Tonkadale Greenhouse owner Jessie Jacobson says customers tell her it’s their “happy place.” It’s easy to see why. With the year-round summery air, a roof that lets the sunlight pour in, rows of colorful flowers and a light breeze from the ceiling fans, you almost forget you’re indoors.
Nestled in residential Minnetonka, the business offers a wide selection of plants and home décor items, along with the expertise of its knowledgeable staff. Its roots date back to 1948, when original owner Bob Anderson founded the business to sell specialty African violets. Jacobson’s grandparents, Bill and Shirley Maruska, purchased the business in 1978 and oversaw the construction of the current one-acre greenhouse space in 1998.
After 10 years as Tonkadale’s managing director, Jacobson took over the business in April. Her professional experience at the greenhouse began long before she had any official position. Jacobson grew up spending a lot of time at the business with her grandparents, helping out with planting and working the cash register when she was in high school. She jokes that she now apologizes to the adults who worked there when she was a kid, because she and her brother weren’t the tidiest gardeners. With horticulture and biology degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and years of experience under her belt, Jacobson has since mastered her planting technique.
Along with custom design services for arrangements, fairy gardens and other projects, the garden center offers annuals, perennials, home décor items and gardening supplies, with specialties in container gardens and hanging baskets.
But Tonkadale is more than a typical garden center. Setting it apart from most greenhouses is its popular fairy garden department. Tonkadale always has a large fairy garden on display and sells a wide variety of terrarium plants and tiny (fairy-sized) accessories including chairs, picnic tables, tire swings, birdbaths and more. “Anything a fairy would need!” says Jacobson.
Regular customer and St. Louis Park resident Cindy Niederjohn has been putting together her own fairy gardens for four years. As a speech-language pathologist at Susan Lindgren Elementary, she’s recently found them to be a great tool for her classroom. “And it’s not just for kids, either,” she says. “To me it’s very relaxing and therapeutic to put these things together.”
Tonkadale also sets itself apart with regular events, seminars and hands-on workshops. Later this month, Tonkadale will host a family-friendly “pollinator day” featuring activities, a food truck, honey-themed treats and a talk from a pollinator expert.
It seems that Tonkadale has become a sort of second home for many of its loyal customers. Between the expert staff, the free coffee and popcorn, and the resident cat, Tiger, the greenhouse has the warm and inviting feel of visiting a neighbor’s house. Especially during the winter months, Tonkadale offers customers like Niederjohn a place to get some fresh air and take a break. “It’s my happy place,” she says. She regularly heads to the greenhouse just to get gardening ideas and lift her spirits. “I often just wander around, and it’s very peaceful,” she says. “It’s a haven.”