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 LaGrange, IL


Because this area is located between two houses and watered regularly by a large downspout, it is constantly dark and wet.

Our landscaping ideas included removing the shrubs along the fence to admit more light and replace them them with sun loving plants.

Then we added a stream bed ...

Click here to see more pictures of this garden

A Rain Garden in Evanston, IL

This lush raingarden was planted in the summer of 2001. It is fed by water from a downspout, which flows into a depression in the front yard.
Rain garden 1

Rain Garden 1
Wetland/ water-loving plants include, from left: Black-eyed Susan, Common Boneset, Cardinal Flower, Cup-plant and Anise Hyssop.

A Rain Garden in LaGrange Park, IL

Mixed beds

The land that this home sits on is the lowest point in the neighborhood. Many other yards slope down and drain into this area. After a heavy rain, a depression in the yard may hold a foot of water for several days. Landscape designs had to take this unique situation into account.


The wettest area is in the center of this photo. Click here for more photos
of this rain garden.

A Rain Garden in Oak Park, Il

A 25' long stream bed was created at the base of a downspout.

Stream bed


A circular depression at the far end of the bed was planted with moisture-loving plants.

Come visit this garden one
year later!

A Creative Rain Garden/Stream Bed in N. Barrington, IL


The water for this waterfall is produced by turning on a garden hose that runs under ground to the site.

Click here for more details!

A Pond in LaGrange

This is a three-level pond, surrounded by native plants.
Pond and "waterfall"

pond 2
Another view of the plants.

A Rain Garden/Streambed in Lincolnwood, IL
A downspout and garden hose with an on-off valve are used to create this rain garden.

Click here to learn more about the stone work used in this garden.

Stonework enhances this waterfall, created in front of a downspout on this home in Vernon Hills.

Another downspout-powered water feature.

This stone waterfall in Evanston, Il can use water from a nearby downspout or a garden hose, when the weather is dry.

A gravel "streambed" carries the water away from the falls and down to a rain garden.

A Rain Garden in Claredon 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.

This rain garden in Lincolnshire is built next to a stone patio and fed by two downspouts and a garden hose. Note the flagstone wall.

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