Where Are You Going?

Do you love gardens and good folks? Here are some places for you to visit.

The Stonehouse
Father Eugene Stenzel has given new meaning to the term “rock and roll.” He has rolled a lot of rocks into the creation of a stonehouse. Father Stenzel’s house, located along a gravel (but not rocky) road 5 miles northeast of Wells, is the closest thing we have in this area to the Pyramids or Stonehenge. Father Stenzel dug the basement and footings by hand, hauling the dirt away in a wheelbarrow. The original house was approximately 1400 square feet on the ground floor and was finished in less than 10 years. The exterior of the home consists of thousands of stones, all set in place by hand. The home features an open stairway facing a window and a confessional from the old St. Mary’s Church near Newry that has been converted into an entertainment center. It includes a beautiful glass-walled conservatory. An avid gardener, he has a garden of native grasses and prairie plants along with an orchard of apple, cherry, plum and pear trees. A hosta garden occupies some shady areas. Father Stenzel finds the garden a good place to consider some of his rocky ideas. Frost heaves keep bringing field rocks to the surface in his neighborhood. Why would someone like Father Stenzel, with no rocks in his head, build The Stonehouse? He wanted to prove to himself that anything a person could imagine, that person can do. He has proven that. If you would like to see The Stonehouse or have the perfect rock to donate to it, please give Father Stenzel a call at 507-553-5391. You will see a great house and meet a great person. Rock on.

Sonnek’s Gardens and Dick’s Designs
Sonnek’s Gardens is located along the Maple River not far from Minnesota Lake. Dick and Marion Sonnek are retired dairy farmers who have been gardening for forty years. They have a marvelous garden, but Dick also designs garden ornaments made from steel. These delightful creations would enhance any yard or garden. They are nearly as delightful as their creator. I find them useful to hide the weeds in my yard. Please call these wonderful folks at 507-524-3275.

Fitz-Reading Garden
Rockford, Iowa is located a bit west of Charles City and is situated at the fork of two rivers, the Winnebago and the Shell Rock. Fitz-Reading Garden is located in Rockford. To call this masterpiece a garden is like calling the Mississippi River a creek. Stan and Corlyss Fitz are the owners of this beautiful and thoughtful place and about as nice as people are allowed to be. The garden contains 700 plants with about 120 varieties of hostas. The walking paths are made from over 20,000 paving bricks that Stan installed. He has handled each brick at least 5 times and is still hunting for more bricks. Stan admits that he did not know an annual from a perennial when he started gardening in 1992 until he took the Master Gardener course the next year. He learned quickly and well. The Fitz-Reading Garden is a collection of paths, curios, flower beds, benches, vegetables, prairie areas, desert plantings, bird houses and garden sheds with more attractions coming soon. Words cannot describe the garden. It needs to be seen. Stan named the garden after his Grandmother’s maiden name, Reading. As a child, Stan worked in his Grandmother’s garden. He did not find the work to his liking and was not the least bit appreciative of the chores. He thought that his garden would be an appropriate tribute to his Grandmother. 

Willow Glen Nursery
Willow Glen Nursery has a huge selection of perennial plants for sale, including hard to find varieties. It has several organic display gardens in natural settings, including a water garden with three pools modeled after a lake in the Boundary Waters. I especially enjoy the demonstration gardens featuring native grasses. 

It is near Burr Oak, Iowa in northern Winneshiek Co., at 3512 Lost Mile Rd. From A-18 at Burr Oak, follow U.S. 52 south one half mile to 355th St. Proceed west on 355th for 1.25 miles until it curves south (left), and then continue one half mile to Pine Creek Rd. Take Pine Creek one mile west to Lost Creek Rd., which veers off northwest. There are signs for the nursery along the route.

Seed Savers Exchange near Decorah
Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization that saves heirloom garden seeds from extinction. The Exchange’s 8,000 members grow and distribute heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits and grains. The Exchange is headquartered on a 170-acre farm that includes 12 preservation gardens, a historic apple orchard, White Park cattle, a spring fed pond, trout stream, limestone bluffs and century-old white pines.

Al Batt