An Artist’s Garden
The 10-acre hobby farm near Waverly includes house, barn, gardens, and water features. (Barbara O’Brien)
When Jolie Raimondo and her husband moved back to her home state of Minnesota 18 years ago, she knew what type of property she wanted to reshape with what she calls her “artful eye.” The painter and furniture maker was looking for a blank-slate landscape with a barn and a farmhouse ready for a remodel.
The couple found exactly that in a 10-acre hobby farm near Waverly. Today, the transformation is complete: Extensive gardens share the land with the couple, their two teenagers, eight horses, a pony, a flock of chickens, and two dogs at opposite ends of the size spectrum: a St. Bernard and a Jack Russell terrier.
The gardens reflect Raimondo’s art: joyful and filled with color, with contemplative areas to sit and gaze and listen. She has one rule: no all-white garden.
“I think it feeds the artistic part of me,” Raimondo says of gardening. “I love the profusion of color, the earthiness of growing stuff, watching the gardens transition. The artful eye is all about color combinations and whimsy. There’s a lot of learning in planting and moving things, but it’s always tended to look cohesive because that’s how my brain works. Whether it’s color, texture, or combinations, I find a way to incorporate it in the garden.”
Raimondo’s first garden projects were simple foundation plantings around the house. Next came the water features. Today there are three ornamental ponds. A large and a small pool, linked by a little river that is powered by a circulating pump, are home to water lilies and fish. The third, a circular pond featuring a frog fountain, was built to be used by the family’s succession of St. Bernards, who got their own pool to stop them from wading into the other garden ponds and upsetting plants and fish.
“They like to be in the water to cool off,” Raimondo says.
Winding paths lead under arbors to the garden ponds. They’re shaded by ash, maple, and box elder trees that Raimondo prunes to create an arching canopy over the water. Hostas, trailing evergreens, sedums, and hydrangeas also frame the pools. One of her favorite garden color combinations is burgundy and lime green, so she uses barberries, ninebark shrubs, and sedums to add darker hues to the foliage mix.
There’s a shaded bench near one of the ponds where Raimondo likes to pause after walking and pulling weeds in the morning. “I sit down and feed the fish; it feels meditative with the birds there,” she says.
Past the ponds the yard becomes sunnier. There’s a memorial garden featuring a cement bench with mosaics that Raimondo created with her stepmother as the older woman was dealing with the cancer that eventually took her life. A red shed that the Raimondos built provides an anchor and backdrop for a more formal garden space, a large square English garden divided into quarters with a statue of cherubs at its center. Towering arborvitae frame the garden like verdant exclamation points.
At first the plantings were symmetrical, with repeating patterns of sun-loving perennials like buttercups, daylilies, bachelor buttons, phlox, and Asiatic lilies, and creepers like sedum and dianthus. Over the years, the more aggressive perennials began wandering and the gardens grew wilder. Raimondo didn’t mind. When it feels right, she lets the occasional volunteer sunflower stay in place.
“I can appreciate when things take hold without my planning,” she says. “If it works, it works, period. I can trust nature to do things that I have not even thought of and that are far better than what I was planning.”