Listen to an audio version of the Self-Guided Walking Tour:
Hello. Welcome to the native and shade gardens at Lyndale Park. You are in the right place if you have reached the two stately white pines.
The idea for a native garden began in April 2015 when the Minneapolis Park Board asked the Men’s and Women’s Garden Club of Minneapolis (MWGCM) if we would be willing to take on the long-neglected Hummingbird garden area. It was originally 65’ of unidentified plants. The following year we added 35’ of a shade garden to the east and subsequently 5’ of spring ephemerals and 15’ of rain garden to the west. This combined woodland garden extends to the chipped path on the north.
A walking path separates the shade and native gardens. As you face the gardens to your left the native garden is where the tour itself begins and follows a figure eight pattern. Don’t worry, we will guide you carefully and there are directional arrows assisting us.
Including both gardens, there are over 100 plantings, marked with both scientific and common names. All are perennials. We will highlight only a few but encourage you to enjoy all. There is a link to a more comprehensive plant list on the home page. So, pause, breathe deeply, awaken your senses. Look, listen, allow the aromas to waft around you. Pay attention! Here we go!
Greeting you in the corner of the native garden and the walking path is Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans). It can bloom in May with the flowers lasting a good month. Stems can be cut back to the ground and it will re-bloom again. Because it likes moisture ours is planted near a log which acts like mulch, keeping moisture in the soil. As you head west in the front of the native garden you will see low growing plants. Spring welcomes the Pasque flower (Anemone patens wolfgangia). It is one of the earliest (late April into May) prairie wild plants with solitary lavender flowers. It is covered with silky hairs that give it a silvery sheen. Prairie smoke (Geum triflorun) also blooms early and can continue into summer. Its droopy rosy flowers turn to showy seed heads that resemble plumes of smoke, thus its name. These two border plants display very pretty foliage for the entire summer, so they make a nice edging.
A stunning sight in late April early May is the Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) with its intense pink buds flowering before the leaves appear. Under the redbud are spring ephemerals. True ephemerals may send up flowers before leaves show up, but not necessarily. What they all do is bloom, send up leaves, and then totally disappear by midsummer. You may need to mark the spot where they grow so you don’t dig them up by mistake. An example of an ephemeral is Dutchmen’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) with its delicate fern like leaves and blooms resembling pantaloons hanging upside down. Look for a lovely drift of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) here but in other parts of the gardens, too. Behind the low growers you will find taller plants – one of our structural guidelines which brings balance to the gardens.
If you are touring in summer, you will find the native garden resplendent in color. Blooming from late spring to late summer you will find Orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida) in the middle part of the garden. It has bold yellow-orange flowers and is noted for its sturdy upright habit and ease of growing. You will also find the Coralberry bush (Symphoricarpos orbiculates) one of only two shrubs in the native garden (both inherited with the garden) The other shrub is a very determined rose bush (Rosa rosaceae) growing toward the back of the native garden which we’ve tried unsuccessfully to move. On the third try, when the segment we moved did not thrive but came back from the roots, we decided that it had claimed that spot and will be allowed to grow there as long as it wishes.
Turn your attention to the east side of the garden. You will see two native purple flowers, one familiar, one not. Purple echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) and pale purple cone flower (Echinacea pallida) are taller and more willowy versions of the cone flowers found in most gardens, but with narrower, less robust petals. They are magnets for several kinds of butterflies and insects. These natives are not as bright or varied in color as the hybridized versions but serve an essential role in the pollination process.
We would be remiss if we do not encourage you to look for the milkweed (Asclepias) plants in the garden. They are essential for Monarch butterflies. In fact, the milkweed plant is the sole host plant for the Monarch butterfly; its foliage providing food for the larvae. It is also a nectar plant popular with many species of butterflies. In our garden you will find the rose (also called swamp or red) milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in the lower right corner. But do look for the others in the native garden.
Blooming mid-summer behind the edging plants you will see a spectacular red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Hummingbirds and swallow- tailed butterflies find it an important source of nectar. It blooms from July to September. We tried it in two areas but like a recalcitrant toddler it has moved to a spot it prefers over our choices. Plants that seed or send out roots or rhizomes often do that. A more co-operative red blooming plant is the royal catchfly (Silene regia). You will be able to see it during July and August as it grows to 4 feet and is located on the right-middle side of the garden. Its ability to trap insect with the sticky glands on the stem accounts for its name. It is hard to find in the wild due to loss of habitat. In our garden the hummingbirds and butterflies love it.
