Shelterwood Gardens: Our Story

Shelterwood is part growing native plants, part education, and a way to experience the world. What I love about native plants is the surprise they bring to the landscape -a community of plants that is ever changing. Of course, native plant communities are also the best way to support all the wildlife that inhabit our spaces. We are at an inflection point in the design of home landscapes. 

The home building industry creates lawns because they are easy to install on a scraped home site. This is a matter of mastery and efficiency -in other words, contractors do not need to acquire new knowledge to accomplish their economic tasks. New home buyers are okay with it because the lawn is ubiquitous and so thoroughly represents order in the social universe that there is little need to question it. If you are reading this, you are likely to have crossed the threshold into the space of uncertainty and learning that is the world of native plant gardens and landscapes.

Shelterwood is more than a nursery. It is also a place in the woods, an intersection of culture and nature. We are working with the Minnesota Land Trust and Hennepin County to conserve our parcel for as long as there is a legal entity that can enforce its conservation. We have plans to develop an arts residency on site -a studio or two in the woods. If you would like to contribute to this effort, in any way, please reach out. The connection between the arts and our place in the natural world is millennia old. As our people become more urban and technology-focused, it has become essential to give culture-bearers space in nature to think, create, and remind.

I am an artist by training and profession. I also manage photography programs at the MN Landscape Arboretum, mentor and teach drawing and photography at MCAD, and am a member of Minneapolis-based cooperative gallery Rosalux. In the past I've held a variety of positions in academia and non-profits, gardening to construction, and even had a run as a garden and landscape blogger and garlic farmer.

My wife is the sculptor Betsy Alwin. She grew up working at her mother's nursery growing several native species and most uniquely, native orchids sold at the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. She is a descendant of a line of nursery owners, including her grandfather Guy Bush who patented Minnesota Snowflake, the cold-hardy Double Mock Orange. Her father also had a small nursery on his third generation family homestead in Mound. It is from there, before it went under the bulldozer, that we acquired some of our ephemeral propagation stock.

Thank you for visiting.
Owner, Shelterwood Gardens

Early spring in the woods