Monarch Mile Connect Gateway Gardens with Naturescape

From the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger
By Margie O’Loughlin

The East Nokomis neighborhood has two outstanding native plant habitats: the Gateway Gardens at the NW corner of E. 50th St. and Hiawatha Ave., and the Nokomis Naturescape just a mile away at 5001 E. Nokomis Pkwy. These two native plant habitats will soon be connected by a series of gardens along E. 50th St. called the Monarch Mile.

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Gateway Gardens volunteer Linda Wogstad (left) and Nokomis Naturescape volunteer and visionary Vicki Bonk relaxed in the Gateway Gardens. Those two native gardens will soon be connected by 17 additional pollinator friendly gardens along E. 50th St., in a neighborhood collaboration called the Monarch Mile. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

According to Gateway Gardens volunteer Linda Wogstad, “The goal of this collaboration is to piggyback on the federal government’s monarch corridor, which runs broadly on either side of I-35 from Duluth, MN to San Antonio, TX.”

The Monarch Mile, also called the 50th St. Monarch Corridor, will be installed on July 31 and Aug. 1. Members of the Conservation Corps of Minnesota will remove sod and replace dirt in the 17 participating boulevard gardens.

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Rich Harrison, director of landscape design for Metro Blooms, stopped by to admire the growth of the Gateway Gardens’ flowers, prairie grasses, and trees. Harrison provided site evaluations for the boulevards gardens that will soon become part of the Monarch Mile. Metro Blooms is a major partner on this project. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The 15 homeowners, one church, and one business receiving the pollinator patches, as they’re called, all applied for garden grants through NENA. (Contact nena@nokomiseast.org if interested in applying for a grant next year.)

Metro Blooms has provided the design work and will be coordinating the installation of the Monarch Mile. Landscape design director Rich Harrison said, “The gardens will be in the boulevards between the sidewalks and the curb. Each garden will be about 7-1/2 x 12-1/2‘. The boulevards on E. 50th St. are especially wide, which will make the gardens more impactful. We have different plant selections depending on whether a site is sunny, shady, or a mixture of both.”

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Black-Eyed Susan and Butterfly Weed (shown here) are examples of pollinator friendly, drought tolerant, native plantings. Plants like these make the Gateway Gardens a monarch magnet, especially during the migration months of Aug./Sept. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Members of the Fresh Water Society’s Master Water Steward Program were instrumental in getting residents to apply for grants. The cost share per garden is about $250, with the labor and plant materials having a value much higher than that. Wilderness Inquiry will be providing the muscle power to get the plants in the ground.

The Gateway Gardens exist on a half-acre inner-city lot. They are the result of a collaboration between the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association, area residents, Metro Transit (who owns the lot), and the City of Minneapolis. Colberg/tews landscape architecture created the garden plan pro-bono in 2010. They designed the plantings to look like a butterfly wing when viewed from the air. A generous donor covered the cost of the plant materials.

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Invasive insects, like this Japanese Beetle held by gardener Marilyn Jones, present a constant challenge to the core of six gardeners responsible for the care and up-keep of the Gateway Gardens. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Wogstad was quick to point out that “all of this is the result of dedicated, well-informed arearesidents. The gardens could not exist without the support of this community. In particular, the volunteer gardeners had the vision in the first place, and have kept it going for all these years. We continue to welcome gardeners of all experience levels to join us.” Visit the Nokomis East Gateway Gardens Facebook page to learn more.

The four+ acre Nokomis Naturescape rests at the other end of the soon-to-be Monarch Mile. Vicki Bonk has been with the project since the beginning. “We started out by applying for a Neighborhood Revitalization Project grant 20 years ago,” Bonk said, “and I’ve shepherded the Naturescape along ever since. We’ve been able to achieve something special here through our model of Demonstrate (with the oak savannah and prairie plantings), Educate (the Grow Monarch Habitat Workshop offered in the spring), and Celebrate (the Minneapolis Monarch Festival each fall).”

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