The garden at Highpoint Center for Printmaking is now complete. The design of the garden has been a collaborative, evolving process between sculptor Kinji Akagawa and Field owner Jason Rathe, with brainstorming sessions with Highpoint’s Cole Rogers and the architects from James Dayton Design. Further credit goes to the crews from Highpoint and Field who helped dig through ridiculously hard dirt and endure baking sun to complete this beautiful space.The design changed greatly from the original concept based on budget constraints and a mid-design realization that the area was going to be flat rather than sloped. The garden is designed to be a visual counterpart to the exciting building renovation completed by James Dayton Design (whose work includes the super-cool Macphail Center for Music building in Minneapolis).The garden is visible from inside the Center as well as from the parking lot. One view, out a large picture window, is dominated in the foreground by a Volkswagen-size rock nestled into an ipe deck with a pagoda dogwood framing the left side. Kinji sculpted a bird-bath in the huge rock where, incredibly, birds flocked within hours of completion.
The main gargantuan rocks had to be installed with a clam truck. While the clam truck made the installation possible, the process had to be done carefully on new concrete sidewalks. But the unexpected replacement of two concrete sections allowed the concrete contractor, Jon Pietig, to add his own touch to the project, embedding two flagstone steppers leading into the garden path.Part of the design challenge of the project was bringing elements together whose synergies aren’t readily apparent: Japanese garden elements with Minnesota native plants and a rain garden. Some elements melded easily – the rain channel leading from the downspout to the rain garden allowed us to install a cool cut-stone bridge – a strong Japanese element. A stepping stone path leads through the garden to a long, architectural ipe deck in the back. The areas between and around the stepping stones are planted with ground-hugging natives pussy toes (Antennaria neglecta) and long-leaf bluet (Houstonia longifolia) as well as creeping thyme and vinca vine. The native plant material was all obtained from Out Back Nursery in Hastings and Landscape Alternatives Nursery in Scandia.
Other interesting elements include three stone benches flanked by stone columns and a calming gray trap gravel area resembling a small, dark pond. Native plants are arranged around the gravel “pond.” The plant communities in the garden and in the perimeter plantings around the parking lot include lots of little blue stem grass punctuated with mid-height flowering plants like blazing star, foxglove penstemon, prairie phlox, and marsh milkweed. A grouping of chokecherries at the corner are already laden with clusters of fruit – ready for birds to harvest. Tall shrubs along the perimeter include staghorn sumac, fragrant sumac and nannyberry viburnum as well as the native groundcover shrub – dwarf bush honeysuckle.A big thanks to everyone who helped in the design and installation of the garden and to Highpoint and Cole Rogers for giving us the opportunity to work on the garden. I will be thrilled to observe the garden for years to come as it matures over time and dynamically changes through the season.