The city of Minneapolis offers a class on creating rain gardens and planting natives in your yard. I took it last year, not expecting much, frankly. I was pleasantly surprised not only by the quality of the content but also by the credentials of the presenter. I didn’t elect to plant a rain garden – I’m using rain barrels instead – but I did elect to plant some natives in all of my gardens and all natives in two of my gardens, including coneflowers, rudbekia, liatris, asters, monarda, and anise hyssop. The colors are fabulous and they attract birds, butterflies, and bees.
“What’s a Native?!” you ask. Well. A native is a plant that has its origins in your region. These are typically great plants because they will thrive with very little care. (Trust me on this one.) And, they’re typically resistant to pests. I don’t know a lot about natives in other regions, but in my region, the natives are an awesome way to get the water way down deep into the earth, which is where we want the water to go.
The most fascinating piece of information I learned from the rain garden workshop was that roots of native prairie plants are on average twice the depth as their height above ground. This means that if you have a plant that’s two feet tall, the roots will be at least four feet deep! And, a portion of the roots die off every year, leaving straw-like tubes for the water to run into, getting the water deep into the earth, reducing both runoff and erosion! How cool is that?!
And, lest you think that only prairie plants are native to Minnesota, here’s a list of natives for prairie, meadow, woodlands and wetlands from the University of Minnesota Extension service.