fresh start 2021

After something of an interruption in our normal CPP programming (see posts from 2020), CPP will be back this year, likely with several changes in format.

First, a little check-in on some gardens that we planted in 2017-2019.

A lot of CPP gardens planted in the last few years are looking really good! These pictures are from a quick walk around the neighborhood on May 26. Lots of plants have established well and will be looking spectacular in a couple weeks when summer blooming takes off. I am seeing a few bare spots, where a garden might benefit from additional plants (we’ve got tons of plants to distribute for this purpose this summer), as well as a few gardens that are already getting crowded or where one species (ahem, golden Alexanders) is trying to take over, where the garden might benefit from some thinning.

One gap that I noticed is that a lot of gardens are chock-full of midsummer and late summer blooming plants, but are lacking early bloomers that are so important for bumble bees as they start nesting in the spring. Plants like Jacob’s ladder, columbine, baptisia, wild lupine, Virginia waterleaf, Virginia bluebell, wild geranium, prairie smoke, pussytoes, and Canada anemone would be awesome to add wherever we can. The photo above shows a beautiful combination of the early bloomers golden Alexanders and large-flowered penstemon.

Large-flowered penstemon in full bloom (photo by Jim Proctor)

Another gap I’m noticing is grasses and sedges. Several more-experienced botanists and landscape designers have talked about the usefulness of grasses and sedges to regulate the competition in a perennial planting and provide textural contrast (they also have direct benefits to pollinators). Last summer I got my eyes reset when I did a botanical survey in a remnant prairie–there are so many beautiful species of grasses and sedges in the prairie, and their presence under the prairie flowers doesn’t need to detract from the density of blooms. Many of prairie grasses are clump-forming and low-statured, so they don’t look out of place even in a garden that’s trying to be somewhat formal.

Junegrass blooming in a boulevard garden surrounded by other prairie plants.

In my garden the junegrass is blooming, and it looks so beautiful. This plant stays short and upright with delicate leaves and fluffy flowerheads. Other grass species that we’ve been experimenting with the last few years include prairie dropseed, little bluestem, side-oats grama, blue grama, and bottlebrush grass. This year I’ve also got a flat started of the distinctive porcupine grass, which has hard, leathery, ribbon-like leaves.

One other thing I wanted to mention in this post is jumping worms. CPP started via the sharing of plants from established gardens. Unfortunately, we’ve got to start being way more careful about this practice now that invasive jumping worms have arrived in Minneapolis. These worms are super destructive in gardens as well as natural areas, causing so much soil disturbance that they uproot plants and create entire bare areas. We definitely do not want to spread them by sharing plants with contaminated soil. Luckily our friends at Wild Ones have been sharing lots of resources about how to identify jumping worms and how to keep from spreading them. For more info, check out the Wild Ones presentations on jumping worms.

Finally, a couple pictures of baby plants that are to be planted this summer. We are growing about 50 species this year and also were able to get 8 garden kits using leftover funds from our Lawns to Legumes grant. Don’t you want to add some to your garden?

That’s all for now, please get in touch with questions, comments, requests, or to volunteer. Happy summer!