A Rain Garden Update

A Rain Garden Update

A while back (a real long while) I setup a rain garden to take care of a drainage issue on one part of our driveway. Rainwater was pooling in one area of our driveway because it had no where else to go. The grass and soil was higher than the driveway on the side the water should have been draining. The big problem was that anytime our cars were parked in the driveway after a rain there was standing water. Either I had to step into the water or learn to walk on water to get into the car (I’m just not good enough to figure that trick out). Since neither of these possibilities were feasible I came up with the rain garden. rain gardens can be made one of two ways: either sloping areas guide the water away from the problem spot along with a series of plantings to absorb the excess, or a sort of drainage tank is developed under the soil and covered then planted. I chose to dig a trench and a pit for the water to drain into then fill it halfway with gravel and the other half with soil. It worked very well. I’ve checked it after many heavy rains and found little to no standing water in the area.

Last year I never really got the garden going like I wanted. Daylilies that I planted never bloomed, zinnias were all over the place (way too many in my book), and many of the other plants were just too little to even be recognized. That’s the way I garden though, plan for the future and not pay too much out of pocket! This year the rain garden is looking much more impressive, maybe not grande like the Lurie Garden that the Spring Flingers got to enjoy, but it’s coming along nicely!

OK it’s nowhere close to that famous garden but just wait until August when everything is in its peak bloom. Most of my summer perennials seem to put on their best displays in the heat of summer.

I have a couple forms of ornamental grasses in this area. One is the ‘Zebra Grass’ Miscanthus sinensis which I eventually plan to move somewhere else. The other is my ‘Karl Foerster’ Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora) which I want more to plant in the garden. I’m definitely a fan of the purple seed heads that bloom in early summer rather than in the fall like many other ornamental grasses. I’m envisioning it as a small screen in front of the rain garden. Once you pass by the feather reed grass you will see the rest of the blooms bursting forth. At least that’s the plan for now. Like the weather my plans are always subject to change.
If you want a powerful bloomer for a full sun location look for an achillea. They need almost zero maintenance and they are drought tolerant. One thing that makes it even better is that to this date I have never had one munched by a rabbit. Propagation og achilleas couldn’t be simpler. Just take a sprig (offshoot) from the plant and place it under soil in the garden. I did this last fall and have had several nice looking plant ready for this year.

My achilleas come in two colors (there are many more), a pinkish-white or a mostly red with yellow highlights. I believe this one is called ‘Paprika’, aptly named don’t you think?

If we hop over to the opposite side of the ‘Paprika’ yarrow we will find Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria). I think I found this at a plant swap but until started blooming this year I really didn’t even know I had one! They tend to be spreaders but I think I can tolerate it since the flowers are so presentable!

I hope this garden will become a breeding ground for many of my favorite flowers like the coneflowers. These were all volunteers from the birdbath garden that I transplanted to the rain garden. I’ll continue spreading the seeds as they form to create a nice balance between the feather reed grass and the purple coneflowers.
Around the base of the coneflowers you can see some coreopsis that survived the leaf beetle larvae attack. I like coreopsis, it takes a licking and keeps on tickseeding! (Please forgive the horrible pun!)

Here’s a close-up on one of the coneflowers. It’s a regular ol’ purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) but I also have some from the big sky series elsewhere. One I even made from a basal stem cutting last year.

We’ll end the tour with a summer flowering favorite in many gardens, rudbeckia! I wonder who this beetle is paying it a visit?


Dave has written GrowingTheHomeGarden.com since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 5 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Your rain garden looks like it is coming along really nicely. I like how you've used plants that reseed so you get plenty of volunteers. My rudbeckia has totally taken over one of my beds and will need to be thinned and tossed. I prefer the purple coneflower. Oh well a flower is a flower. Good luck with your idea of transplanting grasses,their root balls are so dense that it takes hours of digging. I know I've done it and will never do it again!Thanks for sharing

  2. Very nice, Dave! I think you definitely have a winner on your hands!

  3. Hi Dave, The garden is growing and growing…soon you will have a meadow!
    Could you give up mowing;-) It could be safer …no runaway mowers! Schizachyrium scoparium/Little Bluestem 'The Blues' would look wonderful in this planting. I found mine at the Cheekwood Wildflower Fair but you might get one on line. gail

  4. We really like your rain garden idea. we have lots of drainage problems in our yard that maybe someday we can get around to working on, and I would really like to use your idea for at least some of it.
    The ppl that were here before really made a huge mess of the drainage "trying" to fix it. You just oughta see it to believe it!

  5. Your rain garden is really getting established. That's a project we want to tackle next year. We have a natural depression on the south east side of our property, and I want to plant shade and wet-loving things there. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. It's coming right along Dave. Looks good.

  7. Wow, that us really a cool idea that many people could use for drainage. It shows how powerful plants can be to be able to help with drainage.


  8. Great idea. I'm amazed at how some flowers can be so versatile – both drought-tolerant and good for a rain garden!

  9. I suggest you move that zebra grass before it gets a good foothold. Unless you have a backhoe. ;~)

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