Vera's Garden

Vera's Garden

Vera's Garden was founded in 2001. We welcome all volunteers. Contact us at [email protected]. Mailing address is: 3036 Dupont Ave. So, Minneapolis, MN 55408.

If you would like to volunteer, please send me a message. Donovan Harmel on facebook or [email protected]


In 2001 several customers of Vera's Cafe on Lyndale Ave. So. were trying to think of what to do with plant thinings from their home gardens. They looked out the window and saw a block long patch of w**ds along the Midtown Greenway (a bike/walking path that crosses Minneapolis from East to West) which is owned by the Hennepin County Rail Road Authority. That was the start of Vera's Garden - a project done with volunteer labor and donated plants. The first couple years about 20 volunteers dug up the area, dug in compost (56 cu. yards), and dug out rocks, scrub trees, chunks of cement, and assorted junk. Most of the plants are obtained through the Minnesota Green - a program run by The Minnesota State Horticulture Society.�In 2007 our neighbor on the north side of the garden sold his property for an apartment development. About 20 feet of the garden would be lost. Hennepin County came to the rescue by preparing and area between Emerson Ave. So. and Fremont Ave. So. on the Greenway. Lhena's Garden was started. Plants were moved from the garden area being taken over by the development next to Vera's Garden, plus a rain garden was installed.�Plants and and hardscape materials have been donated by individuals from Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis Park, Edina, Richfield, Fridley, and Zimmerman.�Most of the work is now done by 3 volunteers with several youth groups, church groups, and other volunteers helping when larger projects come up.�The garden has received many awards over the years and was featured in a six page article in Better Homes and Garden's 'Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living' in 2006.

Vera’s Garden was started in April, 2001. It was the idea of several customers of Vera’s Café. We were having coffee one morning, talking about trying to get rid of plants we thinned from our home gardens. We looked out the window, and there, along the bike path, was a block long w**d patch. We decided that getting rid of the w**ds and planting some flowers would be a fun idea. �We received many donations over the years, but some of the biggest private donations were: �300 iris from a woman in Edina�Many phlox and daylilies from a woman in Richfield.�Rocks from a farm near Zimmerman.�Flagstone from a donor by Cedar Lake.�After we started the garden we found out about Minnesota Green which is program of the Minnesota State Horticulture Society. For a small fee, they find donations of plants and other things helpful to community gardens, and divide them up among it’s members. Most of the plants in the garden have been received through Minnesota Green.�The first years of building the garden – digging out rock, forming the paths, digging in compost, and digging out scrub trees – about 20 volunteers worked on the garden. The past few years we have had about half a dozen volunteers.

On July 16, 2016, Vera’s Garden was visited by a tour group from the Garden Bloggers Fling. There were about 60 in the tour group.

Vera’s Garden volunteers Donovan, Laura, Cynthia, and Gary were on hand to answer questions from the tour group. There were 6 other volunteers that helped on our work day. (Thanks to all of you!)

The Vera’s Garden volunteers worked extra hard all spring getting the garden in shape for the tour. We could not have done it without the Minnesota State Horticultures program, Minnesota Green and the donations from the wonderful people and businesses that made donations.

Attached are some pictures of the garden, volunteers, and tour group. Also attached is a trifold for the garden.

In the spring of 2001, several patrons of Vera’s Café (now closed) were discussing what to do with thinning from their home gardens. They looked out the window and noticed a block long w**d patch along the Midtown Greenway and decided it would be a good place for a small garden.
The Whittier Community, the Midtown Greenway Coalition, and the owners of the property, the Hennepin County Railroad Authority approved a plan for the garden. This process took one full year, as there were no guidelines for such a project.
On April 26, 2002, planting began in the garden with a group of shrubs being planted by the Garfield Ave. Bridge. The Hennepin County Tree Trust provided 56 yards of compost which was dug into the garden. Boulders were donated by the Minneapolis Sewer Department and from an employee of George Cook Construction (formerly located North of the garden.) We also joined Minnesota Green, a program of the Minnesota State Horticulture Society. Minnesota Green collects donations from individuals and businesses and distributes them to community projects. Most plants in the garden have been obtained through their generous donations.
In 2003, a donation of 350 iris and other plants were given by Diane Latham. She also made arrangements for Vera’s Garden to receive the leftovers from Washington County Horticulture Society’s spring and fall plant sales.
The garden has expanded from the original plan and had a great addition in the spring of 2003 when
the Hennepin County Tree Trust planted the grove of River Birch in the middle of the block. A bit of history, a large ‘klinker’ was added to the garden. It is from the old steam engines that used to run through the trench.
In 2004 a donation of fieldstone was received from a neighbor. We also received a bench, a butterfly garden, and several native shade plants for under the River Birch. We also received another large donation of boulders and perennials from a Whittier resident.
In the spring of 2006 issue of Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living, a special publication of Better Homes and Gardens, Vera’s Garden was featured in a six page article! The photo shoot was definitely a high point for the garden!
Vera’s Garden went through a large renovation in 2008 when Murals was built on the North side of the garden. About one third of the garden was lost to the construction. However, Murals has been a great neighbor, supplying us with a storeroom and with water.
Over the years, more perennial plants, shrubs, and trees have been added to the garden. However, the annuals are what keeps the color going all summer. Many are donated through Minnesota Green, but we still plant seeds to get more of a variety.
Each spring, before planting starts, the growth from the previous year has to be cleaned out of the garden. The garden needs a good w**ding several times a year. We also need help in planting the seeds and the plant donations from Minnesota Green and other donations.
Over the years, many businesses have contributed to the garden. Bailey Nurseries was one of the primary donors through Minnesota Green in the garden’s early years. We also received many donations of plants and rock from people who live in the neighborhood. We got many of our rocks from North of Anoka. We even received an offer of seeds from someone who visited the garden but lives in Paris, France (the seeds were not planted since they were from out of the country.)


Looking back on the history of Vera’s Garden!

Photos from Vera's Garden's post 11/07/2023

Vera's Garden founder Donovan Harmel came down to Vera's to say hello. There was still quite a bit blooming in November! He was very complimentary of all the efforts of Hennepin County Master Gardeners to maintain and improve the garden. We're both so glad the garden you created is still here after all the years.
Wonderful to catch up with you Donovan!


Before the apartment building was built.


Bumblebees are buzzing at Vera's! They really love the Bee Balm (Monarda 'Raspberry Wine') and Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).

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Videos (show all)

Bumblebees are buzzing at Vera's! They really love the Bee Balm (Monarda 'Raspberry Wine') and Meadowsweet (Filipendula ...
Vera's Garden in November
Garden Blogger's visit to Vera's Garden
Vera's Garden clean-up April 30, 2016
Vera's Garden, June 14, 2011
Vera's Garden 5/27/11
Vera's Garden, March 20, 2011
Although the gardens are covered with snow, I'm getting ready to start digging in a couple of months!  The construction ...
October morning in the garden.
Vera's Garden Sept. 30, 2010





2901 Lyndale Avenue So
Minneapolis, MN

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