Someone sent me a link to an article: “6 Steps to Make a Rain Garden”. Make one? How do I avoid it? Wait, do they mean make a rain garden on purpose? What a concept.
Okay, I shouldn’t scoff. Rain gardens control runoff, and they can be very pretty if planted correctly. The problem is we have a lot of runoff, and this would seem to imply that we need a pretty large rain garden, so let’s think this through.
First, you have to keep all the water from running down the hill everywhere. It needs to be controlled, channeled, put in its
place. Look for spots where you already have some natural channeling and plant things around that area that will soak up the excess – and there will be excess – and those things should have nice deep roots. Never mind that some of them will get into the channel during the rainy season, that just slows the water down which is a good thing. If you have only one or two short channels, you can line them with rocks. When that’s done, turn your thoughts to where all that water is going to end up.
If, like me, you have a fairly large property, you will have a number of different natural channels. See if you can get them to merge downhill in an area where there is a natural depression. [No natural depression on your property? Go back inside, get a nice cup of tea, and let your neighbor worry about the runoff.]
Found the depression? Excellent. Clean out the weeds and check the soil. With luck, you will have dirt and clay. At this point, I like to make sure the depression is 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) deep and line it with landscaper’s fabric. Over the fabric, I like gravel and then some nice looking river rocks, but the choice is yours. (In Georgia, my runoff channel was lined with rock and ended in a koi pond, but that was Georgia, and we didn’t get torrential rains.) Now you can edge the rain garden with your choice of plants and even grow some right on top of the rocks if you like. Papyrus is nice for a tall accent, local iris are a good choice and so is cardinal flower. You might want to shade part of the area with a hibiscus, angel trumpet or red spurge to keep the rocks from heating up when sunny weather arrives.
When all the work is done, sit back and admire it. Remember, you don’t have much time before the weeding starts……