Looking back into the garden you will see an area of sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) with its abundance of golden-yellow daisy-like flowers. Pruning back these plants in late May will keep them more compact. They are another plant that likes to spread out in the garden. They bloom July through September.
In the fall, there are many plants in bloom. One of our jobs is to keep a source of pollen and nectar available as long as there are insects searching for food and doing their job as pollinators. Goldenrod ‘Fireworks’ (Solidago), so called because the bright yellow sprays of flowers look like an exploding rocket, is a reliable source of nectar for migrating butterflies and bees. It grows midway right of center in the garden. It is a “nativar”, a cross between the native goldenrod and hybrid plants. We grow it because it stands up well and is not as aggressive as the straight species.
As you pass under the redbud tree you will come to a walking path. Take a right and turn your attention to the rain garden on your left. Rain gardens are incredible multi-taskers. They help keep rain water on the premises by controlling the runoff of rain from hard surfaces. They collect the rain and hold it, allowing it to seep slowly into the soil, making it more accessible to plants. They filter out pollutants. And they attract numerous bees, butterflies and other insects.
As you look at the garden you see a depression surrounded by a berm. Rain gardens can be as shallow as 4” or as deep as ours – about a foot – or deeper. Ours contains a collection of native plants perfectly suited to the task at hand. Their roots extend from a few inches to 12 feet into the ground. The depth of our garden means that after filling with rain water it will be completely dry in 12 hours.
If you are touring in the spring, you will see prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) continuing from the front border of the native garden, on the front berm. Behind, you will see breath taking golden yellow marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) well suited to the rain garden as they grow naturally in swamps and marshes.
Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is located at the top left of the rain garden, blooming in April to May. It is also called Indian Turnip. It was used for family planning by native Americans. The flower is unique. It resembles a trumpet with a long flap that curls over the top with tiny florets inside. As the flowers ripen the trumpet (pulpit) withers and leaves a cluster of tiny green berries that turn bright red in the fall.
If this is summer, draw your attention to pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) near the path at the top of the garden. Its pearly white flowers bloom all summer. It is the host plant for the American Painted Lady butterfly. I hope you are lucky enough to see one of these beautiful butterflies. Adding a bright spot of summer color in July and August is the red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) It loves water, so is much at home in the rain garden. And hummingbirds love it.
Queen of the prairie (Fillipendula rubra) blooms from June to August. It sits on the western edge of the berm and grows to over 5 feet. With beautiful clusters of pink flowers, it is a standout.
Another member of the lobelia species is the great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). It sports bright blue clustered flowers on two to three foot high spikes, blooming into fall. Its name derives from the once held belief that it could cure venereal diseases. It is a major provider of nectar for our native bumblebees.
Blooming through October in the upper part of the rain garden is zig zag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis). Its name comes from the habit of its stem zigging and zagging from leaf to leaf. Along with the other goldenrods it does not cause hay fever (an old wives’ tale). Wind pollinated rag-weeds are the true cause of hay fever.
I would also like to draw your attention to the sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis). It got its name from early settlers who observed that it was sensitive to frost. It has distinctive lobed fronds and thrives in moist, damp conditions, so it is a good fit in the base of the rain garden.
If you try installing a rain garden at home and you should try this at home, location is as important as soil preparation. Select a site where it can collect rain water, ideally at the base of a gentle slope from your house or garage. Our garden is clay on the surface, overlaying sand. We needed to dig the soil in order to lighten and loosen it. Loose, porous soil is essential for filtering. An important caveat is to walk on the garden as minimally as possible at all stages -planting and maintaining so there is no compacting of soil.
Native Garden Continued
At the top of the rain garden, under a Norway spruce (Picea abies) you will turn right, heading east. On your left you will see our partially hidden green supply box. Shaded by sweet Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) an up to 7- foot, shade loving plant. Blooming July through September it is another plant that loves to expand. Worth planting because butterflies find its vanilla scented flowers irresistible.
On your right in the late summer towards the back of the native garden is Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum) a tall dusty purple plant, sun loving relative of sweet Joe Pye. Another tall native, Ironweed (Veronia fasciculata) also starts blooming a violet-purple in late summer and continues into fall. It has handsome rusty-iron colored seed heads which develop as the blossoms fade.
In the same area, you will see a cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) an imposing plant with yellow daisy booms. It is noteworthy for the way the bases of the leaves wrap around the stem and join to form a cup that can actually hold water.
