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by Jenny

garden Bloggers Fling
Wouterina de Raad's sculptural Wisconsin garden comes complete with a fire pit, cut-wood storage, seating, and a shrine. But that's not even a fraction of what you'll find there!

Have you ever been garden-drunk?

As in tipsy, woozy or otherwise un-sober while surrounded by flowers, foliage and someone else's intoxicating vision of a backyard paradise?

It happened to me.

Just last week, after spending 3 days in Minneapolis for the 2016 Garden Bloggers Fling, I found myself totally done-in by inspired gardeners and their landscaped works of art.

minnesota Grapes
The grape breeding program at the University of Minnesota.
horsetails in a container
Horsetails, a 'living fossil' in a hand-cast, de Raad mosaic container.

I was exposed to so many deeply-moving, developed-over-the-decades gardens that I didn't know which plant to turn to, where to point my camera, or which once-in-a-lifetime question to ask of the gardener.

Garden Bloggers Fling

The Garden Bloggers Fling was started in 2008, by a group of Garden Bloggers living in Austin, Texas. The Austin gardeners, who had begun to meet in person, thought that some of their other blogging friends might just make the trip from Cyberspace to Texas if an invitation were extended. The idea was to get together and tour a bunch of exceptional gardens - all while finally getting to spend some face time with one another.

Garden Blogger: a talented writer and photographer who uses the power of the internet as an excuse to never, ever, ever shut-up about plants.

The meet-up has continued every year since, changing locations and swapping out organizers, but the focus always remains the same: fun, friends, and over-the-top garden discovery.

Fling Highlights and Takeaways

As a Fling virgin, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect; I was mostly looking forward to putting some faces with the names I’d reaped from the blogosphere over the years. (I started my first garden blog in 2008 and had already interacted with some of the bloggers that were signed up through a now-defunct garden-blogging social network called Blotanical - RIP.)

Each morning, we filled up two charter buses which brought us from garden to garden - about 8 gardens per day. By garden number three on Day One, I realized that I needed to develop a plan of attack.

Lilypads at the Como Park Conservatory
Lily pads at the Como Park Conservatory
wisconsin garden with style
Mini-alpine gardens in painted styrofoam fish tubs.

My personal gardening interests include:

  • Foodscaping aka Edible Landscaping
  • Medicinal plants, natives, and celebrating 'weeds' as showpieces
  • Creative wildlife and pollinator habitats
  • Garden Vibes, as in the immediate emotional recognition of the gardener’s personality, or the mood they are trying to create in their outdoor space. I always appreciate how a garden feels.

Luckily, I found stellar examples of all of these interests to celebrate during the Fling.

I will let my fellow Flingers do most of the talking here, as I've so enjoyed reading their takes on each garden:

Celebrating Weeds in Style

However, there is one garden that really stood out to me that I haven't seen a post written about yet, and that's Squire House Gardens in Afton, MN. I feel they deserve some extra praise, not because they served us 5 flavors of effervescent ice-cold lemonade (including lavender and pomegranate) in wine glasses, but because they celebrated weeds as showpieces like pros.

While I love attempting this in my own garden, admittedly the weeds don't look that out of place, as there's a 'wild' vibe already in play. But here, at Squire House, everything is formal. Statues, reflecting pools, fountains, and walls of shrubbery transform the mullein and thistle into bold, architectural statements. I think I swooned.

architectural Mullein
This photo doesn't do justice to the striking architectural quality of the spiky Mullein plants.
squire house gardens afton MN
A hidden sculpture is set-off by a Bottlebrush Buckeye (not a weed, just a showpiece).

The veggie garden, which appears in the Mullein photo above, was a bit hard for me to photograph in the moment - but I so appreciated its casual grace. There were also many tall, branching thistles around that got blown-out in the harsh sun.

I fell in love with a brand-new-to-me plant while at Squire House: Climbing Asparagus. While not an edible plant, it does produce the wispy, fern-like foliage and round seed pods that I love to see in my regular asparagus beds. Best of all, it climbs and vines vertically - so I added it to my running 'plants that offer privacy' list.

trumpet lily and climbing asparagus
Climbing asparagus paired with Oriental Trumpet Lily Robert Swanson.

How to Tackle 24 Garden Tours in 3 Days

Click here to find out more about next year's Fling in the Washington DC area, organized by Tammy Schmitt of Casa Mariposa.

As I mentioned, I started to fall apart early on. Let's just call it sensory overload. You find yourself in this weird limbo of wanting to be completely alone, which reduces the amount of elbows, knees, and other peoples' fingers in your photos, and wanting to tie yourself to one of the many horticultural wizards who can id any plant, any where, at any time.

My brain was begging for a way to organize what was I was taking in. So, I returned to a project that I had started earlier this season and concentrated on photographing simple, yet inspired, 3-plant combinations.

No matter where we went, after I shot some quick, wide shots to remember the entire delicious scene by, I got to relax and enjoy 'the hunt' for beautifully grouped plant trios.

And that is how you tackle a wild and speedy garden tour!

Inspiring Three - Plant Combinations
Ligularia Daylily and Rudbeckia
Ligularia, Daylily and Rudbeckia
Kale Echinacea Yarrow
Ornamental Kale, White Coneflower and Yarrow
Echinacea Popcorn Cassia and Ornamental Grass
Ornamental Grass, Popcorn Cassia and Echinacea
Variegated Hostas and Fern
Variegated Hostas and Fern
Lamb's ear Red-veined Sorrel and Bidens Beedance
Red-veined Sorrel, Bidens Beedance and Lamb's Ear
Allium Echinacea and Violets
Allium, Echinacea, and Violets

What about you - do you have a garden blog you'd like us to know about? Feel free to leave your details in the comments below!