Two years ago, advertising agency JWT quipped, “Blue is the new green.” According to their predictions, one of the top ten trends for businesses and homeowners in 2008 would be a move towards landscaping and building practices that are good for clean water. These blue practices include native plant landscaping that requires no irrigation, pesticides or fertilizers, features like raingardens and porous pavement that help to soak polluted stormwater into the ground, and indoor water saving features such as low-flow toilets and front-loading washing machines.
With local watershed agencies approving more than 100 cost-share grants for raingardens, shoreline plantings and other blue landscaping projects in 2009, it’s clear that a big blue wave is flooding Washington County and adjoining communities. Several east metro cities have installed raingardens and porous pavement parking areas at their parks and municipal buildings. You can find porous concrete at the Mahtomedi Public Works facility, raingardens at the Hugo and Lakeland City Halls, as well as Stillwater’s Washington Square Park, and even a green roof at the Woodbury City Hall. Washington County has also teemed up with the Washington Conservation District to install raingardens or shoreline planting projects at almost all of its regional parks, as well as large bioretention cells (a fancy word for engineered raingardens) at the South Service Center in Cottage Grove.
The blue revolution has not been limited to public entities, however, and several businesses have also installed blue landscaping in recent years. Last year, Stillwater Country Club installed landscaping to capture runoff from the parking lot and clubhouse that had been flooding the green and overflowing to a storm sewer leading to Brown’s Creek, a designated trout stream. Brown’s Creek Watershed District provided a grant for the project and Washington Conservation District worked with St. Croix Valley Landscaping to design and install the project. The steep hillside planting includes a dry creek that flows into several raingardens and has both native plants and cultivars of natives. This year, the country club hopes to continue working with Brown’s Creek Watershed District to install even more landscaping and raingardens in other parts of the course.
Businesses have quickly learned that going blue has its advantages. Not only can they gain the respect of eco-conscious customers, but also they can save considerable money on grounds maintenance and correct pesky problems like parking lot flooding, hillside erosion and deteriorating pavement. A new website, www.cleanwatermn.org/businesses, outlines several blue practices for commercial property owners and also includes case studies and available assistance programs.
For homeowners, http://www.bluethumb.org/ is a good first stop to learn more about native plants, raingardens and shoreline plantings. The site has a plant selector tool, list of local retailers and how-to guides. People living in the east metro can also refer to www.mnwcd.org/cleanwater to find out who to contact for a free site visit or cost-share grant for a blue landscaping project at their home. Turning blue in a neighborhood near you?