At the start of the 2023 growing season, Ruth Alliband, the Rain Garden Maintenance Coordinator for Sustainable Stillwater MN, took a crucial step in preserving and enhancing the community's green spaces. Facing depleted rain gardens, Ruth collaborated with Cameron Blake of the Washington County Conservation District (WCD) to secure replacement plants. The City of Stillwater played a pivotal role by providing the necessary funding for this endeavor.
Recognizing that fall offers an optimal window for garden renewal, Ruth and her team along with Cameron Blake waited patiently for the cooler weather of fall for the optimal planting window. This decision proved wise, as the new plantings would have struggled in the drought-prone June to mid-September season.
Two of the rejuvenated gardens stand proudly along West Wilkins Street. Both underwent a full year blanketed in a smothering tarp to eliminate tough invasive weeds. One garden showcases the dedication of Scout Troop 162. The second newly replanted garden is the darling of a young family who eagerly adopted it. An experienced older-generation gardener from the same family will add her sage advice and expertise. The new plantings in this garden blend with salvaged plantings from the original garden, introducing the native wildflower coreopsis and sedum--both drought-tolerant favorites.
Three other rain gardens, strategically placed to absorb an above-average quantity of rainwater, serve as shining examples of sustainable landscaping. The South Fifth Street garden, positioned at the base of a steep slope with two storm drains in the basin of the garden, now features water-loving sedges and the elegant blue swamp iris. A deep ditch on Sixth Street, previously overtaken by bush honeysuckle and saplings, underwent a transformation by the Washington County Watershed Management District's seasonal crew. After the rank growth was removed, Ruth and the homeowner set out the new plants for a significant makeover.
A rare gem in Stillwater, a swale garden along West Chestnut Street, intercepts torrents of water rushing down the hard surface of the street. The garden's original plantings struggled in this challenging environment, prompting the introduction of water-loving sedge grasses and the striking blue swamp iris. This adaptation ensures that significant runoff, which would otherwise reach the St. Croix River, is absorbed into the garden instead.
Completing this green revolution is the Noontime Rotary's sentinel garden at the top of Oak Street, overlooking a steep descent toward Third Street. The addition of New England aster, sedum, and blue flag plants breathes new vitality into this location, offering a much-needed facelift.
In summary, the collaborative efforts of Sustainable Stillwater MN, Washington County Conservation District, and the City of Stillwater have ushered in a season of growth and renewal. These revitalized rain gardens not only enhance the beauty of the community but also contribute significantly to sustainable water management—a testament to the power of community-driven environmental initiatives.