Artful Raingardens in the St. Croix Valley

The long awaited day finally arrived this week. I waved goodbye to our home as I backed down its driveway for the last time, drove across town with my car full of plants, clothes and cat to our new home in Stillwater, and then waved goodbye again, this time to my husband, as he drove away to the airport leaving me alone with a completely empty house and a garage full of all of our earthly belongings. Three brawny guys later, courtesy of the River Falls football team, the house is full and I’m slowly whittling away at the piles of boxes, bags and furniture parts heaped high in every room. My feet hurt, my eyelids droop, and I was recently mistaken for a zombie while waiting in line for a sandwich. As soon as I get some sleep though, I’m looking forward to summer in the St. Croix Valley.

Artful raingardens combine art and function

Summer is the time for gardens, enjoying time on the water, and touring local art festivals. The events come rapid fire, oftentimes one on top of another. Sometimes, though, the perfect event comes along that combines all of the good into one. Such is the case with the Artful Raingardens project, a collaborative effort by the Phipps Center for the Arts, St. Croix County in Wisconsin and the East Metro Water Resource Education Program in Minnesota, and many other local artists and organizations. An “Artful Raingarden” is one that has both structural integrity and aesthetic appeal. Examples include gardens with innovative designs or those that incorporate outdoor art and sculpture. By showcasing local examples, the event organizers hope to inspire and encourage other people in the St. Croix Valley to plant raingardens that are not only beautiful but also help to keep the rivers and lakes clean.

Several Artful Raingarden events are planned for June and July to celebrate the St. Croix, showcase local art, and educate people about raingardens and the river. The Phipps Center will have its free Artful Raingardens exhibit on display from June 16 until July 17. A kick-off event is planned at Hudson’s Lakefront Park on the evening of June 16, which will include a launch of handmade paper boats from the beach and a performance by Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater called Are You Thirsty? Fiddler Don Mitchell will also be playing a selection of songs from “Shimmering Blue Line: The St. Croix River in Pen Brush and Music.” A second event, called the Cirque du Soil, will take place on June 26 from 2-5pm at the Phipps Center and will include a series of hands-on learning and art activities for people interested in planting artful raingardens at their homes. Rain barrels painted by local artists will be on display at the event, and authors Rusty Schmidt , Blue Thumb Guide to Raingardens, and James Willcox Dimmers, The Shimmering Blue Line, will be signing books as well. Other activities planned for the summer include rain barrel painting workshop, raingarden design workshops, and a series of showings of the River Runs Through Us walking mural.

Best of all, the Artful Raingarden project offers several opportunities for people to put their inspiration and newfound knowledge to work, building raingardens of their own. A training build will take place on July 9 in Hudson, and the Artful Raingardens Design Challenge will have people from throughout the are submitting their best concept designs for artistic raingardens to be planted. Entries will be judged on their function, benefit to local waters, and aesthetic appeal, with finalists displayed on the event website, and the final winner chosen by popular vote.

The way I figure it, I’ll be ready to start planting gardens again after ten or twelve more recovery naps. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying the local artists and performers at the Artful Raingardens events and taking time to enjoy the summer at my new home in the St. Croix Valley.

 To learn more about the Artful Raingarden project and events, visit

The Artful Raingardens event is organized by Bergman Media Services, Blue Horse Farm, East Metro Water Resource Education Program, EcoGrow Consulting, Just Add Water, The Phipps, St. Croix County Land & Water Conservation Department, St. Croix River Association, Washington Conservation District and Xcel Energy. Funding provided by The Verhulst Foundation, and The St. Croix Valley Foundation and The Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from The State of Wisconsin.