In 1922, when the Residence's sunroom was enlarged, a simple stone terrace was added. A concrete terrace off the sunroom was constructed around 1966, and a matching sidewalk looped around the yard. In the 1980s, the terrace was built to its present appearance, and a brick walkway was constructed.
The Irvines threw fancy parties in their backyard, and set up canopies and Japanese lanterns. They also constructed a temporary platform for the orchestra. One dance party went on late into the night. When a neighbor sent the police over, Clotilde came down the stairs in her robe and invited the office in for coffee. She charmed him, and the party continued. During a small outdoor dinner party, Tom Irvine hid the sprinkler underneath the dining table, and surreptitiously turned the water on while everyone was seated.
Governors use the terrace to host large parties. The wedding receptions for the children of Governors Rudy Perpich and Arne Carlson were hosted here.
A large tent is used to shade the terrace during the warmer months. The tent over the patio was built for the Residence by Olympic Tent in Washington. It is 30 feet by 40 feet and was donated by the 1006 Summit Avenue Society. The 1006 Society also purchased the chandeliers for the tent and the patio furniture.
The east porch, a favorite of Mrs. Irvine’s during the summertime, features a red Spanish tile floor and a beam-and-panel ceiling similar to the solarium. The light fixtures are wrought iron from the early 20th century. From here the sounds of the fountain can be heard through the screens, and this space remains a popular room for relaxation. Weather permitting, it is also wonderful place for receiving guests and hosting breakfast meetings.
Like the interior spaces on this property, the gardens and landscaping have undergone many changes over the past century. The tension between functionality and formality has played out here too, with the balance shifting between governors. These changes speak to what the governor's family's personal needs and desires are, as well as to the popularity of certain values in our state.
Initially, architect William Channing Whitney also developed a design for the grounds. His proposed garden was formal in style and contained a rose garden, pergola, gazebo, statuary, seats, sundial, and annual and perennial flowerbeds. The Irvines chose not to implement his plan but they were influenced by his ideas.
They constructed a formal garden in the center of the yard and an arbor across the back of the property with a small, sunken reflecting pool and concrete column pergola located at the center of the back edge of the property. There was a sundial and benches. There was a vegetable garden for a brief period, and clothesline. The lawn was very flat. The plants were typical of the era; shaped evergreens, iris, an edging hedge, cosmos around the sundial, rose garden, and fanciful weeping trees.
The current garden plan, installed in 1980, was designed as a formal axial garden. The terrace, brick walkways and fountain were added at that time. In the center of the fountain are two cupids, called "putti." They were fabricated in France in 1850, and believed to be from the same foundry as the Statue of Liberty. They have a bronze lead finish, weigh 100 pounds each and are three feet tall.
The yard and garden continue to change. In 2011, a new kitchen garden was created that features heirloom varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs. All plant material was donated by the Crow River Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association, Nature's Nest Farm, and Riverbend Organic Farm. The raised beds were installed by Boy Scout troop 358 as a member's Eagle Scout project.
A perennial garden and water feature are located in the northeast corner of the backyard. A fern glen and water pond was installed during the 1970s, and has been integrated into the present design.
The Residence groundskeeper has been working with local horticulture societies to enhance the gardens with Minnesota grown lilies, peonies, roses, and hostas. Throughout the grounds are flowers donated by the North Star Lily Society, Bailey Nurseries, and Minnesota Peony Society. In honor of the two sisters who donated the home, the 1006 Society donated two plants named after them. The Clothilde Rose is located in the Rose Garden and the Olivia Peony is located in the perennial garden.
The Children's Garden was created by Susan Carlson in 1993, inspired by the Children's Garden at the White House. The garden of plants and flowers surrounds a lily pond, stocked with koi, and a path that follows the south and east perimeter of the garden. Placed along the path are ornamental stones with plaques commemorating all the children who have lived at the Residence, starting with the Irvines through the current day. Minnesota artist Doug Forsberg created "Carl," a bronze statue of a small boy on a bicycle, which sits alongside the Children's Garden.
Throughout the years, the yard and gardens have been altered to better suit the inhabitants' needs. The Irvines used the back yard for family games such as croquet. Croquet was still a fairly new back-yard activity at the turn of the century, having roots in Victorian England. Croquet was one of the first outdoor sports to have men and women play together, and was particularly popular on the east coast and with the upper class.
When the house was transferred to the state, the yard continued to be used for both private and official events. The Andersons had a tire swing and the children rode their bikes and go-carts on the paths. The Carlsons enjoyed hosting casual get-togethers in the back yard, especially barbeques. Governor Dayton's dogs enjoy running in the open spaces. For a brief time, the Andersons had goats that were seen cavorting in the gardens.