About the Garden Awards
On May 17, 2017, the Metro Blooms Board of Directors approved, and it is with a good deal of heartache that I am announcing today, the suspension of the Minneapolis Garden Awards program for 2017 while we undertake an evaluation of the program and its long term financial sustainability.
The Minneapolis Garden Awards program has been recognizing beautiful gardens and the gardeners who create and maintain them for more than 30 years in the City of Minneapolis. Originally the Blooming Boulevards program of the City’s Committee on the Urban Environment (CUE), the awards program became a volunteer-based effort under the Friends of CUE and the direction of Joyce Vincent. Joyce chaired the volunteer group from 1983 until 2007 when the organization became known as Metro Blooms and hired its first executive director to take on the growing responsibility of running the awards program and the expanding raingarden workshop program.
Over the years, hundreds of volunteers have evaluated thousands of gardens annually, selecting the top gardens in their category and recognizing the gardeners who cared for and created them. The program has a proud history of inspiring a culture of gardening in the city of Minneapolis that is visible today in the blooming boulevards, front yards, and alley gardens that can be found throughout the city.
First Raingarden Workshop:
In 2005, Metro Blooms hosted its first raingarden workshop program, which fundamentally changed the direction of the organization and its definition of what makes a garden beautiful. The criteria for environmental stewardship established that top award-winning gardens must not only display color, texture, balance and design, they must also demonstrate water retention on the landscape, include native perennials in their plant palette, and reduce turf.
There are many gardens that can meet all these requirements and more. The gardeners of Minneapolis care about their community and their environment, and it shows. It is rare to see a block where only one beautiful garden is present. Beautiful gardens inspire more beautiful gardens, and we have been seeing more and more awards for Best Neighborhood Collaboration and Best Garden Block; recognizing the collective work of gardeners who are inspiring their neighbors and sharing tips as well as thinnings and camaraderie.
Remarkable Volunteer Evaluators:
Perhaps most remarkable are the evaluators themselves, many of whom have returned year after year to drive throughout the city on their own time and expense to nominate and evaluate gardens. It isn’t all drudgery for sure. Viewing beautiful gardens is a nice way to spend the day; many garden tips and ideas can be gathered from viewing the work of the best gardeners in the city. Still their commitment is commendable and their volunteer effort is the only way the program has remained viable for so many years. It is part of what makes Minneapolis a great city. We are tremendously grateful for their efforts, as well as all those who have supported the program throughout the years.
In addition to the incredible commitment of the volunteers who evaluate the gardens and enter their evaluation data into the online system, we also have volunteers who help to assign gardens, take pictures of the top garden awardees, interview them, and write up their stories. Even still when the organization moved from an entirely volunteer-run organization to a staff-run organization, the awards program incurred an administrative and overhead cost that despite different fundraising approaches we have never been able to cover without support from the raingarden workshop program.
At this point in the life of the Minneapolis Garden Awards program it is time to evaluate the program itself. The board has directed staff to undertake a thorough evaluation of the program including exploring all options to ensure its long term financial sustainability, and to suspend the evaluation of the gardens this season in order to devote ourselves to the task. We will be looking for your feedback in helping to understand what gives this program life, what works and what doesn’t, and to develop a plan for ensuring that this program moves forward sustainably and truly represents the best of the best!
Thank you for all you have done to promote gardening that beautifies our city and helps to heal and protect the environment!