Back in 1996, the Star Tribune’s Home & Garden section tried something new — inviting readers to send in photos of their favorite gardens.

Readers responded — and a tradition was born.

By 1999, this summer ritual had a name — the Beautiful Gardens contest — with the winners showcased throughout the non-gardening season when Minnesotans are eager to look at something green and beautiful during the long winter months.

This annual contest has been one of our most popular and enduring features. Over the years, more than 130 gardens have been chosen Beautiful Gardens. We’ve featured tiny city plots where gardeners have made the most of their small urban spaces. We’ve featured sprawling country gardens with acreage to spare, where gardeners have created their own private arboretums. We’ve brought you Asian gardens, vegetable gardens, cottage gardens and sculpture gardens — we’ve seen and celebrated them all.

Once again we’re seeking the best residential gardens in Minnesota and western Wisconsin by asking readers to share their favorites.

And, as always, any type of garden can be a winner.

It’s easy to nominate a garden. Just send a brief description of the garden, where it’s located and who tends it — along with a few snapshots showing the garden in its glory.

A panel will review all nominees and choose several standouts. Those gardens will be visited by a reporter and photographer, and featured in the Sunday Homes section and online at

Send entries to: or to Star Tribune — Beautiful Gardens, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. We’ll accept entries through July 10.

Global influence

The garden of Jerry and Lee Shannon in St. Paul, featured in 2012, features specimens from all over the world.

Rural beauty

Debbie and Brad Young’s English country-style garden in Cokato was featured in 2018.

Urban serenity

This Minneapolis garden was featured in 2006. On a small city lot, Ted Bair and Harvey Filister created a formal garden with a pond, topiaries and cobblestone walkways. The couple has since moved to a downtown condo where Bair tends their balcony garden.

Al fresco flair

On a small Minneapolis lot, Frank Fitzgerald created the ultimate spot for summer entertaining. His garden, featured in 2018, includes an outdoor dining room featuring a custom table set on a brick “rug” and surrounded by a perfectly composed garden that looks like a Monet painting.

Alpine spirit

The koi pond is the centerpiece of Karen and Emery Koenig’s expansive garden in Waconia, featured in 2018. The couple’s garden was inspired by landscapes they experienced while living in Switzerland.

Stately air

A parterre, or knot garden, is one of the elements in the formal garden created by interior designer Brian Ellingson, featured earlier this year. Ellingson’s terraced backyard in Edina features dramatic structural elements and hardscaping, including fountains, statues and brick paths.

Hosta heaven

Mike and Kathy Pedersen’s Shakopee gardens, featured in 2016, include a collection of colorful perennials bordering a stream and pond. Hostas of many hues and textures are artfully layered to create a tapestry.

Urban oasis

Randy Ferguson lives in the heart of Minneapolis, but you wouldn’t know it from his serene backyard, which includes a large pond that was stocked with 100 fish the year his garden was featured in 2010. Ferguson still tends this garden, which is now even more lush and mature, he said.

Secluded jewel

Tom Hoch and Mark Addicks combined trees, plants and perennials to create a mini-version of the famed Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C., in their secluded Minneapolis backyard, featured in 2017.

Photogenic setting

Chuck and Petra Meinke’s parklike backyard in Apple Valley, featured in 2012, has been a popular backdrop for prom photos. The couple still tend this expansive garden.