Northern Wilds Magazine
Phase one construction of the NSH Serenity Garden began in August of 2020. Phase two will begin this spring. | SUBMITTED
Along the Shore

North Shore Health creates Serenity Garden

Until recently, a barren courtyard lay between the remodeled wings of the Hospital and Care Center at North Shore Health (NSH) in Grand Marais.

In 2019, a woman was visiting a NSH Care Center resident whose windows looked out onto the courtyard. The resident said, “I thought something was going to be done with that area.” The visitor was pondering her friend’s comment when she crossed paths with CEO Kimber Wraalstad. When asked about that empty space, Wraalstad said, “Let me tell you my vision.”

Wraalstad introduced the woman to Michelle Lewis, who studied environmental design and had worked at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Wraalstad asked if Lewis was interested in a project to transform the empty space. She said yes.

At a Care Partner meeting, the woman learned that Nancy Koloski, a fellow volunteer, belonged to the West End Garden Club. She invited Koloski to be part of the project. Koloski suggested that her neighbor Marilyn Morris might be interested. At a Grand Marais Garden Club meeting, Monica Anderson, an experienced local gardener, volunteered to join the group. The “Three M’s”—Marilyn, Michelle, and Monica—formed the “design team.”

In 2020, the Serenity Garden Committee (SGC) was formed, including Wraalstad and Chris Lange, NSH facilities director, Koloski, Mary Sanders, the “Three M’s” and Gerry Grant. They met monthly to plan projects, secure contractor bids and research grant possibilities.

North Shore gardeners can help by donating local plants from their own gardens, sticking with the preferred colors of whites, yellows, pinks, purples and blues. | SUBMITTED

After an on-site interview, the Lloyd K Johnson Foundation awarded a $60,000 grant. Local donations from the community and Serenity Garden Friends raised more than $30,000. And a Great Place Project grant recently awarded $1,250 to NSH for the garden.

Phase one construction began in August 2020. S&C Masonry & Concrete Co. contractor Rick Crawford and his crew were able to work on the “hardscape” including cement walkways, seating areas and a patio with a brick wall. The last cement was poured, leveled and brushed by September 15.

Phase two construction begins this spring. W.Labor will be bringing in topsoil, creating berms, planting trees and shrubs and placing decorative rocks. Three custom-made tamarack wooden benches created by local artisan Dave Seaton will be installed this summer.


North Shore gardeners can help the Serenity Garden by donating local plants from their own gardens that can be shared, divided or split. In keeping with the principle of “Serenity,” the preferred colors are whites, yellows, pinks, purples and blues. To ensure success the SGC is requesting perennial plants only from North Shore gardens. Please contact project manager Nancy Koloski at or by phone at (218) 663-0147 if you want to donate a plant or fund a shrub.

Another way to help the Serenity Garden is the “Pave the Way” campaign. A personalized paver brick can be purchased in memory of a loved one, as a tribute for a special person or to offer inspirational words. The bricks will be installed in the private seating area of the garden. For more information, please visit or contact Gerry Grant at (218) 387-4493.

By Kay Rosenthal

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