Welcome, MSR readers, to a new section you will see appear regularly in these pages, something we call Green2Green. Most of you by now have heard of the green movement to clean up our planet, stop the waste of precious natural resources, and get climate change under control. What is not always clear is just what this movement means to each one of us in our everyday lives. Nor is it always clear how this movement includes environmental justice issues of particular concern to communities of color. And finally, it is not always clear how the green movement can also save us green, as in Benjamin green, and is creating new opportunities for productive careers. We hope to clarify much of this for our readers in the stories that will appear in Green2Green in the months ahead. So slip on your green-tinted glasses and learn what this movement means to you and your family today as we make the world safe and healthy for the generations of tomorrow.
On Saturday, June 1, from 9 am — 3 pm in the Rainbow Foods Community Pavilion on the corner of Larpenteur and Fernwood in Roseville, the Landscape Revival: Native Plant Expo and Market will offer gardeners one convenient location to shop for Minnesota native plants from 11 local native growers and learn how to use the plants from eight conservation organizations.
Accessory products such as organic compost, rain barrels and native plant seed will also be for sale. The goal of Landscape Revival is to promote the use of native plants by educating about their benefits for wildlife habitat, pollinators and water quality. The event is sponsored by the Saint Paul Audubon Society, Wild Ones and Blue Thumb.
Why native plants? Plants considered “native” to Minnesota are ones that were present during the time of the public land survey which began in 1847. These plants have been growing and adapting to Minnesota’s particular conditions for a very long time and because of this, they seldom need watering, mulching or protection from frost once they’re established. Minnesota gardeners like the easy care of native plants, but these plants also provide a buffet of nectar, pollen and seeds for insects, butterflies and birds.
With 30 percent of our food dependent on pollinating insects (like tomatoes, almonds, blueberries, broccoli and apples), gardeners can help shore up dwindling pollinator habitat by planting a diversity of flowering plants and shrubs. Not only do they often require lots of maintenance to survive, many common horticultural plants do not produce nectar.
These cultivated varieties of plants are bred for traits like more flowers or a particular color, but this makes them less attractive to wildlife. “We’ve made survival difficult for wildlife by taking up so much of the natural world with human development,” said Val Cunningham, local nature writer and bird enthusiast. “It’s time to start looking at our landscapes as mini-wildlife refuges by planting native plants. Our yards can be beautiful and support the natural world at the same time.”
Wet and wild in cities, rainwater runs over streets and sidewalks picking up street pollutants like leaves, trash and soil on its way to storm drains, which goes untreated to our lakes and rivers. Polluted runoff directed into rain gardens or other planted areas soaks into the ground through channels in the soil created by native plant roots. Deep and spreading root systems hold soil in place to prevent erosion, and, along with soil, actually work to filter and break down many types of runoff pollution.
“Native flower and shrub roots help stop erosion because they hold soil in place,” says Bob Fossum of Capitol Region Watershed District, a local organization working to protect lakes and the Mississippi River. “Roots also do double duty by cleaning and filtering pollution out of storm water as it soaks downward.”
Much can be said of the beauty of native plants — the vibrant early spring Virginia bluebells and bellwort (in photos above), followed by late spring delicacy of Ohio spiderwort and thimbleflower, leading into the high-summer rush of coneflower varieties and blue verbena, and ending with a fall parade of rigid goldenrod and aromatic aster — and the expansive range of grass, sedge, wildflower, shrub and tree species gives gardeners breadth of creative choice and inspiration when designing native landscapes.
The Landscape Revival is an exciting opportunity to see the scope of native plants, and even novice gardeners can bring something home to start creating a garden that gives back.
For more information on the Landscape Revival: Native Plant Expo and Market, go to http://www.saintpaulaudubon.org, or call Elizabeth Beckman at 651-644-8888.
This information was provided by Capitol Region Watershed District.