Minnesota Gardens to Visit in Fall

"Leaf-peeping," the tradition of driving around in October to look at changing leaves, is a popular fall activity in Minnesota. But how about gardening peeping? There are many lovely Minnesota gardens to visit in fall that are open to the public for free or a reasonable fee.

Public gardens generally offer pretty views, mature trees and a chance to imagine how plants might look in your own garden. Many public gardens change out containers with the season, so you can get great ideas for your own containers, too. Of course, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is worth an entire day to visit the gardens and see all the trees along the paths, but in this post we'll focus on four less known Minnesota gardens to visit in fall. Here's a pretty complete list of Minnesota gardens to visit if you'd like to expand your search.

coneflowers at sahlin arboretum

The Muriel Sahlin Arboretum includes a pollinator garden with helpful signage and well-tended plants. These are green-headed coneflowers.

Muriel Sahlin Arboretum, Roseville

The Muriel Sahlin Arboretum is located on the east edge of Roseville's lovely Central Park. The arboretum covers 8 acres in the park, and includes a pollinator garden, an evergreen display, seasonal annual flowers, a fountain and some beautiful backdrops for photos. The garden also has great signage throughout, so it's easy to identify different plants. It's especially pretty in fall when the deciduous trees throughout the park are changing color. Many paths through the arboretum are paved, but if you feel like a good walk, the park has extensive trails. There is a parking lot off of Dale Street near the arboretum. The arboretum is free.

normandale japanese garden in summer

A pond is the center of the Normandale Japanese Garden. In summer, when this photo was taken, the garden is mostly green. In fall, colors abound.

Normandale Community College Japanese Garden, Bloomington

Tucked into the campus of the state's largest community college is a gem of garden. It's not a large space but the creators packed a lot of beauty into it. The garden has been around 45 years and was a joint project of the Bloomington Garden Club and the college. It features rocks, islands, a waterfall and bridges, connecting it all. Evergreens, shrubs and ground covers make up most of the plantings. In summer, the garden is overwhelmingly green but come fall bright golds blend with the red used on many bridge railings and seating. The garden is open sunrise to sunset and is free. It may occasionally be closed for events. This is an accessible garden and an hour is ample to visit. Parking is a short stroll from the garden in a campus lot.

noerenberg garden scene

Lush plantings of perennials and shrubs make Noerenberg Gardens a special place to visit all year.

Noerenberg Gardens, Wayzata

Noerenberg Gardens are part of the expansive (and amazing) Three Rivers Parks District. The gardens sit on the shore of Chrystal Bay on Lake Minnetonka, with lovely views of the water and some nice places to sit as you look at it. The garden beds are a bit more formal in design but they are filled with grasses and pollinator plants.  The day I visited in August, the butterflies were wild for some of the plantings. The entire garden is surrounded by trees and shrubs, which should be in full color by now. The walking trails are paved; parking is easy; and admission is free.

Linneaus Arboretum, St. Peter

How about a day trip down to St. Peter, a pretty college town on the Minnesota River? Home to Gustavus Adolphus College, which includes the Linneaus Arboretum. This is an arboretum in the truest sense of the word. While there are some display gardens and a historic cabin to visit, it's mission is to be a place for trees and environmental education. The arboretum holds public events. While in St. Peter, check out the rest of the Gustavus campus and visit the lively downtown.

What are your favorite gardens to visit in fall?

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  1. Mary Keppers on October 14, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    Awesome and thank you!

  2. Chris larson on October 15, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    What gardens have hard surface paths usable by elect wheelchairs?

    Many Thanks,

    Chris Larson

    • Mary Lahr Schier on October 18, 2021 at 7:04 pm

      The Normandale Garden and the Sahlin garden in Roseville have a significant number of paved paths. The MN Landscape Arboretum also has many paved areas.

  3. Mary McAlpin on October 19, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    I went to Normandale community college and LOVED the tranquil Japanese garden. Took my graduation photos in it

    • Mary Lahr Schier on October 19, 2021 at 3:47 pm

      It’s a gem of a garden!

  4. Elaine K. Murray on November 5, 2021 at 4:59 pm

    Before construction of the Normandale College Japanese Garden that area was a marsh
    full of native plants and wildlife. I west to school there in the early 1970’s and loved
    walking there. It was all dug up and destroyed to create the Japanese garden.

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