Garden artistry at Wouterina De Raad’s Mosaic Sculpture Park, Part 1: Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling


Each year at Garden Bloggers Fling, there’s at least one garden that moves me deeply, that creates a lasting mood and feels like an extension of the gardener him- or herself. At this year’s Fling in Minneapolis, that garden was the creation of Wouterina De Raad. (As an interesting side note, her garden is located not in Minneapolis, or even in Minnesota, but just across the state line in Wisconsin’s farm country.)

Wouterina sculpts figures, real and imaginary creatures, and even benches and chairs using wire forms and concrete, coloring and adding detail to many of them with mosaic tile. The Dutch artist, who grew up on a coffee plantation in Java, immigrated to the U.S. four decades ago. She fixed up this old farmhouse, which, when she moved in, lacked indoor plumbing but came with a tree growing inside, and began sculpting and planting her 1-1/2-acre parcel.


Today it’s a wondrous place to explore, with paths leading through sculpted archways into garden rooms populated with Wouterina’s creations, and lush with perennials, shrubs, and trees.


Let’s take a tour, shall we? The main entrance is through this large, tiled arch. That’s Janet, ready to explore.


A loosely circular lawn edged with flowering perennials greets you, and grassy paths lead off in every direction, inviting you in.


Seating areas always beckon to me, though I rarely sit in them.


Four paint-flaking motel chairs add rustic charm that plays well with the old barn and field visible in the background.


A sculpted man lifting up a deer head (a mask?) stands amid daylilies, with a dog jumping up on him. I’m sure there’s a story here.


Other sculpted pieces in this area include throne-like chairs, with a wrapped present on a table…


…a planter on a pedestal…


…a woman and child looking up at a bird on a clothesline…


…and a patriotically attired man holding up the other end of the line.


Wouterina’s house sits at the front of the garden, and its colorful wraparound porch looks like a comfortable place to while away the afternoon.


Wire birds — part of a sculpture in progress


From the house, a grassy path winds under a vine-covered arbor topped with a multistory birdhouse.


On the other side, a rustic garden shed…


…that’s decorated with a wooden fish, animal skulls, antlers, and shells: nature’s castoffs.


A shrine to motherly love appears nearby.


Rows of oyster shells, pebbles, and glass adorn the inside of the egg-like dome. I read more about this sculpture on Laura Wills’s blog post. As Laura reports, Wouterina created it during a time of anguish when she feared for her son’s life.


Another mosaic arch, with a Madonna on top


Mosaic detail


Through the arch, the focal point is a sculpted table and chairs with a woman’s head, backed by what looks like an old vent cap on a pedestal.


A closer look reveals a display of ceramic birds on the cap ledge.


Much of the garden near the house is woodsy, with paths winding among large trees.


Wouterina’s sculptures appear along the paths like friendly sprites.


Her characters are frequently holding birds, although fish are also a common motif. This fellow has both.


Squawk!


Flamingo with ligularia


At the rear of the garden, and down a few steps, a sculpted seating area appears, with two long benches, a table, and a fireplace. Plants grow along the sculpted seats and soften them, imparting a sense of age and mystery.


To the left, two metal chairs are backed by a rusty column topped with a cascading plant.


To the right, by the fireplace, a pink-gowned angel lifts a bowl in which a twiggy, real-life bird’s nest is visible.


Wouterina holds concrete-sculpture workshops back here, near another wooden shed and a wonderful example of her work…


…a woman holding a palm tree like a parasol.


A tin man who’s found his heart stands nearby as well.


At the entrance to her studio — in a restored log cabin — a bouquet of red daylilies brightens a table.


Inside the neatly kept studio, Wouterina’s folk-art creations and found objects are displayed against a backdrop of log walls.


Natural objects like feathers and animal bones enhance vignettes of artful creations, old tins, and curio cabinets.


“Graceland”


This diorama in an old cigar box is titled “Last Tango in Havana.”


And here’s the woman who created this magical garden and art: Wouterina, pictured at left holding the notebook. Her friend was there to help guide us around.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my visit to Wouterina De Raad’s garden! For a look back at the Shannon Garden, Guldberg Garden, Vera’s Garden, plus bloggers and Minneapolis sights, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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17 Responses

  1. That was an amazing place, wasn’t it? It’s hard to find the words (and to narrow down the images) for a post. You’ve done a wonderful job! It was neat to see the sculptures in progress, too. Thanks for the background information on the mother and child piece. Great photos, as always, Pam!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      The background on the mother-and-child sculpture was from Laura’s post, Beth. She got some of the background info I missed. It truly was a wonderful garden, and I’m so glad we visited. —Pam

  2. I can see why this was your favorite garden. Not only did this garden have heart it has soul. I would love to talk with Wouterina to hear all the stories behind the sculptures. Ah yes, I see a book that could be written. One almost forgets to look at the plants. I will have to look/read this again. Once again a garden brought to life through your lens.

  3. Margaret says:

    That was such an incredible garden – and even though I was there, I’m discovering more of garden through your photos…I don’t know how I missed that tin man!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      He was tucked away by her workshop, Margaret. I know there were many details I missed too. That’s why, even though 60+ garden bloggers were traipsing through, I bet we each photographed different things. —Pam

  4. Alison says:

    Like you said, my favorite gardens when attending the Fling are always the ones like this, that impart so much of the gardener’s personality. I’ve tried mosaics in the past and have no talent or patience for it, so I really admire people who do. She’s made some great sculptures! Looking forward to Part II.

  5. I think I would have loved this garden, what creativity!

  6. Jenny says:

    Wow! Looks like an amazing garden and gardener I always admire the creativity of others in coming up with ideas like these, … I’m afraid my talents lie elsewhere.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Gardens like this tend to spark others’ creativity, Jenny. Maybe we’ll be inspired to create something original for our own gardens, even if not mosaic sculpture. —Pam

  7. Sonja says:

    What a treat that must have been to visit such a unusual and beautiful garden. Your photos are great; thank you for sharing so many. In person it must have really been an event. Oh to be so multi-talented –and gracious too to invite gardeners to peruse her marvelous work. All the gardens you have shown have been such fun to see. Wish I had been there. Minneapolis is a cool city that I used to visit often.

  8. Laura Munoz says:

    Love, love, love this garden! I couldn’t have said it any better than some of the comments already made.

  9. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Drooling! What a personal and art filled garden! Are oyster shells considered mother of pearl? If so, what a cool choice to line the walls of the motherly love shrine.

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