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!

wrapping up 2020

This year, despite everything, our extended CPP community did an amazing job getting thousands of native plants in the ground, making a home for wild nature in the city and building connections with each other. Here are some pics highlighting our hopeful moments in a very tough year.

  1. We grew 100 species of native plants from seed, took care of them all summer, and made them into garden kits.

2. More than 50 neighbors in Corcoran, Phillips, and beyond adopted these kits–totaling about 6,000 plants!–and used them to create new pollinator gardens, or to expand existing pollinator gardens.

3. We also partnered with Metro Blooms and CNO on a Lawns to Legumes demonstration neighborhood grant, which provided professionally-designed pollinator gardens along with native trees and shrubs to 30 residents of Corcoran and Phillips. The grant included funds for a brand new pollinator garden tool library (including a sod cutter!) housed in CNO that will be available starting in 2021.

4. In a freaky coincidence, towards the end of the summer we found a nest of endangered rusty patched bumblebees in the steps of Daniel’s new house. This is one of only a few rusty patched nests ever found in MN. UMN Bee Lab scientists were able to observe the nest to gain crucial conservation knowledge about the species.

5. By November it was time to mix up a batch of potting soil to start seeds for next year. We’re using space at Squash Blossom Farm to start the seeds once again.

6. For 2021 we’re focusing on short-statured and early-blooming species, as well some interesting trees and shrubs like prairie wild rose, bladdernut, and wafer ash (seeds pictured above). We got lots of seed from Prairie Moon using L2L grant funds, and we also collected some seed from mature gardens we’ve planted in the last few years, from the demonstration gardens at the Bee Lab, and from seed collecting days with The Prairie Enthusiasts.

As I write this, these seeds are starting their journey to becoming beautiful plants that will feed and shelter our insect buddies and provide all manner of quantifiable and unquantifiable benefits to our lives. We can look forward to lots more planting soon.

xo SN

Brown-belted bumble bee (Bombus griseocollis) on meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis). (Thanks to Elaine Evans for bee ID)

CPP summer 2020 update

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CPP is composed of friends and neighbors who care about the world and want to contribute to the flourishing of life in our corner of south Minneapolis. We had been ramping up for a huge gardening season this year, but of course we’ve found our priorities shifting and our capacity to think about gardening limited in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, which occurred just a mile from Corcoran neighborhood. We have been plugging into many different community efforts and thinking and talking about how this group can contribute to environmental justice in the short and long term.

This year we are partnering with Metro Blooms and Corcoran Neighborhood Organization to offer pollinator garden installation help and plants in Phillips neighborhood in addition to Corcoran. We’ll be creating a pollinator tool library at the CNO community garden so that anyone can install their own garden, and will be offering free workshops with professional designers to everyone in the neighborhood. Folks who live in Phillips or Corcoran can sign up here. This expanded set of offerings is enabled by the Lawns to Legumes neighborhood demonstration grant which we received this year in parnership with Metro Blooms and CNO.

In the meantime, the thousands of plants that we planted this winter continue to grow.

 

We are growing lots of exciting prairie and woodland species, including quite a few plants that are listed as threatened or of special concern in Minnesota, including rattlesnake master, wild petunia, muskingum sedge, Illinois bundlefloweryellow pimpernel, and wild quinine.

seed starting!

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Last weekend, 14 of us convened at Squash Blossom Farm to start about 7,000 native plants that we will use to create new pollinator gardens next summer.

First we filled the trays with a mix of compost, pine fines, pearlite, and vermiculite.

Then we added seeds. We mapped out eight different tray designs for different environmental conditions (sunny/shady and wet/medium/dry), with 10 species in each 50-cell tray. This will let us have a ready-to-plant “garden” in each tray. Some of the seeds are seeds we collected in the neighborhood and some are seeds we bought from Prairie Moon Nursery.

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We put the filled trays outside to stratify for the winter. We will bring them back into the greenhouse in the early spring to give the plants a little head start to hopefully grow big enough to transplant by June.

Thanks so much to everyone who came! And to Laura G. for boss soil mixing and photo-taking and Susan W. and Roger N. for donating the space and making us lunch!

garden #33

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This past Saturday an intergenerational team dug up a chunk of Angel and Joel’s boulevard and installed 18 species of prairie plants, including some of the more unusual plants that we grew from seed this winter like the super-showy large-flowered beardtongue, (Penstemon grandiflorus) and some great St. Johnswort (Hypericum pyramidatum) that we received from our friend and neighbor Bill B. These two species are unrelated, but both have opposite, pointy leaves and large, pointy seed pods and can look similar to each other when not in flower. The St. Johnswort typically likes moister soil than the beardtongue, but since it’s hard to tell which plants will thrive in a boulevard, we’ve erred on the side of trying lots of stuff and seeing what happens.

 

garden #32

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On Saturday we resumed garden installations with an install at David’s house.

We planted 18 species including some of the plants we started from seed this winter, plus Bee Lab donations and some large anise hyssop and false sunflower donated by local nursery Pollinator Works (thanks, PW!).

Our fall season actually began last Wednesday with a tour of all the gardens we’ve planted in the last three years, organized in collaboration with our local Wild Ones chapter. Here’s a picture of garden superheros Ben and Jeanell and kiddos, who helped with the tour and volunteered their backyard to house lots of plants for CPP. (Nice shirts, right?)

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Thanks everyone who organized, hosted, and attended the tour!

garden #31

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On July 9 we had our largest (and steepest!) installation to date at Charlie’s house, which has an un-mowable hill of a front yard that we planted to become a native wildflower meadow. The timing for this large installation was great since we’re taking a break for the rest of July but had a lot of plants that needed to get in the ground, including native grasses, asters, milkweeds, bee balms, and sunflowers.

A mighty crew of 10 people knocked out the whole install in 2 hours. As we wrapped up, a huge bumble bee auspiciously buzzed through to check things out. We’ll have some goodies here next year, bee!