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Dishin' the dirt from the garden and beyond

Going native in the garden: Make it easy on yourself

I don't keep a garden journal, so every growing season unfolds with a few surprises.

As in, "There's that new thing I planted last year. What the heck was it?"  

This year's first garden mystery was a vigorous clump of pretty foliage that emerged in my biggest back-yard bed. Soon flowers started forming -- beautiful bell-shaped blooms of purplish-red. 

What were they? All I could remember was that I'd planted them as part of my recent push to add more native perennials to my garden. Some Internet sleuthing quickly confirmed that they were columbine, a native wildflower pollinated by hummingbirds and butterflies.

The columbine appear to be completely at home in my garden, with absolutely no care or fussing or extra watering. And their beauty has spread -- the two or three small plants I put in last year have now expanded into a big showy mass. (Columbine are good self-seeders, I learned.)

You've gotta love a low-maintenance plant that survives Minnesota winters -- not to mention my lousy clay soil -- and comes back looking better than ever.

That's the beauty of native plants that have thrived here for hundreds of years and are well adapted to our growing conditions.

But there are lots of other reasons to love natives; they also create habitat for pollinators and wildlife, and their deep roots help filter runoff and protect water quality.

If you want to add more easy-care natives to your garden, there's a great opportunity coming up this weekend: "Landscape Revival -- Native Plant Expo and Market." A dozen local growers of native plants will gather at the Cub Foods Community Pavilion in Roseville, 1201 Larpenteur Ave. W.) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 6. (Most of these growers are based on the outskirts of the Twin Cities metro area, so having them in one central location is a rare convenience for city-dwelling gardeners.)

All plants for sale will be free of neonicotinoids, the systemic pesticide that has been linked to bee decline, so you can shop guilt-free. For more info, visit: (

Invasion of the leaf-snatchers hits Twin Cities trees

Have you ever gone out to your garden and instead of a healthy plant found a stick?

Imagine stepping into your back yard and finding a beautiful oak tree without leaves in the middle of July. That is what happens when the gypsy moths invade. They make zombies look cute.


There’s a nasty invasion of the leaf snatchers going on just east of Elk River. It’s wonderful camping area along the Rum River. That’s one reason why I wanted to share this photo from the Department of Agriculture. It shows a Gypsy Moth Nest. If you see one of these, destroy it! Grab some gloves, and put every last sticky web and goo into a plastic bag and wrap it tight.

Like the nasty Emerald Ash Borer, the nests, moths and caterpillars of the Gypsy moth are transferred by firewood. But don’t think your pickup truck is not suspect if you’ve got a pile of 2x4’s in the back. That’s wood too.

Bugs are good and bugs are bad. It’s the bad ones we need to be vigilant against.

Japanese beetles - smooch them. Emerald ash borers - eradicate. And now there’s a new one out there that’s bad for berry plants, the Spotted Wing Drosophila. Yikes. I thought mosquitos were a pest in Minnesota.


Have you had any experiences with nasty bugs? What happened, what did you do?

Photo credits: MN Department of Agriculture, MN DNR, Tim Tigner, Virginia Department of Forestry.

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