In the Yard

Rhonda Hayes is a garden writer, photographer and blogger. She also volunteers as a Hennepin County Master Gardener. Rhonda chronicles her gardening adventures and advice at her award-winning blog, The Garden Buzz. She is a frequent contributor to Northern Gardener magazine and the Star Tribune Home + Garden section. At Your Voices, she writes about life around the city lakes, occasionally veering off the garden path with essays on the silly and serious issues of the day.

Press One for Condolences

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: November 6, 2014 - 9:28 AM

It's not like in the movies where a room full of gasping relatives gather at the lawyer's office for a dramatic reading of the will. No, being executor of my father's will has been mostly a gauntlet of phone menu options, press 1 for condolences.

As I go in an endless fast forward loop through the stages of grief, the "Oh Daddy!" to the "ooooh daddy..." to the "What were you thinking, Daddy?" and back again, I have to do paperwork. Paperwork is not my strong suit. I'm all about words, please don't make me do math. Furthermore I'm not comfortable being the "doler outer" of my father's meager but complicated estate.

My dad's death is so different than my mother's almost 30 years ago, not just in the amount of time passed. Death in the age of social media makes an almost-celebrity out of the deceased. My father grumbled at the idea of Facebook but his passing trended on his church's site. And yet the big turnout at his funeral was created from years of face to face interactions rather than likes on a page. 

If only the duties of executing the estate were so easy. I can take and share a high resolution photo with all the world in a matter of seconds, yet people who administrate the business of dead people require me to FAX paperwork from one of those bulky, ivory but-not-quite beige machines. I'm getting to know the guys down at the UPS store on the corner where I regularly haul out the power of attorney and death certificate then listen for the warble and chirp that signifies my FAX has landed in a tray of other faxes, hoping my catchy cover statement snares the attention of said business.

Otherwise it's all over the phone. Most awkward is that moment when I have finally reached the party's extension that I have no clue of, and have the supreme honor of speaking with a customer service representative (these people are not paid near enough) who upon hearing my situation offers me the company or institution's sincerest condolences. I picture them reading it off a post it note stuck at the edge of their screen. Occasionally I get one that sounds truly sincere. And an "Awww." Like when I had to cancel my father's 60-year Triple AAA membership.

He lived like a church mouse and kept meticulous records of all his financial transactions and correspondence. Like many people from his generation, he printed all his emails. Still he left a few mysteries and like many I'm left with the "should'ves". Come spring I will head to Florida as many adult children before me have done, to clean out the house and decide the awful decisions of what to keep and what to let go. I don't know when I will sort through the 400lbs of photos I shipped home via FedEx.

I read recently about the Victorian's intricate mourning clothing rituals. While in this day and age of antibiotics lots of it seems silly, one thing occurred to me as so sensible. People wore black so that others might approach them in a kindly and understanding manner. They were to be treated gently since the concerns of everyday life would seem so trivial or too much to bear in the face of such sadness. There have been a few times in public when I was oddly struck with the finality of my father's death, with tears suddenly streaming down my face, when at least a black armband would have been handy. 

Post-Mowing Update on Lake Calhoun Trailside

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: October 8, 2014 - 10:16 AM

I thought I'd give an update on what's growing and not growing along the Lake Calhoun trail after this summer's "mis-mowing" incident.

(Pardon the irregular posts lately. I've been absent for awhile following my father's death and dealing with related family needs, I hope to get back on a regular schedule now)

In case you're just tuning in, the misdirected mowing cleared the shoreline giving a great view of the water while taking away an important source of food, shelter and nesting sites from pollinators, birds and other animals that live in this urban and diverse little ecosystem along the lake.

Back to walking the trails afterward I've noticed some regrowth of the plants that were mowed down. Shoots of common milkweed have reappeared yet this tender new growth probably hasn't had time to harden off in time for approaching winter conditions.

A few sprigs of wild asters dot the area with what blooms they could muster. Without the larger plants full of blooms the bees would have foraged over, they also aren't there to set seed as the season ends.

