Stories of Making Change: People Doing Good Things in the Place Where They Are

The Overlooked Space Between Street and Sidewalk:
How a Smart Urban Garden Design Can Create Community for People and Insects

The boulevard garden outside of the Birchwood Café in Minneapolis, owned by longtime restaurateur Tracy Singleton, is an important community amenity for passersby, customers, and pollinators. This seemingly effortless lush planting was created by Kim Knudsen, director of horticultural services at Phillips Gardens. Often referred to as “hell strips,” the terrain between a road and a sidewalk can be a tough place for plants to survive. These strips are challenged by heat that radiates from paved surfaces, poor and compacted soil, roadside salt, and the general travails of foot traffic in an urban area, as well as pet“visitors.”

With her 35 years of urban horticultural experience and design, Kim was ideally qualified to create this hugely popular streetside planting. Given the high volume of both pedestrians and restaurant patrons who experience this special garden, Kim wanted to create a bit of an “entertainment factor” with this particular project. To bring in a pleasing balance of color and beauty as well as sustenance for pollinators, her design includes an eclectic mix of regionally native vegetation, some of her favorite reliably hardy annuals, a range of edible vegetation, and nativars. Says Kim, “As you can see, I like to mix it up! I am mostly after beauty, butterflies, and hummingbirds for people to enjoy while sitting at the tables.” The garden is so appreciated that she finds herself fielding numerous questions whenever she periodically checks in on her creation throughout the season. Hopefully, this wondrous planting has inspired others to “claim” the boulevard in
front of their own homes.

Some of the vegetation in the Birchwood Café boulevard garden:
Culver’s root
Pale purple coneflower
Sunflower species
Dense blazing star
Butterfly milkweed
Anise hyssop
Purple prairie clover
Prairie smoke
Little bluestem






Annual non-native vegetation that

also attracts pollinators:
Anise-scented sage
Nicotiana species
Purpletop vervain
Plus some edible vegetation such as:

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