Rain gardens are plantings within a shallow depression in the landscape rather than in beds at or above the surrounding grades. Stormwater from rooftops or other surfaces is directed into these gardens where it waters the plants and the excess soaks into the ground. Rain gardens can be a great addition to any home landscape. Generally rain gardens are planted with a variety of flowering perennials and sedges but they can also be home to certain types of shrubs and trees.
So why build a rain garden? Firstly, it is best for stormwater to be infiltrated into the ground as close to where it falls as possible. Encouraging stormwater to infiltrate where it falls helps refill local groundwater aquifers (our drinking water sources).
If rainwater isn't captured and infiltrated it runs across hard surfaces (rooftops, roads, sidewalks, compacted lawns, etc.) where is picks up contaminants and soil. It joins with water from surrounding areas in storm sewers and creeks where it becomes a highly erosive, polluted force.
The end result is that valuable topsoil is eroded, more and larger costly storm sewers are needed to accommodate increasing amounts of water (increasing taxes), damaging flooding becomes more common, and wetlands, streams and lakes become degraded. Native wetland vegetation is not tolerant of highly variable water levels, high levels of certain chemicals, or high levels of nutrients so weedy species like hybrid cattail, reed canary grass, and phragmites take over.
Ideal for Urban/ Small Home Landscapes
Rain gardens are a great addition to any Madison, WI landscape. Plantings can be selected and designed to be fitting for any home - from rustic, to traditional to contemporary. You have plenty of design flexibility with rain gardens. Plants can range from simple and manicured to wild and wooly- you decide. Gardens can be organically shaped or designed with clean geometric lines. They don't even need to look different from a typical garden bed - but you'll know that although it doesn't look different, your landscape choice is making a difference.
Truly 'Green' Landscaping
By installing a rain garden you can help restore our drinking water resources, protect Madison's lakes and wetlands, and create natural habitat for birds and butterflies like monarchs - all this in a simple, beautiful garden.