Home & Design | A Storybook Garden

A profusion of colorful flowers, blooming vines, and textural shrubs flanks the winding sidewalk leading to the pink cotton candy–colored front door of Sandy Mangel’s enchanting 1913 bungalow. It’s no wonder the neighborhood kids call it “the Cinderella House.”

For more than 40 years, Mangel and her mother owned Two’s Company, a design studio and retail shop, just blocks away. Now retired, Mangel still takes the occasional design job but lately has added Master Gardener to her résumé, which seems a mere formality. You only need to step into her dreamy front yard to see she knows what she’s doing.

When Mangel and her husband, Doug, first bought the home 52 years ago in the East Harriet neighborhood of Minneapolis, there was only a swatch of sunshine along the back fence where she tended some roses. “No one was really gardening in their front yard at the time, just trees and shrubs…maybe a little circle of flowers,” she says. She thinks that as people became more knowledgeable about what can be grown in Minnesota beyond peonies and lilacs, the practice became more acceptable and accessible. 

It was her affinity for color that led her to the east-facing front yard; she wanted those bright-sun-loving blooms. “I love color in my design work,” she says. Pink is her signature shade. The garden is a pleasing palette of that hue, from palest shell to bright raspberry, along with compatible hues of yellow, lavender, purple, and blue. The garden has evolved through the years as her ideas blossomed and changing sunlight allowed more planting opportunities. She uses everyday perennials and shrubs—lilies, roses, heliopsis, phlox, bee balm, hydrangeas, and hostas—to extraordinary effect. Clematis climb high on a number of wrought-iron obelisks. Evergreen trees like hemlock and spruce add punctuation and whimsy.

Mangel’s aesthetic stays the same whether it’s interior or exterior—the hallmark of her home designs and garden schemes is a layered look. She uses plants of varying heights to maximize vertical space and visual interest. All of her plantings are skirted with ground covers or low-growing annuals. 

Most mornings, you can find Mangel weeding, watering, and chatting with passersby who call out their appreciation—“Love your garden,” “This livens my walk,” “Your garden brightens my day”—to which Mangel says, “It gives me great joy to have the garden and have people love it as much as I do.”

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