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Workshops help landowners make the most of wetlands

A border of native plants blends seemlessly with the nearby wetland. Photo courtesy of Angie Hong

Minnesota may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but it is also the land of 10 million wetlands. These oft misunderstood features are sometimes wet, sometimes dry, but always important to people and wildlife.

Officially, there are eight types of wetlands in Minnesota: bogs, shallow and deep marshes, shallow open water, shrub and wooded swamps, seasonal basins, wet meadows, and calcareous fens. In the blurry intersection between water and land, frogs lay their eggs, carnivorous plants devour passing insects, and boisterous red-winged blackbirds sway from the tops of cattails.

Wetlands protect nearby homes from flooding and help to reduce shoreline erosion along the edges of rivers and lakes. Approximately 43 percent of threatened and endangered plant and animal species in the United States live in or depend on wetlands, and these areas also provide habitat for spawning fish, migrating waterfowl, breeding frogs and turtles, and insects such as dragonflies. Even ephemeral (seasonal) wetlands, many of which are only wet for a few weeks each year, provide vital habitat and protection against flooding downstream.

This spring, the East Metro Water Resource Education Program and Master Gardeners of Washington County will team up to host a series of workshops to provide local landowners with advice on "planting for clean water" in a way that adds beauty, provides habitat and helps to protect lakes, streams and wetlands.

Workshops in Wyoming, Minn., and Cottage Grove, will focus on "Blue Thumb Basics" — using native plants to create rain gardens, shoreline plantings, and other landscaping features that protect water and provide habitat for birds and pollinators. During the workshops, instructors will share photos from local projects and help participants sketch landscape plans for their yards with tracing paper and aerial photos. They will also discuss resources available for water-friendly gardening and landscaping projects, including incentive grants, free site visits, garden designs, plant lists and conservation plans for larger properties. Workshops are scheduled for:

• Thursday, April 4, 6-7:30 p.m. at Wyoming Area Library. Register at tinyurl.com/wygarden2019

• Thursday, April 11, 6-7:30 p.m. at Cottage Grove City Hall. Register at tinyurl.com/cggarden2019

Workshops in Hugo, Oakdale and Lake Elmo will focus on wetlands specifically and will include guided hikes to nearby wetlands to look for birds and wildlife and practice identifying native and invasive plants. Instructors will share information about native plants and shrubs that grow well in wetland soils and will also talk about rules that affect what landowners can and can't do with wetlands on their properties. Workshops are scheduled for:

• Thursday, April 25, 6-7:30 p.m. at Hugo City Hall

• Thursday, May 23, 6-7:30 p.m. at Oakdale Discovery Center

• Thursday, June 6, 6-7:30 p.m. at Sally Manzara Nature Center in Lake Elmo

Register for all three at tinyurl.com/wetgarden2019.