Late summer brought blooms from some of the native plants in the new garden at Community Park in Vadnais Heights.

The native species garden was a project in partnership between the city of Vadnais Heights and the Vadnais Lake Area Water Management Organization (VLAWMO).

The garden promotes storm water management, according to Assistant City Administrator Tim Sandvik. The garden was planted in an area where two patches of reed canary grass previously grew, near Vadnais Heights Commons.

“Reed canary grass is an invasive species, planted by early settlers for livestock grazing,” Sandvik reported. “The trouble with this grass is that it spreads aggressively and forms thick stands in wetlands. These stands outcompete native wetland plants that would otherwise support wetland habitat and function. Because the stands are so thick, they trap more sediment than native plants, clogging wetlands with sand and debris. This grass is so good at growing virtually anywhere that it grows in the accumulated sediment and continues a cycle of filling in the wetland with sediment and more canary grass.”

The new native species garden helps prevent the spread of reed canary grass. The native plants will grow deep roots that channel runoff and stabilize soil. When they grow larger, the plants will also provide habitat for pollinators, Sandvik noted.

Nine species of native plants, including grasses, flowers and fruiting shrubs, were planted in the two 30-foot-long gardens, according to VLAWMO Program Development Coordinator Dawn Tanner. Certain plants were selected so that the garden would bloom throughout the season to provide a regular food source for pollinators. The garden includes cardinal flower, turtlehead, Pennsylvania sedge, sweet grass, western spiderwort, butterflyweed, snowberry, chokeberry shrubs and tall blazing star.

The garden should attract butterflies. Monarchs specifically feed on butterflyweed, a species of milkweed, and tall blazing star, which is important during migration, Tanner relayed. Clearwing moths feed on snowberry.

The garden was created by community volunteers, Sandvik noted. Youth from Unity Church-Unitarian helped and will also perform upkeep at the garden.

If residents are interested in building their own native species garden or a raingarden, they may apply for a grant through VLAWMO. More information on grants is available at vlawmo.org/grants/landscape.

Reed canary grass is often used in landscaping but inhibits a wetland's ability to function, according to Tanner. Dense stands of the grass may inhibit water flow. The grass can also spread outside wetlands quickly if there is sufficient moisture. If residents remove the grass from their yards, it will prevent its spread into city wetlands.

The grass has an extensive root system and roots need to be fully removed. Large stands may need chemical treatment. In Community Park, public works staff treated the grass twice with herbicide before it was removed through a combination of hand-pulling and digging and with the help of a bobcat.

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