A nonexistent raingarden is how Rich Harrison connected with Metro Blooms. He was the caretaker of the apartment building where he lived, and the yard there was a mess: a couple of trees had been taken down, stormwater was collecting, and nothing was growing. Harrison decided to put in a raingarden. He knew of Metro Blooms’ work with raingardens, so he reached out for more information. Before he knew it, he was volunteering. Then he was contracting as a landscape designer. Ten years and hundreds of raingarden installations later, Harrison is Co-Director of Design at Metro Blooms Design+Build, where he focuses on partnering with communities to create more sustainable landscapes.
For his work with Metro Blooms and the volunteering he does on his own time, Harrison was recently honored with the Public Service Award by the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. “It’s humbling,” says Harrison, who had no idea he had even been nominated. The award is given for exemplary public service professionally or personally. Harrison was nominated for his work at Metro Blooms and for the time he gives to organizations like the Loppet Foundation and Dark Clouds Silver Lining, a Minnesota United FC fan club that benefits many local charities.
At Metro Blooms, he has worked on a great diversity of projects, including large ones like the first permeable alley in Minneapolis and designing and managing installation of a complete landscape renovation at Masjid An Nur — the “Eco Mosque” — in North Minneapolis. One of his main roles, he says, is sharing his knowledge about sustainable design, which he does with home gardeners attending workshops, landscape architecture students, conservation agency staff, maintenance teams and residents of large rental complexes, as well as with youth and young adults at landcare training events.