RAIN GARDENS- Design and Installation


Sedge grasses are great for wet areas of the rain garden

Check with online resources or landscape professionals for guidance on size of garden needed as well as proper depth. They also can help you determine how the water will enter your garden through draintile surface run off or dry creek beds. Once you have those figured out and sketch a shape for your area the plant layout process can begin. Keep in mind light conditions of the garden throughout the day as well as bloom times so that the garden will have a long period of interest. Some people choose to go all native or pollinator plants, mixed shrubs and perennials or all grasses. There are many resource lists online to help narrow down plant choices. Most planting plans are divided into zones based on where the water will be the longest.

Popular Plant choices:

Grasses: Fox sedge, Blue Zinger sedge, Feather Reed Grass and Little Bluestem

Perennials: Blue Flag Iris, Coneflowers, Liatris and Lobelia

Shrubs: Red Twig Dogwood, Bush Honeysuckle and Spirea


Ok, now we’re ready to get out the shovels and do some digging! Draw out the outline of your planting space with spray paint or use a garden hose so you can move it around to get the shape just right. Also outline the area that will need to be the deepest part of your garden to hold the water. Decide if you are OK with herbicide to kill the grass and plan to do your spraying at least 3 days ahead of digging. If you would rather go a natural route strip the sod off and use elsewhere in yard or flip it over to create a small berm as designed in your new planting area. After surface material is removed continue to dig out the flat bottom bowl to the depth you need and size you’ve planned out.

Next bring in the compost material estimated to incorporate into the bottom of the bowl and use a garden fork to manually dig it in or employ a tiller for mechanical help. After the soil has all been raked out you are ready to place the plants using the design for proper placement. Or if you have a lot of small plants you may want to spread mulch first and then put in plants after to insure no plant gets buried in the mulching process.

Use root pruning techniques to prepare plants for proper root growth, dig your hole and plant! Mulch should be a good quality type that is fibrous and meshes well to get so as not to float and disturb the plants in a rain event. Plan for around 2” mulch depth.

As a final step thoroughly water each plant to settle it into the soil, removing air gaps and providing necessary moisture for needed root growth. Follow a landscape professional watering plan for ideal plant health and establishment.

Step back, take a look and enjoy your accomplishment. You are now benefitting the birds, bees, family, neighbors and most importantly the future of clean water.

3 month old planting

Our expert team is available to help out with planning for the right look, installation instructions and tips or complete a project for your own outdoor space. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation 507-581-6886 or email amy@ateamlandscape.com

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LATE SPRING BLOOMERS for MN: Shrubs and Trees

As early spring bloomers begin to fade the prelude to summer begins with many fragrant flowering woody plants.

Photo courtesy of JFSchmidt- https://www.jfschmidt.com/royalraindrops/index.html

Royal raindrops crabapple – Disease resistant Height 20 ft. Spread 15 ft. Beautiful red-purple foliage, pink-red flowers, red sparkling fruit. Easy care, all-season color. Add a pop of color to your landscaping!

Greenspire Linden -Fragrant, creamy yellow flower Height: 40-50 ft. Spread: 30-35 ft. Symmetrical, pyramidal shape with a straight trunk. Bright yellow fall foliage; drought tolerant.

Japanese tree Lilac- Disease and pest resistant Height: 25-30 ft.  Spread: 20-25 ft. Fragrant, creamy white flower clusters bloom mid-June; brown fruit capsules follow. Textured, striped cherry tree-like bark adds interest in winter. Can be trained to be a multi-stemmed shrub-like tree, or a tall, single trunk tree.

Mandarin Lights Azalea- courtesy of U of MN research

Northern lights azalea grow from 3-7’ tall with flowers that bloom in spring, coming in a multitude of colors, so you would be sure to find one that would work in your landscape! These shrubs look especially lovely when planted alone or near conifers, but can work in just about any garden with partial to full sun and acidic soil! FUN FACT: Festivals celebrating the bloom of Azaleas are held around the world, including Japan, Korea, and the US

Prairie Petite Lilac

Lilac sp.  These white to deep purple flowers bloom in late spring and have perhaps one of the most easily recognizable fragrances to a Minnesota dweller. These shrubs grow best in full sun and can grow anywhere from 4-15’, depending on the variety! FUN FACT: Lilacs represent love! So, the next time you’re looking for something sweet for that special someone, skip the roses and try a Lilac bouquet!

Blizzard Mockorange – Abundant, fragrant blooms attract butterflies and birds Height: 4-5 ft.Spread: 3 ft. Very hardy shrub with deep green foliage and white blooms that last for 4 weeks in June. Orange-brown bark that exfoliates (similar to birch bark) as it ages. Tolerant to full sun.

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Living with Black Walnut Trees

When dealing with mature trees many times we just think about the shade factor and if the tree has dense or dappled areas under it. Also root competition comes to mind as well as dry ground from rain being caught in the canopy before it can get to the soil. But some trees emit substances that can negatively affect near by plants and Black Walnut is one of the most notorious for harming it’s neighbors.

As a popular choice for shade canopy, Black Walnut is also grown for its lumber production and dye properties in its ‘fruits’. The concern lies in the production of Juglone which is in the roots, leaves, nut husks and even carried by water dripping of its leaves during rain. Areas effected by a tree go well beyond the canopy through the root structure and may effect nearby roots as far as ½” away.