The mowing opened up the shoreline to more sun exposure seeming to allow more grasses to grow, some good and some not so great. With this year's rains blurring the boundaries of the lakeshore, lots of wet areas are now favoring the growth of more aquatic or boggy plants, once again, good and bad.

Interestingly there is a burgeoning stand of horsetail occurring in one spot. Horsetail is a native plant and yet quite aggressive, people love it (like architects for its ramrod straight habit) and others hate it (for its nonstop march to world domination).

What's curious is that it's appearing right across the road from a huge installation of horsetail in a home's contemporary landscape. This ancient plant spreads by both spores and rhizomes, so it's safe to assumed it's been sowed by the wind.

I'll be intrigued to see how the shoreline regroups next spring and what surprises are in store.

What's With All The Bee Signs?

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: September 5, 2014 - 1:35 PM
The pair of teenagers walking past my front yard paused a moment by the Bee-Safe Yard sign, looked at the blooming sedum plant next to it and exclaimed, "Holy S**t! Look at all the bees!" But it gets better, upon noticing me there on the porch, one of them asked about the bee-covered plant and said he would have to remember the name.
That's the beauty of a bee yard sign no matter which bee advocacy group (and the number is growing) it comes from. Mine is a small sign with a big message that might reach folks that aren't otherwise looking to learn about bees. And although it's late in the season, it's not to late to educate and plan for next year's bee friendly garden.
Yard signs advocating for bees have been popping up all over this summer. If you didn't know better you'd think bees were running for political office. Instead these are signs of change. People recognizing the importance of pollinators, both honeybees and native bees, are joining together to bring about policy decisions that go in favor of pollinator protection and conservation.
The poster below is the artwork of Nora Wildgen, illustrator and pollinator enthusiast.The adorable bee brings a serious message. Bee Swell’s mission is to "promote awareness of the problems our pollinators are facing today, including pesticides and a lack of habitat and food sources, and to encourage bee friendly gardening practices that support these essential members of our garden community."
Visit the Bee Swell website and download the poster for free. Then post it to get out the message for bee-friendly gardening practices.
You may have read about the city of Shorewood's Bee Safe resolution, passed this summer making it the first bee safe city in the state. Started by a group of concerned citizens that began attending the Shorewood City Council meeting seeking to have the city discontinue the use of "neonics", systemic pesticides that are detrimental to bees. Furthermore, the city will begin planting pollinator-friendly habitat like clover to help sustain bee populations.

Humming for bees "is dedicated to contributing to a sustainable future for bees and other pollinators by:

‪- being informed

‪- educating others

‪- facilitating  policy that supports bees in one      small city

‪- making that prototype available to other communities

Starting locally, the west suburbs of Minneapolis, MN, Humming for Bees seeks to create a

“Bee-Safe City”

that will be a model for other cities."

Humming for Bees has set its sights on creating the next bee-safe city, and Nora Wildgen is hoping to make it St Louis Park where she lives and gardens for pollinators. Knowing Nora, it's going to happen.
Visit the Humming for Bees website for more info.

Mpls Parks and Rec Answers to Lake Calhoun Mowing Fiasco

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: August 21, 2014 - 2:25 PM

If you read last week's blog post you'll know I wrote about my outrage upon discovering that the western shore area of Lake Calhoun had been mowed down taking with it a narrow but two-mile long strip of native plants that many bees, butterflies, birds and other creatures call dinner, baby nursery and home.

What was left of the wildflowers along the western shore of Lake Calhoun

I urged you all to contact Minneapolis Parks and Rec if you shared my sentiments. Myself, I decided to attend the next Mpls Parks and Rec Board meeting so I could voice my concerns face to face with the people that we charge with overseeing these valuable resources.

If you have never attended one of these meetings, it is like many other governing agency meetings, full of budget numbers, resolutions, parliamentary rules and a good dose of tedium. All the more reason for me to feel grateful that there are people willing to undertake these positions of responsibility. 

There is a 30-minute open session where upon calling the board earlier that day, anyone can be placed on the agenda to speak their mind about whatever park-related issue they have. You are given 3 minutes to speak.

