Thanks to this grant from the Good Neighbor Fund, volunteers from SAPCC’s Transportation and Environment Committees began planning the Raymond/Robbins Gateway Pollinator Patch Garden in fall 2022. The site is located at the south edge of the rail yard that has long defined our neighborhood. At the beginning of the project, several dead spruce trees and other dead brush filled the back of the site with almost nothing growing on the boulevard surface in the foreground (see photo):

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This area, at the boundary between South and North St. Anthony Park, is primarily boulevard land owned by Ramsey County and the City of Saint Paul, with the north edge owned by SAPCC. 

As planning began, we learned that the boulevard area comprises all of the flat space at the site. Due to city and county boulevard planting regulations, no solid objects are allowed in the flat area.

Creating a garden spot in a boulevard at this intersection provided multiple challenges:

  • Plants within 30 feet of the intersection can be no more than 18 inches tall.
  • Plants in the boulevard farther from the intersection can be no more than 36 inches tall.
  • Most of the site is in full sun almost all day, and likely will receive some road salt in the winter months.
  • There is no water source available.

With those factors in mind, we came up with this garden plan:

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In early spring, we began by clearing the dead trees and removing brush at the back of the area. 

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On a weekend in April, a group of volunteers from our committees and others from the community installed hardscape pavers inside the curbs to create a visual edge, and to protect the plants as much as possible when people depart parked cars on Robbins, or when pedestrians pass by on Raymond. The pavers are underlaid with compacted Class V gravel for stability.

At the curved corner of Raymond and Robbins — because we had noted deep truck tires marks in the mud inside the curb line — we packed layers of Class V gravel and then topped it with Bryan Red gravel, so that if trucks are driven on it, it should hold up without degrading its appearance. 

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In May, we laid down a Minnesota-made weed-suppression mat, made from recycled wood and corn cobs, over the soil. 

Then on two different weekend afternoons, volunteers helped plant the 400+ plants in our plan through the weed mat. Each plant had to have an opening cut into the mat, then a hole dug into the soil, the root ball massaged, the soil back-filled, and water added.

Our garden plan incorporated 16 plant species, all under 36 inches tall within the boulevard, that are good for growing in dry soil with minimal water once established, and in full sun. They are also salt-tolerant and excellent for pollinators. A few are also “steppables” for the areas where there is in-ground municipal infrastructure or along the edge near the curb.

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The only exceptions to the height restriction are a row of 8-foot tall lilacs (Syringa prestoniae ‘Donald Wyman’ and S. villosa) across the back of the garden, just inside the SAPCC property line, and behind them a native hackberry tree (Celtis occidentalis), which should grow to 50 – 60 feet tall and provide shade to the adjacent Raymond Avenue sidewalk. In front of the lilac hedge is a line of very short, wide native chokeberries (Aronia ‘Groundhug’), which have white flowers followed by blue berries, which are good for wild life.

The flowering perennials on the boulevard will bloom in shades of lavender, yellow, or white:

  • Aromatic aster, Symphiotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies’ (lavender, late summer, fall)
  • Black-eyed susan, Rudbeckia hirta (yellow, summer)
  • Catmint, Nepeta faassenii, ‘Purrsian Blue’ (lavender/purple, summer)
  • Lesser catmint, Calamintha ‘Montrose White’ (white, summer through fall)
  • Mother of thyme, Thymus serpyllum ‘Elfin’ (sage green / lavender-pink flowers, summer)
  • Ornamental onion, Allium ‘Millennium’ (lavender pink, later summer)
  • Prairie dropseed grass, Sporobolus heterolepsis (green)
  • Pussytoes, Antennaria neglecta (sage green, white flowers, summer)
  • Russian sage, Salvia yangii ‘Crazy Blue’ (lavender, summer)
  • Sand coreopsis, Coreopsis lanceolata (yellow, late spring, summer)
  • Wild petunia, Ruellia humilis (lavender, mid to late summer)

Since planting, volunteers have been watering every other day to establish the new vegetation. We are using rain barrels donated by community members to store water that is loaded by our partner organization the Creative Enterprise Zone with its watering trailer, used for the 100 Trees Initiative.

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As we have worked at the site over the months, especially since the planting and watering began, we have received numerous positive comments from passersby, and answered their questions about who funded it and how it came to happen.

The participation of more than two dozen community volunteers has made this project come to fruition. Thanks to this strong community support, we know this pollinator garden on such a visible corner of our neighborhood will have a positive impact in St. Anthony Park for years to come. Thank you to the Good Neighbor Fund for making this change possible!