Tag Archives: Education

Blooming Alley Tour & Happy Hour

Written by Aleli Balagtas

Come see Metro Blooms’ first Blooming Alley, and rediscover back alleys. The idea is to look beyond garbage cans and garages and envision alleys as inviting, ecological community spaces. That’s what neighbors on a block near Minneapolis’Lake Nokomis did last spring when they started planning their alley makeover as part of a project called Nokomis Neighbors for Clean Water. This is alley beautification with a green mission: to create lovely neighborhood spaces that incorporate strategies to reduce storm water runoff and promote native habitat.

Stormwater flowing through backyards, driveways and alleys is a major culprit in Lake Nokomis pollution. Metro Blooms undertook this project to partner with local groups, government and residents to reduce the problem. The key is community engagement: provide the tools—namely, expertise in landscape design and stormwater management—that allow residents to work together to find a solution, and make their community a better place to live in the process. Funding from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, the City of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County supported the project and, over several months, Metro Blooms helped neighbors on the block design and create the first Blooming Alley.

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Lake Nokomis Alley Get-Together

On April 12th, 2014 more then 35 neighbors from two blocks in the Lake Nokomis watershed got together to reimagine their alleyway.  Why? How? Where? Was there food? you may be asking.  To answer the most pressing question, yes, there was food.  There was also creativity flowing, neighbors interacting, idea sharing, and community forming.  It was a fantastic event that was made possible by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of MN and three awesome block leaders.

The Why:  Lake Nokomis Neighbors for Clean Water is a project that Metro Blooms has been working on with neighborhood and local government partners to clean-up Lake Nokomis by re-inventing backyards and alleyways.  Lake Nokomis is impaired, which means there’s too much pollution in it to support a healthy aquatic ecosystem.  Most of that pollution comes from urban runoff, and most of THAT pollution flows through backyards and down alleyways to reach the lake.  Furthermore, alleys could be such cool spaces for neighbors to interact, and they can be pretty (really!) if we can change the way we view and use them.

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2013 Triumphs and Lessons Learned

As 2013 winds to an end, we find ourselves spending a lot of time planning for Certified RaingardenNEXT year.  At Metro Blooms we’re writing work plans for 2014, anxiously awaiting the results of grant applications, and scheduling maintenance and installations for the coming summer.  But I thought before the hustle and bustle of a new year begins, we should take a few minutes to remember the work that we’ve already accomplished, and the triumphs and lessons learned in 2013.

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Queen of the Prairie

Family:  Rosaceae

Scientific Name: Filipendula rubra

Queen of the Prairie is a rare, native perennial that favors high quality habitat.  Named filum for “thread” and pendulus for “hanging”, this plant’s name refers to some species’ small tubers strung together by fibrous roots.  It thrives in full sun, wet to moderate moisture, and sandy to loamy soil and is often seen in meadows, prairies, and woods.

Watch for: An erect perennial, 3-6 feet tall.  The flower is a showy pink inflorescence on a long naked stalk and blooms June-July.  While blooming, the flowers look a lot like wind-tossed pink fluff. The central stem is smooth and has a tendency to look reddish in the sunlight.  Leaves are alternate, compound, and can be up to 2 feet long.  Each leaf has 1-7 palmate leaflets with coarsely dentate margins.

Other names: Filipendula

History: The root of this native Minnesota species has been used throughout history to treat various heart troubles and has also been used as a love medicine as it’s considered an herbal aphrodisiac.  In addition, it can be used to treat skin rashes as the root has a high tannin content.

Tidbits: The Queen of the Prairie is a very interesting plant.  It produces pollen favored by bees, beetles, and flies, but doesn’t create any nectar!  It’s also very useful for restoring fields as it is an indicator of high quality habitats.

Gardens/Cultivation: Filipendula rubra prefers the cooler climate of the Great Lake region to hot, dry summer heat.  Leaves can become spotted from foliar disease, but the plant is otherwise not subject to diseases or fungus and the foliage is not commonly eaten by deer or other herbivores.  Deadheading is not necessary as the flower heads are decorative and it does little to encourage rebloom.  If division is necessary, it’s best to divide this plant in the fall.



Illinoise Wildflowers Database: http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info

Smith, Huron.  1928.  Ethnobotany of the Meskwaki Indians.  Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee 4:175-326.

USDA Plants Database: http://plants.usda.gov

Blooming Schoolyards 2013

Many Metro Blooms supporters have not heard of Blooming Schoolyards, Metro Blooms’ K-12 outdoor classroom education program.  And what a shame that is because I can tell you from experience that it is one of the most enjoyable programs I’ve had the opportunity to participate in as Metro Blooms’ GreenCorps member.

