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One-of-a-kind garden in central Minnesota highlights Ojibwe culture, sense of beauty

SANDSTONE, Minn. — This time of year, different plants and flowers are at their peak, and one of the most unique places to see them in bloom is at the Minnesota Goose Garden.

The garden in Sandstone boasts a one-of-a-kind design.

“That cottonwood right there is the highest part of the goose’s back,”  Sue Foss said .

From ground level you may not have any idea what Foss is talking about.

“This is the main spine of the goose right here,” Foss said. 

But from a bird’s-eye view, you see that her forest is shaped like a goose.

“I decided I would want a simple shape for it, and I would like it in the shape of a goose,” Foss said. 

It took a lot of planning to get it just right. She began growing her garden near Sandstone in 1989. She and her husband, Rod, planted over 500 different kinds of flowers, shrubs and trees to honor the Ojibwe people. 

“We have an adopted Ojibwe daughter and her name was Goose,” Foss said. “Ever since I was little girl I was fascinated by the culture.”

There’s over a mile of pathways through the goose and the gosling next to it. Plants and sculptures that Foss made herself are scattered throughout. Signs with descriptions are written in Latin, English and, of course, Ojibwe.

But the main attraction this time of year is the state flower.

“I come every year to look at the lady slippers,” said Linda Philipps, a visitor. “You don’t see them often, so here they’re in their natural element, and they’re gorgeous.”



It takes about 20 years before lady slippers bloom. The Ojibwe people gave them that name because they thought they looked like slippers.

“The plants you see over there are well over 100 years old,” Foss said. 

The flowers are at their peak for about a week-and-a-half, and then they fade. But they’re just one part of what’s happening here.

When Foss’ daughter died in 2016, she knew she wanted to make the garden a place Goose would be proud of.

“Her favorite words in the morning are, ‘I’ve got an idea,'” said Rod Foss, her husband. “We’ve been married for 57 years, and I’m amazed at her every day.”

Foss hopes that visitors gain an appreciation not just for her garden, but for the Ojibwe way of life.

“How they used nature and how they respected nature was a beautiful thing. And is a beautiful thing,” Foss said.

The Minnesota Goose Garden is open from Memorial Day weekend to October. It’s free to enter, though they do take donations.

Source: CBS Minnesota

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