Public Gardening

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Library board chair Margit Johnson deals with some winter damage on shrub.

IMG_5066This afternoon about a dozen Friends of the Northfield Public Library spent a few hours weeding the flower beds, planting, trimming shrubs, raking, and just plain sprucing up the area outside of the library. This comes on top of a pile of planting and designing of landscaped areas that has already been done by Judy Code and the folks from Northfield in Bloom. The big pot at right features the Northfield in Bloom colors — kind of a retro-60s look — outside the library’s Washington Street door. It was a little windy and all the gardeners were hoping for rain tonight, but all in all a great time gardening in public.

By the way, if you still want to order seeds, the Friends’ seed fundraiser is an ongoing event. Just click the Botanical Interests box in the right sidebar to help the Friends.

Bloom Tuesday, No. 12

Bloom Tuesday? It felt a bit like doom Tuesday, what with the car breaking down in the Target parking lot, the phone lines getting cut at my office (no internet or phone all afternoon), and yet another dog-related health crisis. (Good news! We now qualify for the regular customer discount on lab work at the vet.) But these are ultimately minor matters, and today was the final day of the America in Bloom judges’ visit to Northfield. I hope they enjoyed their visit and appreciated the hard work that went into many of the beautification efforts.

So, rather than taking shots of my own garden, I visited (on my bike) several great examples of bloom around Northfield. The baskets hanging on lamp posts around town look especially nice right now, despite the heat. (Thank you, watering crew!) I also like many of the baskets and pots outside of businesses. The block between Fourth and Fifth on Division Street looks like a flower market. While the displays are especially grand this year, the merchants on this block have long brightened up summer with their pots.

Finally, many people in Northfield seem to have taken the call to put out baskets and window boxes seriously. I’ve seen lots of bloom-filled boxes hanging off decks around the ponds near my house. Also, more people seem to be planting out their front yards. This Fourth Street garden is one of my favorite front-yard gardens.

Getting Ready for America in Bloom

Sunday I visited the going-out-of-business sale at Lansing Hardware. Like many Northfielders, I am sorry to see the store close. Many times, Dave or Lee Lansing provided me with just the right piece of advice, as well as the right products, for a garden or home-repair project. I decided to check out the sale because Lansing’s always had wonderful containers for gardening. Sure enough, I found two large, stunning terra cotta pots for a fraction of what you would normally pay. I also found something for the upcoming Northfield in Bloom project, being spearheaded by the Northfield Garden Club–window boxes!

At the meeting I attended a week or so ago, the organizers indicated that they were going to encourage people to plant window boxes, both at home and at businesses. My house does not lend itself to putting boxes in the front, but the two 3-foot-long boxes I found at Lansing’s will look great on our deck, which backs up to a walking path. In a funny way, we have two front yards, one on the street, one on the walking paths, and we run into neighbors and people we know in both locations. Window boxes are cheerful no matter where you plant them.

The Northfield in Bloom folks have even come up with a plant/color scheme for participants and I plan to use this in the window boxes. They recommend that we use sweet potato vine, hot pink petunias, and dark coleus. This is a good mix for a part-sun/semi-shade site. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea) comes in a bunch of colors and varieties, but the most common one is a lime/chartreuse green color, like ‘Margarita’. Pink petunias, of course, are available all over the place, but I have heard good reviews on the Wave™ petunias. For lower maintenance try Easy Waves; for super flower power, the Tidal Waves are supposed to grow large (spreading up to 3 feet) with lots of flowers. Dark coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) are everywhere during the spring garden sales, and even if you don’t plant for America in Bloom, I recommend them for high-impact containers. Mine looked great for five solid months last summer, and only asked for water and a drop of fertilizer now and then. This article from Fine Gardening has good suggestions for using coleus in containers. At a garden I toured two years ago, the homeowner put rows of coleus in pots (one per pot) on a tiered shelf to create a wall of interesting leaf shapes and colors. It was easy to execute and dramatic.

Unfortunately, it’ll be several weeks before these plantings can go in. In the meantime, if you are interested in window boxes, Lansings had several left in a variety of sizes and at great prices.

Northfield Joins America in Bloom

verticalcmykbig.jpgMy town, Northfield, Minn., has decided to enter the America in Bloom contest this year. This morning, I attended a presentation on the program sponsored by the Northfield Downtown Development Council. Other Minnesota cities involved in AIB are Bemidji, Buffalo, St. Paul, and Red Wing, which will not be able to enter this year’s competition because it won the overall award last year.

img_1526.jpgThe Northfield Garden Club is spearheading the project locally, and club President Judy Code (in pink, next to the cow) and America in Bloom planning chair Pat Allen (left) made the presentation. Also in attendance was former garden club President Jerry Nord (right) and the as-yet-unnamed cow that will be a mascot for downtown Northfield this year.

The goal of America in Bloom is to promote beautification and community pride through gardening. The group has a half-dozen projects it would like to undertake this year to make Northfield even more charming and welcoming. These include business floral displays (downtown and on Hwy. 3!), flower boxes on the pedestrian bridge downtown, cleaning and painting the rails along the river from Second to Fourth Street downtown, plantings in the same area, a window box competition in residential districts, and cleaning up and fixing up the unused railroad depot on the west side of Hwy. 3 downtown. One of their great ideas is to encourage container gardens on the balconies along the river. As Judy says, “Our goal is to tie things together so the town feels cohesive.” The group will be involving as many organizations and individuals as possible and has gotten a positive response from neighborhoods interested in becoming garden districts, the police department and Mayor’s Youth Council, and businesses. The group has received financial backing from a police department grant, the Northfield Area Foundation, as well as in-kind help from Knecht’s Nursery and Landscaping and Switzer’s Nursery and Landscaping.

The AIB competition is described as a friendly competition and one of the benefits is the comments and advice communities get from the AIB judges, who are usually retired experts in horticulture, forestry and urban planning. The judges will be visiting Northfield July 28-29.

This is a wonderful community building activity. Anyone who is interested in helping out should e-mail the group at northfieldinbloom@yahoo.com.