If you look overhead you will see a white pine (Pinus strobus) and 2 red pines (Pinus resinosa) which anchor the native garden on the north. The red pines have been subjected to a fungal infection. The previous two wet summers have been ideal for this kind of infection to thrive. Under these trees is another area of spring ephemerals.The Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) thrives here in the spring. You will also see large leaf asters (Eurybia macrophylla) with large heart-shaped leaves and dainty white or violet flowers blooming into October.
Continuing right you will walk down the central wood chipped path between the native and shade gardens. Eyes right. (we will cover the shade garden on the left later). You will see a serviceberry tree (Amelanchier laevis) truly an understory tree for all seasons. It is covered with delicate white flowers in late April followed by purple red fruit in summer. The leaves are purple in the spring, green in summer and bright reddish orange in the fall on silver-grey bark. The fruits are edible if you can get to them before the birds do. They make tasty pies and jams.
You may see a sign warning of a ground bee’s nest, asking you to keep back. These bees are peaceful. We can work around them if we stay back from the hole that leads to the nest. They will defend that entry and nobody likes to be stung.
This side of the garden also host the native turtlehead (Chelone glabra) host plant for the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly and attractive to ruby-throated hummingbirds and bumblebees in the late summer.
Here you can also see an example of the uses we make of grasses in our gardens. Bordering the central path is gray’s sedge (Carex grayii) named after botanist Asa Gray. Its unique seed pods resemble tiny medieval maces. It is easy to grow and adapts well to partial shade.
A ground clematis (Clematis recta) anchors this side of the native garden. Unlike the many clematis that are climbing vines this is free-standing (mostly free, it does require some support). It produces fragrant, small white star-shaped flowers in June.
Back where you began you will now turn your attention to the shade garden. Situated directly in front of the two white pines, a star attraction in the shade garden is the Bee Hotel. It was constructed by an Eagle Scout as a service project, and we were fortunate enough to inherit it. Who knew bees would use a hotel? It faces south and provides bees easy access to a variety of plants. Bees need the plants for nourishment and nectar, and plants need the bees for pollination.
The pollinator bees that use the hotel are solitary, small and non-aggressive. Mason bees, leafcutter bees, and yellow-faced bees are examples of pollinator bees that number over 4,000 species in North America. They look for secure breeding places to lay their eggs, seeking out hollow stems, old beetle holes in deadwood, mud holes, fallen trees. We fill the hotel rooms with lengths of bamboo, hollow plant stems, twigs and grasses. Our hotel has been the victim of arson on two occasions but has survived. Urban living can be dangerous, even for bees.
In order to keep small and not so small hands out of the hotel we have covered it with chicken wire that allows only bee guests to enter.
Bees mate in spring and early summer. Female bees come looking for safe breeding places summer to early fall. They lay their eggs one at a time and leave enough pollen and resin to feed their offspring as they grow. They provide a safe place for them to hatch and grow by covering the openings with grass, wax resin or mud to protect the egg. Depending on when you visit, you may be able to see the closed off ends of stems. After wintering in the safety of the hotel, the bees emerge in spring to do their part by mating and then pollinating a wide variety of plantings. This essential cycle continues.
For the gardeners spring means spring cleaning. We don’t like to stay in dirty hotel rooms, and it turns out bees don’t either. After all the bees have emerged, we remove the used materials and mixing a mild (10%) bleach solution we clean to remove all debris, fungi, and parasites. After a good drying out we supply new materials and await a new crop of guests.
Providing safe spaces for bees has become more and more important as their natural habitats have been diminished in size and reduced in livability due to the expanding use of pesticides and the encroachment of human endeavors. Yes, by us.
If it is spring, you will see a gorgeous, single bearded purple iris (Iris germanicus) in front of the bee hotel. It is a specimen plant, solitary and dramatic. Usually, we would plant 3 or 5 plants unless we wish to highlight one as we have done here. You will also see a peony (Paeonia) in bloom. Both plantings were here when we developed the garden.
A word about the structure of this garden. Trees make up the bones of the shade garden. Most are inherited. We did not plant them. Three crab apples, (Malus) and one luxurious Norway Spruce (Picea abies) with its distinctive droopy limbs anchor the back of the shade garden. Mid-garden are a hazelnut (Corylus avellana) and three ninebarks (Physocarpus opalifolius) which we planted, and two hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) inherited. In addition, planted in 2020 are 3 aralias (Aralia cordata) also known as spikenards. They add refreshing chartreuse to the shade. Interestingly, aralia root has been a major ingredient in root beer. It was also used by native Americans for respiratory ailments. Like many of your gardens ours goes from deep shade to light shade with dappled sun to areas receiving full sun for part of the day.
