By Kate Klimesh,
Kevan Klosterwill is the Landscape Designer for Bluffside Gardens, a resort now being built just off Highway 9 on the edge of Decorah. Its first phase is slated to open in July of this year, and reservations can be made now at www.bluffsidedecorah.com.
The resort will offer cabins with several special garden features accessible to all guests, as well as unique perennial horticultural spaces for each cabin. The hope is to grow a kind of botanical garden for Decorah, creating a sustainable tourism destination showcasing many different planting schemes, and featuring some of the unique plants and trees that call the Midwest home.
Klosterwill summed it up, “Here we’re trying to celebrate what makes the Driftless the Driftless. It is also what a public space could be, a space to wander through and be curious and occasionally delighted – what has historically been referred to as a ‘pleasure ground.’ It invites you to look around and experience the landscape fully, which modern active recreational sports fields or utilitarian trails often fail to offer.”
Klosterwill is currently working on several garden spaces tuned to the microclimates of the site, which when fully planted will include:
Wildflower and native plantings along the hillside to the highway. The prairie zone was inspired by Dutch perennial gardener Piet Oudolf, known regionally for his plantings at the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago, where bold drifts of color and evocative varieties create lush spaces.
A Permaculture-inspired Food Forest, to include ethnobotanically significant fruit trees and nut trees, as well as perennial berry bushes and groundcover plants and vegetables.
A sheltered courtyard will feature varieties of flowering trees and shrubs hardy in the region, including redbuds, rhododendrons, mountain laurel and hydrangea lining a circular lawn. These more temperate plantings will get added sun while being protected from harsh winds.
A fountain is inspired by the region’s limestone springs anchoring an event-lawn available for weddings, and wrapped with a collection of rhododendrons, magnolias and other unique species of plants native to Eastern North America. Adjacent to the courtyard, a canopy of Eastern White Pine, yucca, sandcherry and low-growing junipers creates an airy, drier feeling which contrasts with the lush, broad-leafed plantings around the circle.
A pond taking advantage of a low-lying area on the site is planned to include trees and native plants for an attractive and utilitarian garden feature. This will also act as a rain garden to collect, then slowly disperse, rainwater.
Reforestation is taking place around the site’s border to replace the invasive buckthorn and garlic mustard that currently dominates. Over time, as shade trees grow up, these will be planted with native wildflowers and ephemerals. This space, once fenced, will provide a refuge for this unique component of the Driftless flora, which is often outcompeted and overbrowsed by deer. These gardens, too, will grow and change season to season.