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STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES

Wander the abundance of gardens in the Twin Cities

Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

By Lianna Matt

The Twin Cities is a place with four very different seasons, and summer is definitely a time to stop and smell the roses. Given that the Twin Cities is ranked number one again on the 2017 Park Score index, an abundance of flowers displays can be found around the metro, but we've chosen our top gardens for visitors to see. No worries if you miss the summer season; many of these gardens have blooming schedules online so you can see when the blossoms will pop up again in the spring or how long the blooms will last into the fall.

Photos courtesy of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Lyndale Park Gardens

The four Lyndale Park Gardens come to mind immediately when you think Twin Cities gardens. The Rose Garden is probably the most talked about. It’s the second oldest public rose garden in the nation, and in its 62 flowerbeds live founder Theodore Wirth’s proof that roses can grow in Minnesota. While the first peak of blooms is in June, the flowers last throughout the summer and even intensify in color come September.

The whole park area is adjacent to the Roberts Bird Sanctuary if you want to see even more pollinators in addition to the ones found in its Butterfly and Hummingbird gardens. The Peace Garden is Japanese inspired with ever-zigzagging paths, conifers and sculptures, including a bronze crane commemorating Sadako Saksi of the true story, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. | 1300 W 42nd St., Minneapolis, 612-230-6400, minneapolisparks.org

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

With several outdoor gardens and a stately conservatory that includes a fern room, orchid house, a tropical plant room and a seasonally changing garden (they even have a winter flower show!), Como Park Zoo & Conservatory has a garden for you no matter the season. Branching off of the conservatory is a glass-walled hallway leading to bonsai displays and, in the warm months, the Japanese garden. In the summer months especially, enjoy the water lilies that line the outside of the conservatory, the koi in the Japanese garden and the Blooming Butterflies exhibit, where butterflies are released weekly to fly among the flowers. | 1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul, 651-487-8201, comozooconservatory.org

Photos courtesy of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

It’s difficult to know where to start with when it comes to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. There’s the roses, of course, a crowd favorite, but those are only a handful of the 5,000 plant species there. The hosta glade, kitchen herb garden, maze garden, peony walk and sensory garden make up just some of the specialty gardens, but for those who want more of nature after exploring them, there are natural habitats like the half-mile bog trail at Green Heron Pond, 65 acres of on-leash dog trails, and the Grace B. Dayton Wildflower Garden. Add some art to your day by surveying the 23 sculptures in the arboretum’s sculpture garden, or check out some of the many events and classes for all ages that happen at the arboretum. | 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska, 952-443-1400, arboretum.umn.edu

Normandale Japanese Gardens

While Bloomington is a bustling city just southeast of the cities, Normandale’s Japanese Garden offers two acres of serenity. Bridges, structures, a waterfall and a lagoon complement the simple, 300-plus trees and shrubs that make up the landscape. Just like some of Japan’s most iconic nature photos, cherry blossoms also bloom here, and throughout the growing season, hydrangeas, irises, azaleas and more provide accents of color. | 9700 France Ave. S, Bloomington, 952-358-8200, normandale.edu

Minnehaha Regional Park

Everyone loves Minnehaha; it’s difficult not to love a 53-foot waterfall that turns the city into a nature escape. Amid the dog parks, transportation museum and the first wooden house west of the Mississippi, there are also several gardens, all focusing on native plants and trees. Minnehaha Falls Pergola Garden lets you look out at the falls after walking underneath the picture-perfect pergolas, and the Longfellow Gardens gives visitors a place to rest underneath the arbor or walk along paved pathways toward the manicured plant that burst with colorful cone flowers, salvias, lilies and more. Renting a bike from Minnehaha’s Song of Hiawatha Garden can stretch out the trip as you explore even more of Minnehaha Park’s 167 acres. | 4801 S Minnehaha Dr., Minneapolis, 612-230-6400, minneapolisparks.org

Photos courtesy of the Three Rivers Park District

Noerenberg Memorial Gardens

Located along Crystal Bay on Lake Minnetonka, Noerenberg Memorial Gardens will make you feel as if you’re strolling along the English landscape. Tiered rose beds, a wide variety of daylilies, manicured lawns and paved walkways complete the idyllic picture, as does the circle of pillars from the original Noerenberg estate before the land was donated in 1972. | 2865 Northshore Dr., Wayzata, 763-559-9000, threeriversparks.org

Veterans Memorial Rose Garden at the State Capitol

While this rose garden isn’t the largest garden in the metro area, it makes for the perfect afternoon when combined with a tour of the newly renovated capitol. The approximately 800 roses, a combination of hybrid teas, grandifloras and multifloras, are meant to honor Minnesota veterans. | 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, mngardens.horticulture.umn.edu

Photos courtesy of Bud Lutz

Lutz Railroad Garden

For something a little unexpected and charming, swing by this Eagan garden. Bud Lutz’s backyard garden is open on select days in the summer and has a miniature city nestled among the greenery with a model train winding its way around the plants. The more whimsical might call it a fairy garden, and whether Lutz agrees, the Ohio Buckeyes, magnolias, peonies and water features transform the space into something magical. The remaining 2017 garden season dates include July 16, Aug. 20, and Sept. 17. | 2960 Egan Ave., Eagan, 651-454-3534, lutzrailroadgarden.net

Eloise Butler Wildflower Gardens

The Eloise Butler Wildflower Gardens packs its summer with nature hikes, citizen science opportunities, book clubs, naturalist classes for all ages and more. The garden has more than 500 plant species including our state flower, the Lady Slipper, as well as 130 bird species. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, you can submit to the 2017 Wildflower Garden Photography Contest (deadline Aug. 20). | 1 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Minneapolis, 612-370-4903, minneapolisparks.org

Nokomis Naturescape Garden

Minnesota used to have 18 million acres of prairie, but today barely one percent remains. Different conservation groups are working to preserve and replant, including the volunteers that maintain the four acres of Nokomis Naturescape. There, native grasses and wildflowers line the northeastern part of Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. A bonus? The wildflowers often double as pollinator-friendly plants, earning the garden a Monarch Waystation status and making it the site of September’s annual Minneapolis Monarch Festival. | 5001 E Lake Nokomis Pkwy., Minneapolis, 612-230-6400, minneapolisparks.org

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