce.

The garden is the result of four years of work, during which Waibel and John Costigan placed boulders as heavy as 1,200 pounds. In all, there are 30 tons of granite in the garden — including a stone bridge and lanterns — to complement the spongy-looking tufa rocks and small, smooth black stones from China.

The waterfall and “deer scare” bamboo fountain — which constantly fills a stone cistern, then rocks back with a “clack” — adds a rhythmic sound. “The garden resides in the space between your ears,” wrote Waibel in a description for the Center for Victims of Torture Garden Tour in 2003.

The garden demands maintenance, said Waibel, particularly in the spring. The water is distributed by a hidden pump, which gets clogged, and the plants need watering nearly every day. Robins tear up the moss, despite added chicken wire, and, on the day of our visit, an ornate bamboo umbrella lay half-submerged in the pond.

Fortunately, Waibel considers the work a meditative exercise. “A garden is always growing, developing, changing,” he said. “That’s part of the beauty. Change is slowed down in a garden; it’s made manageable.”

Waibel says a garden like his gives the time and opportunity “to be mindful of what you’re doing. I would encourage it,” he said.

Costigan has a smaller garden in his own yard, and he is available, through his company, Garden Retreats, to help design others or supply features such as bridges or lanterns. He can be reached at 612-333-8979.

last revised: July 16, 2007