Noerenberg Gardens is the former estate of the Grain Belt brewing family.
Wilkommen. That’s what Frederick Noerenberg, founder of Grain Belt brewery, named the estate he built for his family on Crystal Bay. “Welcome.” Welcome to almost 74 acres and 8,500 feet of Lake Minnetonka shoreline. He built the grand estate house in 1890, and it included a “gentleman’s farm” and acres of thoughtfully designed formal gardens. The Noerenbergs were one of the first families to live year-round on the lake.
They were well traveled, and the design for the gardens was heavily influenced by their admiration for the formal gardens they toured in Europe—particularly the English estate gardens with their carefully tended roses and pruned shrubs.
Wilkommen stayed in the family until the death of Lora Noerenberg Hoppe in 1972. Upon her death, the grounds and gardens were turned over to the Three Rivers Park District and the house, in accordance with the family’s wishes, was torn down. The barn and some of the farm buildings are still standing. The gardens became a public park that is often described as a hidden treasure, because it so easily accessible (the entrance to the park is at 2865 Northshore Drive, Wayzata) and yet not very well known.
The gardens are open from May to October, 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Three Rivers Park District horticulture supervisor Arla Carmichiel says that to really enjoy the park, you should visit often. “It’s worthwhile to visit at least a few times a year,” she says. “It’s a garden that really changes with the seasons.”
Carmichiel also says that over the years the formality of the garden has been softened. “The layout is still formal,” she says. “But, within the beds, the plants are more naturalized.”
Carmichiel began her career with the Three Rivers Park District at Noerenberg as an intern. She’s now been at the park for 35 years. When she began, she worked with the gardener who’d been head of Lora Noerenberg Hoppe’s staff. Carmichiel says Hoppe was a passionate amateur horticulturist who wanted to leave her life’s work to the park district so that everyone could enjoy it.
In addition to the naturalizing within the beds, Carmichiel says that some of the gardening practices used today have changed since Hoppe’s time. “We try to avoid the use of chemicals and to keep a healthy environment,” she says. Among other benefits from the environmentally responsible gardening she practices is that it encourages a variety of pollinators. So, bees and butterflies are part of the landscape, along with flowers and shrubs like the Northern Lights azaleas.
Noerenberg’s mass planting of Northern Lights azaleas is one of the main attractions of the garden. “People driving by will pull off the road to stop and look at them,” Carmichiel says. Developed in the University of Minnesota azalea breeding program, Northern Lights are one of the few azaleas hardy enough to grow in Minnesota. “We have such a large mass planting of them,” she says. “I don’t think people are used to seeing them in such quantity.”
As Carmichiel says, there are different reasons to visit the gardens each month. In July, one of the best reasons to visit is Noerenberg’s Garden Party. The annual event takes place on July 18. During the party, the historic barn (which is usually closed except for special events) will be open for tours.
Noerenberg’s Garden Party
July 18, 6-8 p.m.
2865 Northshore Drive, Wayzata