Adding a Raingarden: An Appealing and Practical Solution to Excess Water

A raingarden is a creative way to turn excess water on your property into a visually appealing landscape design that can filtrate pollutants and attract butterflies and wildlife.

Whether the wet spots are caused by:

  • Excessive rainfall (the past few years have been some of the wettest on record in our region),
  • Low points and swales on your property that turn into small ponds and mud pits with steady rainfall and lawn sprinklers (neighborhoods are generally designed to push water to the property lines and out onto the street, but over time, as people landscape and make their yards their own, these engineered swales become altered and no longer perform as intended),

It might seem as if problematic pools of water on your property can only be either tolerated or eliminated.

But there is a third option.

You can choose to accentuate the wet spot with a raingarden.

Here is a quick look at the three approaches:

1. Play through the rain.

In this scenario, you attempt to accept your property as it is, and you make no attempt to remedy the situation.

Instead, you decide to let well enough alone and be satisfied staring at a swamp-like mud seep – and try your best to manage the consequences.

When it’s time to mow, you will put on your worst pair of sneakers and then write them off as a loss because after their turn in the mud pits, those shoes will never be worn for any other activity.

If the mud was going to remain outside, that would be one thing.

However, kids, pets and even your own “yard-work sneakers” will find ways of tracking it into your home.

Week after week, month after month, season after season, sneaker after sneaker, this strategy will take its toll on your yard, your lawn mower, your carpets and your sanity.

Plus, that much standing water can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

2. Eliminate the problem.

Eliminating these “wet spots” sounds like the obvious solution, but when put into practice, the options can prove to be costly, ineffective, time consuming, and – in some cases – impossible.

When it comes to remediating wet spots, there are two primary strategies:

  • Change the grade of the soil
  • Reroute the flow of water across it

Either strategy can have mixed results and require significant ongoing maintenance – if they are successful at all.

Additionally, the construction involved could disrupt your existing landscaping.

Because the water has to go somewhere, it’s possible that you could do all of that work only to discover that you simply moved the wet spot to another location on the property.

3. Convert it into a raingarden.

It can be difficult for homeowners to view wet spots on their properties as opportunities, but raingardens give us a chance to be creative with your property’s natural features.

A raingarden can be an ideal solution because:

  • Raingardens provide a visually appealing solution to an unsightly problem
  • Raingardens turn the problem of excess water into an advantage
  • Raingardens can help filtrate pollutants from rainwater runoff
  • Raingardens can attract butterflies, pollinators and wildlife
  • Raingardens are great for residential and commercial landscaping projects

Raingarden Materials, Design and Installation

1. Rocks/Gravel/Boulders

To mimic the bottom of a creek bed or a perennial pond, we use decorative gravel of various sizes as well as small-to-medium boulders.

Because we anticipate the water level rising and falling frequently, we also incorporate a landscape fabric to prevent wet soil from enveloping the stone and coming to the surface in times of heavy rainfall and water runoff.

2. Water-loving Perennials

Our designers then incorporate the use of water-loving perennials that don’t mind having their “feet” wet for extended periods of time. We use perennials like Black-eyed Susan, Bee Balm, Iris, Butterfly Weed, and the list goes on.

As an added bonus, these flowers are great butterfly, pollinator and bird attractants – your raingarden might also be a butterfly garden.

3. Trees/Shrubs/Grasses

This category typically ranges from Clethera, shrub Dogwoods, and Sweetspire to even a few evergreens such as Inkberry Holly.

There is also a list of ornamental grasses as well as some great wetland trees that round out the plant pallet used to beautify these otherwise unusable areas of the property.

Raingarden: The Next Step

Our Landscape Manager Brent Lucas planted a number of River Birch, Black Gum and Sweet Bay Magnolias in his raingarden along with many of the perennials and shrubs listed above.

The result is that after a few seasons, he has a very aesthetically pleasing raingarden that stays drier due to all of those thirsty plant materials.

Brent’s sneakers and his yellow lab are cleaner than they’ve been in years, and the raingarden presents a season full of color and active wildlife.

So if we happen to be faced with another excessively wet season or if you are tired of struggling with a wet area that never dries out, contact us to talk about how our landscape design professionals can incorporate a raingarden into your next project as a creative landscape solution.