Local couple create back yard sanctuary of peace, love, joy

Pockets of serene tranquility line the Johnsons’ backyard. Rumbling highway traffic muffles the Mississippi River’s gurgling waters streaming within a stone’s throw of the Coon Rapids property.

Tim and Linda Johnson pose in their Coon Rapids garden – a living sanctuary of peace, love and joy. A gazebo – custom built and designed by Tim – anchors the southwest corner of the garden. Photos by Sue Austreng

Tim and Linda Johnson pose in their Coon Rapids garden – a living sanctuary of peace, love and joy. A gazebo – custom built and designed by Tim – anchors the southwest corner of the garden. Photos by Sue Austreng

But hundreds of flowering plants, decades-old trees towering to the skies and dozens of singing birds and fluttering butterflies make Tim and Linda Johnson’s yard a living, breathing sanctuary of peace, love and joy.

“It’s such a miracle – every spring under the snow and mulch, up comes the color and life. We are truly blessed,” said Linda.

When Tim and Linda moved in to their rental house two years ago, the barren land held little promise of that blessed miracle of life.

“The back yard was pretty bleak when we got here. Nothing but trees, a couple of lilacs and dirt,” Tim said, emphasis on “dirt.”

And so, with the wholehearted permission from the homeowner, Tim and Linda put hands and feet to the vision of beauty and life they dreamed could inhabit the yard.

Transplanting 30 pots of hostas from their former home in Brooklyn Park, Linda paid homage to her late father, a diligent and prolific backyard farmer in his own right.

Soon the Johnsons erected a trellis, positioned statuaries and bird houses, built a gazebo and installed seven fountains.

Of course, the Johnsons also dug in and planted a couple of hundred varieties of plants to boost the evolution of the backyard garden.

“Having a beautiful garden is like having a brand new baby. You never quit with tender loving care taking care every day,” said Linda.

And, like the ever-so-attentive parents of a newborn baby, Tim and Linda can name every flower and plant, every tree, every bird and animal that makes its home in their yard.

“Trees, we have oak and basswood, some pines, a few maple trees and a mulberry tree,” said Tim.

Growing along with the hostas are black-eyed Susans, hollyhocks, roses, morning glories, petunias, wisteria and zinnias.

“I’ve never seen zinnias grow taller than me, but they have,” said Linda, reaching to cup a pink zinnia in the palm of her hand.

While providing beauty and color, the garden sanctuary bids a gentle greeting to birds and animals seeking shelter and rest or looking for a peaceful place to rest.

“We’ve seen pileated woodpeckers, cardinals and grosbeaks, indigo bunting, yellow-rumped  warblers, robins …” said Tim.

“And we nested two batches of baby wrens,” Linda said.

The Johnsons’ garden also sets the stage for passing turkeys and deer, a red fox and a few raccoons, too.

The Johnsons seem to be the perfect gardening team – Tim, the chief landscaper and woodworker; Linda, the plant and flower lady.

But when they met more than 38 years ago, Tim and Linda had no idea they shared a love of gardening.

“We met because we’re both musicians. I sing and Tim plays classical guitar,” said Linda.

It wasn’t until after the wedding and a second house that the Johnsons discovered their mutual love of gardening.

“When we got our second house, we looked at each other and said, ‘We have a yard!’ and when we got started gardening, we knew we had a God-given talent between Tim and I,” said Linda.

And now, even though they both have full time jobs, the Johnsons devote dozens of hours each week, cultivating and nurturing their backyard garden.

“We just love being out here. We love the mixture of different kinds of plants and statuary. We love the hidden areas and the quiet peace,” Linda said, exchanging a smile with Tim. “It’s such a blessing to have this, and we love it so much.”


Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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