Lake of the Isles brownout: Blame it on the weather

Lake of the Isles has overcome flooding and years of re-engineering, too-tall shrubs and — within the next few years — a deteriorating parkway.

Thanks to a long, wet spring combined with a hot, dry summer, it now also has to deal with a delay in beautification.

In late June, the lakeside burst with color, as hordes of new plants were put into the ground. There were roses, dogwoods and junipers, honeysuckles, rhododendrons and evergreens. New bluegrass seeds were sewn.

“Then we got the hot weather,” said Andy Lesch, project manager with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Unlike the 125 trees planted on Arbor Day on the lake’s north shore — which are thriving under a watchful eye, Park Board Forestry Director Ralph Sievert said — many of the shrubs died off. About two-thirds have had to be removed.

Lesch said it would have been hard to prevent this outcome considering the weather that preceded their planting. Because low temperatures and rain stuck around for as long as they did, pre-seeding earthwork was delayed by about a month. And when planting finally was done, the heat was just around the corner.

“Everything was pushed back further than we would have liked,” Lesch said.

Plants quickly lost their color. It didn’t go unnoticed.

Pat Scott, of the Kenwood Isles Area Association and a former City Council member, has been closely involved with the lake’s renovation project. When she saw workers putting in plants at the end of June, she was surprised at the late timing. She said she also was surprised at the condition a number of the shrubs already were in.

“It was very apparent when they first were planted that some of them were on death’s door,” Scott said.

That’s not because they weren’t watered, Lesch said. The contractor hired for the plantings had a watering plan — the plants “were doused with water,” Lesch said — but to no avail. They went back and tried different watering techniques to perhaps find a way to save the plants.

None worked.

“Any amount of water right now probably would not help them thrive,” Lesch said. “We’re just better off to wait.”

And that’s the current plan: to wait.

At the July 2 Park Board meeting, Commissioner Bob Fine said the shrubs were under warranty with the contractor, so they’ll be replanted at no extra cost to the board. That will be done as the summer winds down and cooler air returns — probably in late August.

“Hopefully, that will be enough time,” Scott said, but she’s worried that it isn’t — if a freeze were to hit early this fall or winter, the plants would not take it well after having been planted so late in the year.

Meanwhile, neighbors have noted that not all of the remaining plants are looking perfect. “[Some] are in really sad shape,” Scott said.

Lesch said that’s to be expected considering this summer’s weather, but he added that he’s confident they will survive through the remainder of the summer. The contractor, Landcare Solutions, is keeping a closer eye on the shrubs to be sure, Lesch said, although he said he didn’t know Landmark’s exact watering schedule.

Landmark could not be reached for this story.

“It’ll come together,” Lesch said. “We just got caught by the summer.”

Neighbors of the lake hope that’s true.

“It’s so frustrating,” Scott said, “because we’ve worked so hard on [the renovation] project. This is such a public setting, and it just looks so bumbled.”