To create rain gardens, people create depressions in the land and fill them with deep-rooted plants; then they direct storm water runoff from rooftops and gutters to the area. The roots of the plants help to filter the water before it re-enters the local water supply. Rain gardens are not ponds or wetlands; the rain is absorbed into the ground within a few hours. Rain gardens are functional and, with a little imagination, versatile.
Native plants are a good idea for rain gardens because they require less intervention from homeowners than do exotic species. Plants found in local natural habitats have adapted to the weather patterns and soil conditions. They can thrive without the gardener adding extra fertilizer or any other artificial treatments. Rain gardens filter runoff from rooftops, gutters and other impenetrable surfaces and help to remove water contaminants before the water runs into the streams, rivers and other waterways. The rain garden will be less effective if you add things to the soil that need filtering before the rainwater reaches the garden. Consult with an extension service in your area to identify local plants and flowers that will be suitable for your rain garden. The plant must be able to survive the wet and dry cycle of a rain garden. Take into account the growth habit of the plant, as well as its sun or shade requirements.
Frequently, the best location for a rain garden is in the front of the home. Make a bold color statement with your garden by planting plants and flowers all of one color. Choose a theme that will complement your existing landscaping and the style of your home. While a rain garden is principally functional, it should also be as attractive as any other garden element in your landscaping. New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) will give you a burst of purple emerging from the green backdrop of a front lawn. Asters bloom in the fall and attract bees and butterflies. For a striking red theme, choose Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrical var. koenigli "Red Baron"). This grass starts off mostly green with red tips, and as it matures, it turns completely red by the late summer. In the late fall and winter, it exhibits a distinct copper color.
Do Not Go It Alone
Many people choose to carve out their rain garden from their lawn or yard space. However, a rain garden is simply a planting area where you direct the runoff from your storm water. Instead of a stand-alone garden, build a garden around your rain garden. Surrounding your rain garden plants with other plants, rather than leaving it an open area, will create a microclimate. Depending on your area and the types of plants you choose, you should notice that you can increase your plant diversity. Greater plant diversity increases the chance of attracting more wildlife to your garden. In the end, you will create a healthier ecosystem that is better equipped to sustain itself and rely less on your intervention.