The only real solution to black walnut toxicity is to install tolerant plants. Fortunately there a few plants that show little or no effect in relation to Juglone toxins. Many symptoms are a mimic of diseases or physiological disorders so look up before diagnosing a plant. Even cutting the tree won’t solve the problem since the roots still contain the chemical.

Plants to steer clear of are: Nightshade (tomatoes, peppers etc), yews, Pines, Azalea, Potentilla, Hydrangeas and lilacs. Some resistant to Juglone include: Cherry, Crabapple, maples, dogwoods, carrots, onions, snap beans, arbor vitae and daylilies. Checkout the Morton Arboretum  for a comprehensive list of plants.

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Planting Harsh Sites- SALT TOLERANT

When designing street scapes, Boulevard plantings or landscapes that border driveways and sidewalks a consideration factor is snow/ice and the control method that will be used. Many of these areas will receive a dose of de-icing salts in the northern climates. Salt damage can show up through aerial spray or build up in the soil over time through direct contact or runoff.

Other then careful plant selection there are a few ways to control salt effects in the landscape including little to no use of de-icing salts, spread salt after shoveling, is salt with sand, alter drainage patterns and use temporary barriers to protect plants.

Some of the best plants with resistant characteristics include: Serviceberries, Honeylocust, white oaks, Japanese tree lilacs, Junipers, forsythias, hydrangeas and sumacs. Colorful perennials like daylilies, beebalms, sedums and Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass will add allseason interest to your mailbox planting. Be more careful with: maples, river birch, crabapples, arborvitae, boxwoods and viburnums.

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Early Spring Gardening in MN- February to April

Seed Starting Helpful Tools and Equipment: egg cartons, milk jugs, seed starting tray systems, clear bags, shop lights, metal shelving unit, seedling fertilizer, small watering can, wood label sticks or clothespins

Seed Starting- Indoors- Celery is first at the end of February followed by Brussel sprouts and onions a couple weeks later. Eggplants and peppers are started in mid March and Brassica family (Cabbage, broccoli etc.) toward the end of March. The beginning of April means 6 weeks until our last frost date (mid May) Tomatoes are started now followed up by squash, cucumbers and pumpkins on late April if you want to give them a head start.

Seed Starting- Outdoor- using milk jugs as mini greenhouse planters you can successfully start seed for cool weather vegetables or prairie type flowers. This year I’m trying this method with: Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Parsley and Kale around Mid/Late-March. Towards the end of April spinach and lettuces could be started in the garden but may need night protection. If the soil isn’t too cold and wet Potatoes can be planted.

Groundskeeping Helpful Tools and Equipment: Felco hand pruners, hedge trimmer (manual or battery powered), Loppers, Pruning Saw, tarp to pile clippings on.

Groundskeeping- cut ornamental grasses and other perennials left for winter interest to 3” high. Pull away any leaves or other organic debris from planting beds once snow has melted and overnight temps are above freezing most nights.

Groundskeeping- Pruning – cut spireas, potentilla and weigela to 6” high every 3 years for fresh growth. The general rule is cut back no more then 1/3rd back and 1/3rd thining out for shrubs. Prune spring bloomers (like lilacs and azalea) right after bloom is finished. Most trees should be pruned by the end of March but birch and maple will drip sap at this time of the year.

Homemaking- Maple Syrup is dependent on weather for sap flow. Time to order chicks for meat or eggs.

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EARLY SPRING BLOOMERS for MN: Shrubs and Trees

After a long winter of grey days with piles of white snow our eyes long to see some signs of life in the bleak landscape. The following plants are some of the first to usher in Spring with glorious shades of pink, purple, yellow, orange and white.

Redbud Flower

MN Strain Redbud Tree- This lovely one is a Redbud Tree. The rose-pink flowers emerge in the spring and last for 2-3 weeks before the green leaves appear. Then in the fall, the leaves turn to yellow, making this a great tree choice for any area you’re looking to add a little color to!

FUN FACT: Those flowers aren’t only beautiful, but edible! They can be added to a salad for a burst of crisp sweetness! How sweet is that!

 ‘Leonard Messel’ Magnolia! Well-suited for colder climates, this stunning flowering tree adds an oriental flair to any landscape. It thrives in sunny areas with plenty of water.
8′-40″ x 10′-30″
FUN FACT: Magnolia flowers are typically pollinated by beetles, rather than bees or butterflies! Magnolias flowers do not produce nectar, but they do produce large quantities of high-protein pollen which the beetles use for food.

Royal Star Magnolia

‘Royal Star’ Magnolia H 8-10′ W 8-10′
Beautiful white double star shaped flowers appear in early spring before the strappy green leaves emerge. Protect from southern winds to prevent flower buds from freezing off.

‘Ann’ Magnolia Small upright-growing magnolia with red pink lily-shaped flowers in early May. H10’xW6’

First to flower- Forsythia

Show off Forsythia  First Bloomer in Spring Height 4-5 ft. Spread 4-5 ft. Golden flowers appear before the leaves emerge, and the green leaves turn burgundy in the Fall.

Northern lights azalea- These are Azaleas! Azaleas grow from 3-7’ tall with flowers that bloom in spring, coming in a multitude of colors, so you would be sure to find one that would work in your landscape! These shrubs look especially lovely when planted alone or near conifers, but can work in just about any garden with partial to full sun and acidic soil(ph4-5.5 ideal)! FUN FACT: Festivals celebrating the bloom of Azaleas are held around the world, including Japan, Korea, and the US

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