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Roundabouts need new plants

By Staff | Aug 25, 2014

Last winter’s cold and snow was hard on many of the shrubs in the Blue Earth area.

And, some of the shrubs suffering from winter kill were those planted last fall in the three roundabouts on Highway 169.

Specifically, one kind of shrub bearberry bushes.

“There was about 90 percent winter kill on the bearberry bushes,” says Wes Brown, Blue Earth city engineer. “The reason was a combination of being planted late and the harsh winter we had.”

The bushes were planted in three distinct areas on each of the three roundabouts, along with seven other kinds of plants and trees. While the bearberry bushes are naturally a brownish red color, engineer Brown says they are mainly all dead and did not come back this spring.

And, there is a large number of the dead bearberry plants. There are 200 in both the middle and south roundabouts. Plus, there are 504 of them in the north roundabout.

A committee appointed by the Blue Earth City Council had been organized to choose the plants used in the landscaping of the roundabouts, but the choices were made from those on an acceptable list furnished by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

On Wednesday afternoon, members of that committee met and chose some replacement shrubs from four choices again furnished by MnDOT.

“It is unclear if the cost of replanting will be covered by MnDOT or the contractor or subcontractor or both,” Brown says. “But one thing is for sure, the city of Blue Earth does not have to pay any of it.”

The committee chose to replace the bearberry bushes with ‘Low Gro Sumac.’ These plants are drought resistant, low maintenance and grow well in full sun. Plus, they only grow about two feet tall and they turn a reddish color in the fall.

Fewer of the Sumac bushes will be needed because they spread more than the bearberry bushes. Instead of 200 bearberry bushes in the south two roundabouts, only 141 are needed. And, instead of 540 in the larger, north roundabout, only 380 of the Sumac bushes will be planted.

A cost estimate for replacing the bushes was not available. But, the original cost for doing the landscaping in the roundabouts was between $11,000 and $16,000 per each roundabout.