From Weed Patch to Community Garden

The Midtown Greenway is a 5 mile biking and walking trail in south Minneapolis. It first opened about 15 years ago, converted from an old railroad corridor. Not too long after, the patrons of Vera’s Cafe decided to turn a nearby patch of weeds along the Greenway into a garden. Happily, we were able to visit this garden as part of the 2016 Garden Bloggers Fling in Minneapolis.

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The eponymous Vera, Vera Register, is the late mother of the cafe’s owner. The cafe is now closed, but Vera’s Garden still provides joy to Minneapolis walkers and bicyclists. Its first plants came from Vera Register’s home garden, along with the home gardens of cafe patrons. dsc_0400

Vera’s Garden is a collaborative citizen’s project, supported by the generosity of individuals, businesses, community groups, and government agencies. Some plants were obtained through the Minnesota Horticultural Society, which collects free plants from individuals and businesses and distributes them to community projects.

Diane Latham, whose garden I wrote about here, is a big supporter. She donated 350 of her own Irises and other plants, and arranged for additional contributions from elsewhere.

Boulders were donated by the city sewer department and a local construction company, and trees came from the Hennepin County Tree Trust. Volunteers keep the space looking good.

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Vera’s Garden, like the Greenway, is below street level. You can reach it by staircase. Here are the flingers arriving on the July morning when we visited.

The garden mixes perennials, vines, woody plants, and annuals – I like those tall flowering tobacco plants in the right of the picture.

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The garden was bursting with flowering Bee Balms (Monarda didyma) when we visited.

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Paths of wood chips were soft underfoot.

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I like the combination of the Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and the yellow Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

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Here’s another view from one of the bridges over the Greenway.

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Benches were also donated. I like those yellow Hollyhocks on the right – I think they must be Russian Hollyhocks (Alcea rugosa).  They’re supposed to be more resistant to rust disease.

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An upscale housing development forced some change on Vera’s Garden, but they have figured out how to be good neighbors for each other. While some of the garden was lost, the new development provides water and storage space to Vera’s Garden volunteers.

Do you have a favorite community garden where you live?

39 Comments on “From Weed Patch to Community Garden

  1. I always say, “If I had a backyard yard, I’d hardly ever leave home,” so having a plot in a community garden is a blessing for me. In fact, I have two. One, a block from the beach near where I live in southern California and another with a beautiful ocean view, Ocean View Farms, also nearby. And gardening year around, to boot!

  2. This garden isn’t one I remember from other Fling blog posts. It is truly lovely and the story about how it was put together is inspiring. Thanks!

  3. I love community gardens, they give me hope for mankind (and womankind!). Canberra has a lot of green space thanks to wonderful Chicagoan city planner, Walter Burley Griffin. Community gardens are also popular, especially as the inner city develops and more people live in high rise apartments.

  4. I like this idea of community garden, Jason. Looking at your photos I see wonderful Purple Coneflower, so nice! Here in Saint Petersburg we often see ‘green yards’ between huge new houses, where neighbors grow many bushes and perennials, donated from their own gardens.

  5. I like the fact that the garden was continued after the cafe closed, and that the development has compensated for the lost space with water and storage too. I recently saw a report about a community garden in a car park of a former DIY store. Everything is in recycled containers, and the handful of constant volunteers ask anyone passing by to join in and help them eat all their produce. They even have a mobile kitchen, compost heap, and compost ‘facilities’!

  6. This garden illustrates the very best of communities and gardeners. It looks absolutely lovely. Incidentally, I think I’d like to go to a fling. Is there just one a year?

  7. Community gardens add so much, in terms of community spirit as well as greenery. There are no true community gardens in our little village in Quebec but the town itself and all the merchants (all 6 or 7 or them!) use flowers extensively. We also have an annual prize for the best garden as seen from the street. It’s not meant to be competitive as much as to encourage people to make the whole area look beautiful. And it works!

  8. Our Master Gardener group is involved in several local community gardens. When we were in Ireland, I was walking around Limerick and came upon a wonderful community garden. It had murals, veggies and flowers, places to sit, and a beautiful iron fence around it. They are a wonderful way to pull the community together.

  9. Communities can be such a powerful force when just a few visionaries get things going in the right direction. The trail itself is wonderful. Adding the garden was inspired.

  10. How inspiring, the things people can do if they put their mind to it. Good on the patrons of the old Vera’s cafe and all those others who are making such fantastic things possible, I applaud them all. I did enjoy this.xxx

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