Neighbors awarded for their water and wildlife-friendly gardens

Bill Zajicek and Romi Slowiak, seen in the center with presenters Dana Larsen and Mark Gernes, live on the eastern shore of Lake Phalen and have set aside some of their property as restored prairie.

photos courtesy of Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District Jan Arleth and KateLynn Hibbard, at center, have a garden just west of Lake Phalen, where they started replacing their lawn with native plants about seven years ago.

Candyce Osterkampe, whose garden can be seen near Hillcrest Knoll Park, began converting her lawn to native plants about 10 years ago.

While the return of gardening season is many months away, the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District recently celebrated local homeowners whose landscaping and gardens benefit water quality and local ecology, during the district’s annual recognition event Nov. 14 at Keller Golf Course in Maplewood.

On the East Side, three neighbors were awarded the 2018 Landscape Ecology Awards Program honor. 

The honorees include Jan Arleth and KateLynn Hibbard, whose garden is located at 881 Cottage Ave. E., just west of Lake Phalen. 

Arleth and Hibbard began replacing their lawn with native plants about seven years ago, and the result is a lush landscape that’s great for pollinators and requires little watering. About 80 percent of the plantings are “native Lake Phalen” plants, and a rain barrel adds to the conservation ethic on display. Arleth and Hibbard are not only helping the environment, they are also helping to increase neighborhood awareness around the impact of landscaping choices.

Another East Side winning yard is Romi Slowiak and Bill Zajicek’s at 1492 East Shore Drive, just east of Lake Phalen. 

With a steeply sloping yard overlooking the east shore of Lake Phalen, Slowiak and Zajicek have gone to great lengths to prevent runoff and protect their local watershed. Innovative water management practices on their property include restored prairie, a dry creek-bed channel, a rain garden to collect driveway runoff, and a grass-pave sidewalk. By incorporating native plants into formal landscaping features, they have created a yard that is both beautiful and ecologically sound.

The final East Side honoree is Candyce Osterkampe, whose work can be seen at 1692 Idaho Ave. E., near Hillcrest Knoll Park. 

Osterkampe’s entire yard features a wealth of diversity from native plants to organic vegetable gardens. A rain garden on the east side of the property filters runoff and contains pollinator-friendly wildflowers like purple coneflower. This welcoming, manicured site is testament to lots of hard work, since Osterkampe began converting the lawn to gardens 10 years ago.

In Maplewood, Monica and Terrance Garrity received an award for their care in maintaining three large rain gardens installed at their home at 1247 Junction Ave. by the City of Maplewood. 

The rain gardens capture stormwater runoff from their roof and the street, and feature a variety of flowering plants that provide great habitat for pollinators. Before the project, storms would cause large puddles to form in the driveway, backyard and neighbor’s yard. Now, the puddles are gone as water is directed to the rain gardens, where it can soak into the ground.

The district’s citizen-volunteer Landscape Ecology Awards Program team manages this program, visits nominated sites and conducts judging. Since 2002, the program has awarded 102 sites, including 74 private residences, five schools, seven businesses, five churches and 11 public properties.

Each of the award-winning properties features Minnesota native plants, which provide important habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. Plus, the use of rain gardens and deep-rooted vegetation helps water infiltrate the soil instead of running off into lakes and streams.

To find out more about the program and to get involved, visit

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