You will notice the mix of natives and non-natives in this garden. As you proceed east in the front of the garden you will see seersucker sedge (Carex plantaginea). The 1” wide leaves have a puckered look, thus the name. It is a native plant and has been placed on the endangered list. If it is spring you will see a drift of lovely blue woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) above and to the left. You may also see Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) host plant to the Black Swallowtail butterfly. It blooms April to June.
The hakone grass (Hakonechloa macro) native to Japan is in its second season, mingling with lamium (lamium maculatum) also known as dead nettles. This striking grass spills gracefully over rocks in the front of the shade garden. You will also see a heucheralla (Heucherella ‘solar eclipse’) which tolerates some sun. Aren’t the red brown centers edged in green lovely?
Hostas are shade tolerant plants beloved for their foliage, blooms, and aromas. Although not known for their flowers, hummingbirds and other pollinators love them. They number over 3,000 registered varieties. We use them through-out the shade garden. Located above and to the right of the heucherellas is the H.’Fortunei aureomaginata’ a classic hosta with green leaves and golden yellow margins.
It blooms midsummer to fall. Above and to the right is H. ‘Key West’ a large hosta with intense golden leaves. It thrives in partial to full shade and blooms early summer.
In the right bottom corner of the garden you will see Japanese Painted ferns (Athryium niponicum). You take a left and head up the hill.
As you reach the end of the shade garden on your right, extending eastward to Kings Highway is a beautiful mixed border garden, tended by another group of MWGCM gardeners. It is not part of the walking tour but well worth exploring on your own.
As you walk up the path (watch your step) you will pass a drift of H. ‘Golden Tiara’, a perfect small to medium hosta whose narrow margins change from golden-yellow to cream over time. The hydrangea shrubs on your left separate two of these drifts. Near the top you will see a pair of bugbane (Actaea racemosa) also known as Black Cohosh, plants with beautiful purple foliage and pinkish white blooms in late summer. These fragrant flowers are reported to repel insects (thus the name).
At the top (again watch your step) take a left (to the west). This will take you under the Norway Spruce. You can see and smell a drift of Sweet Woodroof (Gallium odoraturm) a lovely, small, herbaceous groundcover growing under the tree. We have been trying to grow Maidenhair ferns (Adiantum) in this area with limited success. We suspect the area is too dry, but you can see this lovely fern in other parts of the shade garden.
On your right you will see an area literally in development. We originally agreed to garden up to this path but being gardeners, the rolling knoll has been calling us. It needs to be cleared of dead trees and invasive toxic plants and then replanted. It backs up to another walking path on the edge of Lakewood cemetery. How can we resist? It is a living, breathing, synergistic part of our gardens.
Proceeding westward you will see a drift – many plants, often naturalized – of meadow rue (Rue thalictrum). It has a lovely soft quality. Looking down into the garden you will see ferns, in particular the lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina). It creates the illusion of a dainty fern while actually being a rather large plant. Ferns thrive in cool, moist climates and in shady areas. They can be a challenge to grow in our garden but worth the trouble for the beauty and motion they provide. You will also see a newly planted Basswood tree (Tilliceae americana) that will bring shade far into the future as it grows.
You will have noticed a short, mounding grass planted in many areas, throughout the top of the shade garden and in the developed portion in the back of the walking path. Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pennsylvanica) flourishes in the shade and provides a soft attractive ground cover. We love it and use it extensively.
At the red pine (Pinus resinosa) take a left. Yes, you have been down this path before. This time focus your attention left to the shade garden. You will see a drift, H. Francis Williams. This was the first drift planted by us in the shade garden. It is an excellent example of the beauty, peace, and serenity a large display can bring. Pause for a moment and let its peacefulness surround you.
You will again pass the Bee Hotel (take another look). You come to the end of the tour- back where you began. We hope your time in the gardens whets your appetite for more and that you will visit many times.
One final caveat: if a plant is not in its designated place in the gardens, all we can say is “hmm, wonder where that got to?”
This tour was developed and is narrated by Carol Schreier, with assistance from Kirky Otto and other members of the Native/Shade Garden Committee of MWGCM. Financial support was provided by a grant from the Deane Fund, MWGCM. Photography by Kathy Lenarz. Technical support from Anne Guttridge.