The wide ditch site was chosen because of its proximity to a large culvert which delivers storm water directly to the river. Water coming from nearby parking lots and pavement soaks into the garden area where any fuels, debris, fertilizers or pesticides are filtered out. This natural filtration ensures that water entering the culvert is much purer than it was when it came off the pavement.
In the first two springs after establishment, volunteers cut down the wintered vegetation by hand, but soon found they needed help. In the ensuing years, the Mankato Department of Public Safety has (thankfully) assisted by burning off the dense blanket of vegetation early in the spring to allow fresh new growth.
The grasses in the Garden were slow to establish; but in their third season, they were there for good. Different species of plants and grasses have thrived. Big bluestem grass grows to 6 feet tall with seed heads waving in the wind. It is left standing all winter and provides cover and winter interest until it is removed in spring.
False indigo (baptisia) blooms in spring and early summer, and monarda (bee balm) provides summer-long flower color. Marsh-type plants which thrive in a wet or low area were also planted in the rain garden. Swamp milkweed, New England aster, iris versicolor, and prairie dropseed are other garden inhabitants who have thrived in their first decade in place.
Volunteers also found that some plantings weren’t suited for the rain garden. Rudbeckia and marsh marigold didn’t survive in the Victory Drive site. Garden caretakers have found that many of the original plantings have moved, shifted, or adjusted themselves to find their favorite spot to thrive. Caretakers still have to spend time throughout the year quashing invasive plants who have dropped in and removing trees whose seeds were brought in by neighborhood squirrels. Those trees are a by-product of the positive impact the garden has in attracting butterflies and other wildlife.
Visitors to the site will find a sign mapping out the original garden plantings. While some of the originals have moved, most can still be identified using the sign. Next time you travel on Victory Drive, look for that beautiful water purification system growing on the east side and wish it a happy 10th anniversary.