The Garden of Bob and Karen Olson
St. Louis Park, Minnesota
     A beautifully designed 2006 addition to the house created massive construction upheaval and necessitated a revision of Bob and Karen Olson’s garden for the third time in the past 25 years. A limestone wall rises from a new bluestone patio to a garden filled with colorful annuals and small hostas cascading over the edge.
    “We never divide our hostas,” Bob says. This necessitates rearranging, revising and sometimes even removing to maintain the lovely balance found in this typical-size urban yard. Over 250 varieties of hosta grow here. Many are readily available from garden centers, while others are extremely rare, gathered in the wilds of Japan with the aid of professional plant hunters.

Karen and Bob Olson

       Bob points out the huge echinops (globe thistle) plants from his mother’s garden, the twisted old lilac bush in the corner, elegantly trimmed to perfection by Karen, and three of his favorite plants, which he says were gifts from special friends. “They cost me nothing but they are very dear.” They include Hosta ‘Ground Sulphur’, ‘Brazen Hussy’ and ‘Margrit Anna’.
   The Olsons expand their garden with pots filled with lilies, perennials, annuals and even hostas. This beautiful space is an inspiration to every gardener faced with the challenge of gardening in a typical urban setting.

Garden Tour Photos

My Visit: Duane Hurlbert
Howard, Ohio, US

   It is my great honor to give you a glimpse of Bob Olson’s magnificent gardens. We arrived bright and early; the sky was clear blue, and we were promptly met by our host, who led us around the side of the house to where we could see hints of the horticultural bounty on which we were about to feast.
   The hosta that we met at the back corner of the house was a mammoth clump of Hosta ‘Golden Sculpture’[1], and it was simply majestic. I then noticed that not just this hosta, but all of Bob’s hosta were big, mature clumps-no little three or four eye specimens here! Since he has a limited area, Bob decided long ago to grow fewer hosta, but grow them as perfectly and beautifully as possible. These clumps are not divided, and they were beyond beautiful!
   As Bob took us on tour he named each hosta from memory and told us just how it came to be there. I have always loved the hosta hypoleuca[2], and he has one that he collected from the wild in Japan! I can only imagine the thrill of hunting hosta out in the countryside! There was a superb clump of ‘Brazen Hussy’[3], complete with colorful bloomscapes, as you went around the back corner of the garden.
   Large hostas were not the only members of the family present in Bob’s garden. He also had many mature clumps of smaller cultivars. These were placed near the front for easier viewing. One of them was ‘Green with Envy’[4]; this was thirty-three inches across and beginning to bloom. Just down the way there was ‘Ground Sulphur’[5] and ‘Moon Lily’[6], all but glowing in the garden.

   Among all the beautiful hosta were perennial and annual plantings, such as lilies in full bloom, two huge clumps of globe thistle[7] from Bob’s mother’s garden, one on each side of the yard, and several wax begonias with their stunning blooms. There were other perennials like bee balm (Monarda), ferns, and small grasses.
   There were also many hostas growing in pots, full pots that is. He had a beautiful specimen of ‘Dorothy Benedict’ in one of those many portable gardens, along with an excellent specimen of ‘Titanium’. The pots were all around the beautiful stone patio, bordered with rugged stone walls.  The walls provided a backdrop for the patio and even more hosta, like ‘Byakko’[8], glowing with perfection.
   There were hosta from almost any source you can think of in this handsomely maintained yard. On the opposite corner from ‘Golden Sculpture’ was a massive, two hosta clump of ‘Treasure’ and ‘King Tut’, providing an artistic balance and symmetry to this manicured hosta library that fits around the Olson’s home like an emerald necklace with colorful accent jewels.
   Bob is so taken with our hosta ‘disease’ that he has successfully transmitted the ‘highly contagious disease’ to one of his neighbors two doors down the street. His name is Brad Stitt, and he too has made a very beautiful garden, based on our wonderful plant. Hosta can start many friendships, just as it has for Bob Olson and my family. 

Editors Note: Not long after this garden tour Karen Olson passed away. Our staff extends its condolences to Bob and their daughters in their loss.  

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