Rain Gardens

Streams and Wet Places


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A landscaping idea that is attractive and good for the environment:

A rain garden redirects rain water from a downspout - perhaps diverting it through a streambed lined with smooth river rocks to resemble the bed of a fast-running stream of water - leading to a depressed area planted with plants that appreciate wet spots, such as cardinal flower, blue flag iris, fowl mama grass, assorted sedges, swamp milkweed, marsh blazing star, etc.

In a suburban setting, a strategically placed rain garden captures water that would either stand in low pools in the yard or seep into the basement. On a larger scale, homeowners opting to create rain gardens may also be helping the larger environment:

Kenneth Potter, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin, explains that "as urban development proceeds, the land becomes covered with impervious surfaces — like rooftops, roads and parking lots — that don't allow rainwater to penetrate the ground. Instead, it washes into the gutters and sewers of city streets, eventually ending up as surface water.

"Not only does increased runoff cause higher lake levels and flashier stream flows, but water quality declines because storm water picks up sediments and pollutants as it flows over ground. Rain gardens, he says, provide one way to help counter these effects.

"Rain gardens help capture rainwater directed from roofs or other surfaces. When it rains, water initially pools in the garden's plant zone, percolating quickly from there into the permeable layer underneath. The permeable zone then stores water until it seeps into subsoil. Rain gardens may improve water quality as well, capturing common contaminants such as excess nitrogen and phosphorus."

- from University Communications News@UW-Madison


A Rain Garden in Clarendon Hills

This steeply sloped yard in Clarendon Hills just asked to be home to a rain garden. What with the downspout and birch, the area was a perfect fit. Here is the garden, newly designed and planted.

Note the downspout, waterfall, streambed, garden basin, stonework and overflow.


 

Here is a close up of the "waterfall," just after its creating in May, 2006. During a rain, the stream and garden get water from the downspout, but a hidden garden hose acts as a secondary water source.


 

This photo was taken three months after planting.

 

Alec enjoys the working stream.



See the gnarled old tree stump? Isn't this a nice sight to see when you get into your car to go to work in the morning?

 

View from the front of the house looking down the stream into the flower bed: a little bridge over the stream would be nice for the children to play on.


This garden is only 2 months old and the soil is not good, because of the new construction of the house.


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