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Dishin' the dirt from the garden and beyond

Blueberries are blue buds of future happiness

It's still spring in the garden, both by the calendar and by its progress. Among my favorite pastimes right now is spotting buds of promise. First it's the tightly wound rose buds, not yet revealing any hint of color that they'll later unfurl. Then it's the yellow flowers of hope: tomatoes in the making. And lately, it's the blessings of future blueberries. My favorite stage -- until they're ripe -- is right now, when the lace-edged balls turn almost aqua, with rings of fuchsia surrounding a slightly deeper shade of blue. Soon it will be time to spread the netting to protect them from hungry visitors.

What's budding in your garden? I'm still looking at some pretty small would-be peony flowers.

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: (

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