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Mendota Heights Pollinator Partnership

By Sarah Heidtke, Sue Light and Cindy Johnson, Dakota County Master Gardeners

Master Gardeners are working with city government and residents to promote pollinator friendly gardens. Dakota County hosts a unique native garden in the boulevard alongside Victoria Road, between Marie Avenue and Douglas Road in Mendota Heights. Not only is it a beautiful sight to drive, bike or stroll alongside throughout the year, but the garden hosts a number of native pollinators - read on to find out how Mendota Heights staff and Master Gardeners got together with community members in order to create this special place and more!

Mendota Heights Pollinator Partnership

In 2016, the city of Mendota Heights took the admirable step of declaring itself a “pollinator friendly city.” That means that the city is encouraging residents to become more pollinator-friendly by avoiding the use of insecticides and adopting more environmentally friendly landscaping practices; avoiding planting plants that are treated with systemic insecticides; and planting more pollinator-supporting plants.

Since then, Dakota County Master Gardeners Sue Light and Cindy Johnson have been working with city staff to identify ways to enhance pollinator habitats. One of their first and most successful projects was the reformation of the Victoria Road boulevard (Victoria Road between Marie Ave. and Douglas Rd. At the time, this area was a ditch filled with rip rap and, unfortunately, a lot of trash.



By June of the same year, Sue, Cindy and a team of Dakota County Master Gardeners, seeded grasses and forbs on the Victoria Road boulevard. To be exact, they used Minnesota State Mix 35-621 Dry Prairie SE mix. This selection was based on the soil, water and light conditions. In order to maintain driver visibility, only species under two feet in height were seeded within thirty feet of the corners at each end. Within 2 years, the garden looked like this: 


Within that time, water retention improved - instead of gushing down the slope over rip rap and into the storm drains, much of the rain water is now slowed and absorbed by the native plants and their deep roots. In fact, rainwater and snowmelt are the only sources of water these plants receive.


Every week brings something new to the City Partnership native planting along Victoria Road. Depending on the time of year, the Minnesota native plants you may see include - gorgeous swaths of Little Blue Stem, Wild Petunia, White and Purple Prairie Clover, Monarda, different Milkweeds, Rudbeckia, Goldenrod, Ironweed, Prairie Dropseed and Blue Vervain, to name a few. That “ditch” on Victoria Road has become a native plant treasure.


2024 marks the ninth year of the City Partnership Project.  If you pass through in July, you will find Monarda (native Bee Balm) with full lavender colored blooms topping shoulder-high stems, complemented by Asclepias Tuberose (bright orange Butterfly Milkweed). Many insects, including the Rusty Patch Bumblebee and several Black and Gold Bumblebees, are attracted to the pollinator plants in the garden. 


Even though all of the intentional plants are native to Minnesota, regular management of this garden is done and required.  During the growing season, three or four Master Gardeners at a time will weed the roadside twice a month. Weed pressure comes from invasive plants such as Siberian Elm, Crown Vetch, Thistle, Japanese Hedge Parsley and others. Some curious neighbors have come out to help weed and learn more about the plants.  Walkers on the path frequently comment on the beauty of the plants as they walk by. Garden management also includes cutting back the vegetation in the spring so the new growth isn’t smothered by the matted plant material from the season before. 

The City of Mendota Heights and Dakota County Master Gardeners have also partnered to install and maintain the native plantings at City Hall. In addition, they have worked with Mendota Heights residents to install rain gardens.  Master Gardeners have also hosted education nights for the public on the value and use of pollinator plants. All of these efforts are intended to improve water quality and welcome pollinators to Mendota



Take the time to visit the extraordinary native garden on Victoria Road and at City Hall. 

And, keep an eye out for announcements from Dakota County Master Gardeners for public education nights to learn more about this partnership and the plantings.

Photo credits: Sue Light (1,2,3,5,7,8), Sarah Heidtke (4,6), Robert Hatlivig (9)


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