Blooming Schoolyards has occurred in some form or other in more than 12 schools throughout the twin cities, and was expanded quite a bit this year.  In the past, we’ve mostly focused on working with 4th and 5th graders as water education seems to fit so well into their science standards.  But it seems water education fits well with all science standards, so this year I worked with Kindergartners, 3rd and 4th graders, and an 8th grade enriched science class as well.  Because of the age varieties, we added a number of new activities to our typical Blooming Schoolyards program too, all of which focus on water pollution, stormwater management and/or raingardens of course (with a little room for playing in the dirt as well).

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The History of Lake Nokomis

This past Tuesday, myself, Mark Pedelty (a professor at the U of MN), and three of his students had the pleasure of learning about the history of Lake Nokomis from Steffanie Musich, President of Friends of Lake Nokomis, and Julia Vanatta
with Wild Ones.  I learned more about Lake Nokomis that day than I thought there was to know, and I was intrigued so I went looking for even more information.  I have to say, Lake Nokomis has a long and colorful history.  If you’ve ever wondered just how and when it came to be (that’s right, it hasn’t always been a lake fit for swimming) read on and find out!

Lake Nokomis, known as Lake Amelia until 1910, was originally meant to serve as a reservoir to maintain the constant flow of water over Minnehaha Falls.  The park board did not actually own the land around Lake Nokomis, Rice Lake (Lake Hiawatha), or Minnehaha Creek in the late 1800s but that didn’t stop them from making plans to deepen channels and dam the lake.  Luckily, most of these plans fell through for reasons unknown today, but they were all made with the hope of maintaining a flow of water over the falls.  In fact,  in 1900 President Benjamin Harrison was quoted at the falls saying “Minnehaha Falls would undoubtedly be very beautiful if there was water in the stream.”

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Raingardens and Beyond Workshops, Soon to be at a Community Center Near You!

Schnazy new title, and some new information too.  This year Metro Blooms’ classic Raingarden Workshops are doing just what the new title says…they’re going beyond the do-it-yourself approach to raingarden design and installation and covering topics such as simple healthy lawn care practices more in depth.  The information you’ll gain will be oh so helpful not only if you plan to install a raingarden this summer, but also if you just want to know how to take better care of the lake down the road by taking better care of your yard.

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Lake Nokomis Water Quality Survey

Nokomis subwatershedMetro Blooms has recently taken on its largest survey yet.  Throughout February we’ve been prepping, administering and entering oodles of data from our first ever KAP study  (KAP stands for knowledge, attitudes and practices).  The idea behind a KAP study is to survey a population, in this case 700 residents in the Lake Nokomis subwatershed, before AND after a project to determine changes in people’s views and behaviors over time.

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End of the Year Update

As the end of 2012 approaches Metro Blooms is looking back on some of the big moments we had this year.  As always we started the year out with a series of raingarden workshops throughout the metro area and Blooms Day, an educational event combined with a plant sale and garden awards.  Our Blooming Schoolyards program really took off this year as over 220 elementary students were educated on landforms, water infiltration and raingarden site selection and design.  Some students even got to plant their own garden!

This summer you supported our garden party at Gleason Lake and this past fall Metro Blooms hosted our first stand-alone Garden Awards event at the Garden party at the Terlizzi residenceColombia Manor in Minneapolis which was attended by over 200 Metro Blooms supporters.  Finally, in December, we all got to celebrate the year at the Rock for Raingardens fundraiser at the Fine Line Cafe. Read more »

Blooming Schoolyards

S. MPLS– This Spring, Metro Blooms has been submersed in the world of Environmental Education. To develop the Blooming Schoolyards program, we teamed up with Minneapolis Public Schools and STEM leaders with a busy schedule of curriculum planning and raingarden installations. Lessons were planned to coincide with MN vocab and science standards, STEM kit standards, and the needs of specific teachers and classes.

We started as early as January to introduce watersheds, stormwater, and urban runoff to 4th and 5th graders at Dowling, Northrup, and Kenwood Schools. Activities included the use of props to build a “proper” watershed and walking around the schoolyard to note schoolyard land forms and design.

Landscape Designer Sam Geer takes Kenwood students on a tour of the schoolyard explaining the design and the resulting runoff.

GreenCorps Member Nick Voss explains the props symbolizing parts of the water cycle. Students matched them up based on their function and clues.

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