Wild Bees, Rare Plants, and Native Gardens

The snow in my front yard is so deep that it has almost completely buried the wooden bench, carefully placed in case anyone has the time to sit and enjoy the sound of bees buzzing in the garden.  Last week, that same deep snow caught me up to mid-thigh when I ventured out of my office in business-casual attire to release a friendly garter snake that had wandered in to feel the sun on its back from a wide windowsill. Now, as we sit firmly mid-March, I know I’m not the only one waiting for winter to become spring.

Sit and rest in the garden when it returns.

Last spring, I sat on that front yard bench during the first warm weekend of the year, two visiting friends at my side and everything right in the world. Like that little garter snake, we too enjoyed the warmth of the sun on our skin as we sipped coffee, then wine, and felt the flowers grow in the garden and the birds sing from the trees. A garden is a good thing, and so are bees and spring.

The St. Croix Oak Savanna Chapter of Wild Ones just released a calendar of spring events that calls to frozen Minnesotans like water in a desert. On Tuesday, March 20, Julia Brokaw, a wild bee researcher at the University of Minnesota Cariveau Bee Lab will talk about restoring prairies for native plants and wild bees. The Minnesota Biological Survey estimates that there are 350-400 species of native bees in Minnesota. These insects are integral to our state’s native prairies, fields and forests and play an important role in pollinating gardens and crops as well. Brokaw will discuss seed mix design, plant establishment and how to increase nesting habitat for bees in prairie landscapes.

A bumblebee with full pollen sacs on her legs.

On Tuesday, April 17, local ecologist Jason Husveth will share photos and stories about rare plants in the St. Croix River Valley. Husveth is the principal ecologist at Critical Connections Ecological Services in Stillwater and has discovered hundreds of new populations of endangered, threatened, and special concern species in our area. The next month, Tuesday, May 15, Kathy Widin will offer advice to help local residents incorporate native plants into gardens and residential landscaping. Widin is a certified arborist and an expert in plant pathology. During her presentation she’ll highlight a variety of benefits for gardening with native plants, including attracting birds and pollinators and helping to soak in rainwater and reduce runoff.

Prairie smoke is just one of many beautiful native plants you can include in your gardens at home.

In addition to a bounty of botanical presentations, Wild Ones is also a co-sponsor for the Landscape Revival: Native Plant Expo and Market, which will be held on Saturday, June 9 from 9am-2pm at Richard Walton Memorial Park in Oakdale. During the event, local residents can shop for native plants from six local growers, enjoy food and entertainment, and get advice from experts at Washington Conservation District, St. Paul Audubon Society, Master Gardeners, and other organizations. Learn more at www.saintpaulaudubon.org/2018-landscape-revival-native-plant-expo-market.

All of the Wild Ones presentations will be held at FamilyMeans in Stillwater (1875 Northwestern Ave. S.) from 7-8:45pm and are open to the public. Come early at 6:30pm to socialize and enjoy treats. Learn more about the organization at stcroixoaksavanna.wildones.org.

To get advice on native landscaping in your yard or habitat restoration on your property, sign up for a free site visit with the Washington Conservation District at www.mnwcd.org. Site visits will begin in April, once the snow is finally gone.

Prairie phlox blooming in May.
Spiderwort kissed with rain.