Grand Designs at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

by | May 2023

Speigel Garden

Speigel Garden. Photo: Vienna Volante

If you’ve ever visited the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, you’re familiar with the experience of viewing jaw-dropping botanical displays. It may seem that you could never duplicate any such glory in your home garden. But, thanks to the plants all being labeled by name, you can. And that is, of course, by design.

The reasoning behind the arboretum, founded in 1958, was not to create a mere tree collection or museum of plants, but also to reveal applications of cold-hardy trees, shrubs and perennials that residents could use in their own northern landscapes.

Though the formal plant collections at the arboretum abound, visitors should look no further than the show gardens near the Oswald Visitor Center to find designs that can be applied at home. Here are three areas to check out this spring, summer and fall to get ideas for your own grand designs:

Annual Garden: Nowhere in the Twin Cities is the power of annuals proven more than in these beds by senior landscape gardener Duane Otto, who follows his stunning tulip displays in spring with a mind-blowing, all-annual design that thrives from late spring to fall. Let the tenderest of plants knock your socks off here and throughout the grounds.

Spiegel Garden: Perennials are the star in this terraced garden in front of the historic Snyder Building. Visit this site throughout the seasons to see plant combinations that could easily be replicated in the home garden, including a variety of surprising, later-season showstoppers, such as asters and rose mallow shrubs (hardy hibiscus), standing 4 feet tall with dinner-plate blooms that are somehow hardy year after year in Zone 4.

Home Demonstration Garden: Veggie growers, your gardens can be beautiful, too. Check out the well-organized groupings of herbs, greens, tomatoes, peppers and even fruit trees grown on espaliers in small spaces that maximize every square foot. All varieties are labeled for easy copying at home.

Sarah Jackson is a media specialist at the arboretum. She lives and gardens in Minnetonka. Learn more at


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