Northwoods Garden


A gravel garden and a place for gathering at a family cabin. 


Above: Gravel garden installation in progress. 


Overlooking a lake in the Northwoods of Minnesota, this gravel garden connects two cabins, part of a larger family compound.  The garden is designed as a clearing in the woods and a transition to the lakeside meadow. Wooden walkways frame the courtyard and a central covered pavilion that serve as a gathering place for the extended family (architecture by Salmela Architect). The garden is planted with native species and transplants including Sumac (Rhus aromatica), sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina), Solomon seal (Polygonatum pubescens), and wood anemones. Drifts of grasses and floral plumes in silver and white—Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heteroiepis), Bottlebrush grass (Elymys hystrix), Baptisia alba and Veronicastrum—add height and contrast. The garden was planted in gravel from a nearby quarry to reduce ongoing maintenance and eliminate the need for chemicals or irrigation.

Stewardship has been a theme throughout this project (which is part of a larger ongoing ecological assessment). The family has stated that the regular practice of caring for the land serves as an important way to connect with each other and previous generations. It was therefore fitting that Practice Landscape and a multi-generational crew (ages 1 to 70-years old) worked to install the first phase of planting over the course of a week in the summer of 2022.

Above: Lakeside meadow, Below: Gravel garden


Above: Walk through the woods and the courtyard before plantings (Buildings: Salmela Architects)