I think I'm one of those people that likes having a project. Hauling rocks, compost, and breaking out the shovels makes me happy. Spending all day in a shopping mall does not. After redesigning my shade garden, one side of my garden swooshed into a beautiful deep curve and one side of my garden did not. It tortured me. I need visual balance and wanted each side of my garden to curve inward like an embrace around an ellipse of grass. The only way to accomplish this was to expand my rain garden.
My rain garden isn't a traditional sunken garden but a riverbed that fills with water when it rains. Raised berms on each side maintain moisture without permanent saturation. The purpose of a rain garden is to capture as much water as possible to reduce runoff. A giant trumpet creeper vine dominates the fence along the riverbed.
Clematis grow well in the rich, moist soil. The handmade birdhouse is from Mike Merritt Art.
Staychs 'Hummelo' is a pollinator favorite.
Using the plant selection philosophy of "If it's already in my garden, I must really like it", I redesigned this bed with plants I'd liberated from other sections of the garden. While this seems resourceful, it was my only option after blowing my budget on my shade garden redesign. I purchased a small abelia 'Rose Creek' last fall but since I made the rules, I decided I could also break them. It's hard to resist an abelia.
A curving grass path leads to the gate. The patio to the right is slightly higher than the bed next to the grass allowing water to flow into the trench between the grass and the rain garden. Clover blurs the lines between the riverbed and the grass. A pot of variegated silene rescued from the sale table was just added.
Seashells are scattered along the rocks.
The riverbed is on a slight slope. The area at the front near the grass is the highest point and this area is the lowest. Swamp milkweed added this spring has been planted into the middle of the bed at it's deepest spot. My little abelia is next to the 'Pink Grapefruit' yarrow in a drier spot than the milkweed. Pink turtlehead (chelone 'Hot Lips'), blue mist flower (eupatorium coelestinum), and 'Piglet' fountain grass (pennisetum) thrive in the rich, moist soil. The big rock at the end acts as a dam.
The rain garden sits at the bottom of a slight slope. The higher up the slope you go, the shadier it is. Malva 'Zebrina', day lilies, and monarda love moist soil. The closer you go to the mouth of the riverbed, the drier it is.
I know this picture is absurdly bright, but I love the contrast between the shady and sunny areas of my garden. This section of the rain garden provides moist but well drained soil.
This is the sunniest part of my garden.
I added 'Little Hennie' sedum to test how dry the soil is at the mouth of the riverbed. Planted in a pocket of pea gravel next to a few large rocks, it's thriving in moist but very well draining soil.
Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) has small blue flowers that bloom early. The happy frog hose guide keeps the dogs from using this area as a shortcut.
Creating the rain garden was a huge project. Begun in 2012, I worked on it steadily each spring and fall, making the process more manageable. Over 2,000 pounds of compost and 1,000 pounds of rocks were used. I did all the work myself.
I removed the sod with a shovel and slowly built the berms. Water permeable landscaping fabric lines the bottom of the riverbed. The initial rain garden was pretty small.
In a plot to replace grass with garden, I expanded the rain garden again last spring
and again in the fall.
and again in the fall.
June 20, 2014
My latest expansion increased the depth of this bed, giving me more sunny spots in an ever shadier garden.
I hand picked the larger rocks at a local stone yard. Bags of river rocks form the base of the river bed.