I told them of my issue with the poorly timed and poorly done mowing and questioned whether it was policy or simply an overzealous mower. At the end of my allotted time I asked them what they could tell me (and my readers) about the mowing fiasco.

I kind of got the idea they already knew what I was going to say...thanks to all of your Facebook shares, calls and emails!

I was immediately introduced to Debra Lynn Pilger, Director of Environmental Management and Justin Long, Assistant Superintendent of Environmental Stewardship. They let me know that after seeing it on Facebook they went themselves to see what had happened.

In their words it was a problem of misdirection, a one time incident and that they were as horrified as me. They assured me that their policy is to let these plants bloom and set seed so that they can have a chance to survive and flourish, and in turn nourish and nurture wildlife along that shore. Mowing of that area, to take down extra vegetation along the shore is supposed to be done in October.

So there we have it, a tragedy for this year, but hopefully a big reminder that mowing should be done in a mindful manner and better directed next year and for years to come. Maybe this problem can be avoided in other parks too. 

If you attend one of these meetings, a few tips. Be brief, be succinct, be respectful and be passionate about your cause. The commissioners care as much as you do about the parks, but they have a lot on their plate. In my case, in twenty minutes I had my answer and a promise to make sure it didn't happen again. Thank you Mpls Parks and Rec!

Mild-Mannered Garden Blogger Outraged

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: August 11, 2014 - 1:05 PM

I'm so angry I can't see straight. It's Friday evening and I just drove by Lake Calhoun and couldn't believe what I saw. Or what I didn't see. The path edge between the walking trail and the shore have been mowed clean. It is horrifically tidy. All those native plants that so much wildlife depended upon for insects, nectar, larval food, seeds, nesting sites and shelter have been destroyed in one fell, or should I say, one fool swoop. 

I walk along that trail four to five times a week. I know the birds, the bugs, the flowers that live beside it. I love how the water, the weather, the skyline, the flora and fauna are never the same two days in a row. I love this walk so much I take a daily photograph of its ever changing beauty and post it with a big "Good morning Minneapolis!" for all to see.

During these summer months I especially love to photograph the native plants flowering with the city skyline in the background. I always felt so proud that the city, the park board had encouraged and let flourish all these incredibly important plants. What happened? Why did these plants suddenly become a problem to be mowed? Right when they were finally flowering?

The only problem plant I've seen is a patch of invasive purple loosestrife and it is growing in the water not on the path sides. 

Thanks to this ridiculous action you won't be bothered by any native plants like bee balm buzzing with bumblebees, gray-head coneflower all aflutter with butterflies or the common, but oh so crucial, milkweed that caterpillars munch before turning into majestic Monarch butterflies. And those are just the showy, more noticeable nectar and host plants that all important pollinators need to live and reproduce. The path edges were a mosaic of diverse plant life; grasses, flowers, legumes, etc., that have been eradicated in so many other places. And now they are shorn like a sheep here along our lake. 

The vast array of birds that live and reproduce along that tiny, vital strip of land, well, without all the insects to eat, the birds go elsewhere. And once more wildlife is pushed out.

So take a good look at these photos, they can't be duplicated this year. Neither can all the creatures that depended upon that habitat. If you are outraged like me, please contact the Minneapolis Parks and Rec at 612-230-6400 and and let them know.

native plants along Lake Calhoun

native plants along Lake Calhoun

native plants along Lake Calhoun

Monarda fistulosa, wild bergamot. Recognized by pollination ecologists as having special value to native bees. Also beloved by honeybees, hummingbirds and butterflies.

native plants along Lake calhoun

native plants along Lake calhoun

native plants along Lake calhoun

Ratibida pinnata, grayhead coneflower. Recognized by pollination ecologists for having special value to native bees. Also important to birds and butterflies as a food source.

Milkweed growing along Lake Calhoun

Asclepias syriaca, common milkweed. There are many varieties of milkweed but they are the only larval food source for Monarch butterflies. No milkweed, no monarchs! It is also recognized by pollination ecologists for special value to honeybees, native bees and bumble bees.


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