Lush gardens aren't what lure most folks to the State Fair. But along with the Ferris wheel, ostrich-on-a-stick and the butterheads, the fairgrounds boast some truly gawk-worthy gardens -- from simple planters of ornamental grasses to elaborate water gardens with streams, waterfalls, fountains and ponds.
1. MINNESOTA WATER GARDEN SOCIETY
This large, expertly designed garden slopes down from the north side of the AgHort Building. Its two streams tumble into a large pond filled with several types of lilies (some of which should be in bloom), sunburst lotus and taro plant. A Minnesota-hardy mix of phlox, milkweed, Russian sage, aster and ornamental evergreens ring the water garden. Don't miss the dwarf weeping Jack pine.
Location: Underwood Street and Carnes Avenue
Best for: Grab a seat on one of the boulder benches and watch the exodus from the Food Building.
2. BEVER and Sons Landscaping
Nestled between the Education and 4-H buildings, this multilevel water garden makes for a surprisingly calm retreat. Its boulder-lined ponds, well-tended mature plants (cattails, sumacs, hydrangeas and ornamental grasses), gazebo and arched wooden bridge might just fool you into thinking you've been transported to a garden party in Eden Prairie. Don't worry: The pervasive smell of pronto pups will bring you back.
Location: Cosgrove Street between Dan Patch and Wright avenues.
Best for: A quiet rest far from the madding crowds.
Continue our State Fair garden tour, page H6
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3. MINNESOTA STATE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
This partly sunny, partly shady garden has it all: a waterfall, two streams that empty into a pond, two pondless waterfalls and a bubbling boulder. In the sun, look for sage, sedums and late-blooming geraniums, catmints and black-eyed Susans. Ferns, coral bells, ligularia and an assortment of hostas grow in the shade of the southwest side of the AgHort Building.
Location: Underwood Street and Judson Avenue
Best for: Seating is limited, so ignore the screams from the Haunted House and take a leisurely garden stroll.
4. GRANDSTAND PLAZA
Though not an official garden, this amphitheater-style plaza is ringed with colorful raised planting beds. The lineup of plants (petunias, hosta, coneflower, daylilies, blazing star) isn't exotic, but the linear effect is striking. Grab an ear of roasted corn from the booth across the street and sit a spell.
Location: East side of grandstand
Best for: A quick (though shadeless) break before you hit the Midway.