Inside the home of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s new director
Many people dream of taking the gardens at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum home, but the Ed and Sandy Schneider are at home in the arboretum’s gardens – literally.
The new arboretum director and his wife moved into a home on the arboretum’s property in July when Ed started his new job. The house, which was built in the 1970s, was a part of the deal when Ed accepted the job, and he feels that it’ll play a key role in helping him grow support for the arboretum. “The concept behind the director’s home [was] that it would become a place to build friendships and cultivate donors for the future of the arboretum,” Ed says.
He and Sandy plan to entertain donors at the house, and they’ve already entertained colleagues and an international visitor to the arboretum and hosted a fundraiser and an open house for arboretum employees. Ed refers to the house as Westcliff—a counterpart to Eastcliff in St. Paul where the president of the University of Minnesota lives.
The Schneider’s new residence was built by the Russell family in the 1970s on land adjacent to the arboretum. In 2000, the arboretum made a deal with the Russells to purchase the home and the land it sits on by 2010. The Russells happened to be moving out of the house around the time that Ed and Sandy were planning to move to Minnesota. Arboretum staff worked to prepare the residence, painting the rooms and preparing the grounds.
Although the home has been dubbed Westcliff, it still remains a modest rambler with a walk-out basement. While Eastcliff is a mansion, boasting 20 rooms and 10,000 square feet, Westcliff is much more humble in nature—but it’s the location that counts. During a recent visit, deer ambled through the yard, while cardinals perched on nearby bird feeders. The Schneiders say they’ve noticed a lot of wild life, including skunk, turkeys, geese and fox.
They’ve also got a few of Minnesota’s best gardeners working on their lawn. An arboretum employee creates seasonal displays for their entrance, with pots of annuals and hanging baskets in the summer and pumpkins and gourds in the winter. This summer, they plan to let the prairie land extend further into their yard and to let the small woodlands around their house encroach a bit more. They also hope to add some cutting gardens and perhaps a vegetable garden.
Living in a home that’s not quite their own comes naturally to Ed and Sandy — the couple’s previous home was owned by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in California, where Ed worked. “We think of it as the arboretum’s home,” Sandy says. “And we’re fortunate enough to be living here.”
Before moving to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Ed spent 18 years as the director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and Sandy worked in nonprofits for 11 years. In May of 2009, tragedy struck when the Jesusita wildfire scorched 60 acres out of the botanic garden’s 85 acres of land. The core part of the garden and main buildings made it through the fire, but two structures were completely destroyed, including the horticultural building and the home where Ed and Sandy had been living. “We grabbed what we could when we were told to evacuate,” Ed says, including sure their 11-year-old Shih Tzu dog, Dali, and their parakeet, Shady Blue.
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