HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Hello! Thanks for stopping by. Our names are Katie & Karl Kloos, and we love nature! You know those people who are always stopping to look at a tree, a flower, a bug or maybe they heard a strange bird call that they have to investigate? Our family and friends are probably chuckling right about now, because well…that’s us! We feel such a strong appreciation for nature and its future that we decided to start Northern Natural Gardens. We believe passionately that our style of natural gardens can help to restore the native ecosystems that once existed here in the Twin Cities.
Our love of nature has been strong since we were kids, but our passion for restoring it on a residential level took off when we bought our home. All of a sudden we owned a house and the land it sits on.
To give you a little background, when we started house hunting we were running a small wedding photography business out of our apartment in Saint Paul. We were working a crazy amount of hours, most of which were spent cooped up in our office editing photos. In that editing dungeon (as we so lovingly called it), we started dreaming of owning our own home with a magical yard that could be our private escape into nature.
It became a huge focus for us. Not a serious obsession, but…well…I guess, maybe it was a little bit. We started diving into everything garden related. Watching British gardening shows and discovering the amazing Monty Don (if you haven’t yet, go watch something of his on Netflix, you can thank us later), and reading or listening to podcasts about plants became the norm for us. For Karl though, it was something different. Karl already had 5 years of experience working for a conventional landscaping company and before that had a very strong passion for gardening that most likely was passed down from his parents. I (this is Katie speaking, by the way) on the other-hand was a bit more typical for my generation, and didn’t have any formal gardening experience. So Karl was already leaps ahead of me on this journey, and had some very specific ideas in mind when it came to how we would want to garden at this future home of ours.
He already had some general knowledge of native plants, and why they are important. I was much more interested in just creating something beautiful for us and wildlife to enjoy. If you have been following us on Instagram for a while, you may have read one of our older posts where I tell the story about how we would walk through our old neighborhood and chat about what we liked or disliked about each of the gardens we passed. There was one garden in particular that Karl was drawn to. He made the point to show it to me, and I can very clearly remember pointing to a plant and saying, “yeah I like this garden, but not that plant. It is ugly.” What plant was that? Well, it was Common Milkweed. I thought it looked like a weed and should not be in a residential garden. So, that is where I started on this journey. Karl then realized how much work he had in front of him, and started switching his focus from just “general gardening”, to “why native plants are important”. That is when everything changed!
From there we discovered two things that immediately got me 100% on board. The first was the documentary Minnesota: A History of the Land, and the second was Doug Tallamy’s lecture Restoring Nature’s Relationships at Home. The documentary (a five part series) just so happened to be airing on PBS while we were watching it. After catching the first episode, we made sure to tune in every Thursday so we could finish the rest of the series. I cannot say enough good things about it! Like the title says, it walks through the entire history of the land here in Minnesota, and paints a very realistic (and sometimes horrifying) picture of how we have dramatically altered this state. If you want to watch it, which if you live in Minnesota then you definitely should, then I would recommend you check to see if your local library as a copy - we have it here at the Roseville library. The documentary gave me enough of an understanding that something needs to change with our relationship to the land, and had me quickly accepting more of Karl’s ideas. Then he showed me Doug Tallamy.
I will never forget watching that first lecture of his. While we would edit photos, it was pretty common for us to have music, podcasts, or lectures playing in the background. By about the 5 minute mark, I realized we both had stopped editing and were completely enthralled by what he was saying. Suddenly my understanding of nature, it’s plants, animals, and insects and their relationship to one another had entirely changed! It was a lightbulb moment! That “ugly” Milkweed was now understood! Our native insects and native plants had evolved together and depend on each other in a way that non-native plants and our native insects never could.
Basically, from there, I told Karl I was in it and that whatever we had to do our future dream yard to help restore the balance between our missing native plants and endangered insects, was fine by me! So, by the time we were seriously looking at houses, we were scrolling past all the interior photos just so we could see what the yard looked like before we would consider it. We knew we wanted to live in the cities, but we also wanted enough of a yard to make an impact.
We eventually fell in love with a house (also in Saint Paul) and before our offer was even accepted, Karl had finished the design for our whole yard. It was so incredibly fitting that we were standing in that yard when we found out that our offer was accepted! We closed on our house in November, and that March we dug out the garden spaces, seeded with native plants, mulched with pine straw, and excitedly began waiting for the seeds to germinate. By that July, we had sea of yellow (Black-eyed Susans), and I just knew we were onto something different that could have a life-changing effect on us, our ecosystem, and hopefully other homeowners.
It was only a couple months later, that we understood just how true that was. Some of our family and friends had seen our space and asked us to do their own. That fall, we installed our second natural garden, and the following spring, we installed our third and fourth. Even though they were for people we knew, we were feeling incredibly optimistic that there had to be other people out there who were interested in helping nature and would be willing to give up some of their lawn or traditional gardens for the cause.
After 7 years of being wedding photographers, we decided to close the doors to our first business and take a chance at this new mission-based work. With our first growing season behind us, and in the midst of a fully-booked fall installation season, we are beyond excited for the future of Northern Natural Gardens, and all of the great change and beauty we can bring to Minnesota.
watching our garden grow
From that very first day we laid the seed for our native plants, we have found ourselves captivated by what nature can do all on its own. While we have been a helpful guide, our natural gardens have taken on a beautiful life of their own. We decide the borders of our gardens, where to cast the seeds and plant the trees, but ultimately the seeds will choose when and where to germinate and many factors go into where their plant successors will ultimately grow again and again, and again. Every year our seed bank grows and so does our love for our natural garden! We invite you to join in on the exciting journey!