It isn’t your imagination, or the early spring. Things really are greener, because there is more stuff getting green. Minneapolitans, like many Minnesotans are investing in rain gardens instead of lawns.
As a population who enjoy our outdoor time we also value function. Over a two-year period the increase in rain gardens in Minneapolis has increased 15 percent. What is the difference between a rain garden and more conventional garden? “Part of it is elevation,” said Mark Armstead, Assistant Retail Manager of Linder’s Garden Center in St. Paul. “It has to be an area open to periodic flooding.” This is the idea of a rain garden: A low lying area where snow melt, downpour and other run off is allowed to filter through the plant material. Eventually the filtered water enters the watershed rather than contributing to runoff.
The categories in this graph are self-explanatory except “Mixed Use”. When I posed the question to Armstead he thought it might be an example of a park district putting in a functional rain garden and then also using it to educate park attendees. (Think of the garden by Lake Calhoun). While mixed use rain gardens are the smallest portion of the graph, they have a lot of bang for their buck: They serve as a filter for the lake, are pretty and serve an educational purpose.
Armstead also points out how much gardening has changed over the years. “Twenty years ago, people spent 15 or 20 hours in their gardens each week. Now we might spend seven, and that includes lawn care.” Rain gardens appeal for their sturdiness and relatively low intensity commitment as opposed to more conventional gardens or vegetable gardens.
For more specific information on rain gardens see the Rain Garden Network or call your local garden center.