I was sitting in the doctor’s office the other day reading a magazine when I came across an article entitled “Downspout Gardening.” Huh! A new name for rain gardening? Well, sort of. It was an article about a flower garden placed around a downspout, using primarily non-native plants. There was no place in this garden to capture and hold the water from running off.
The article described how to make a flower garden which would be watered from the downspout when it rained. So what about when it doesn’t rain? How are the plants going to survive from day to day? Soil placed around the foundation of the house is typically sloped down and away, so water will run away from the foundation. Plants placed near the house will also need to be able to absorb the reflection of the sun and heat from the siding. And lastly, plants under overhangs may not get sufficient water even when it rains simply because water doesn’t generally run up a slope.
So, I think I would rewrite the article to include all native species instead, choosing forbs and grasses which can tolerate the conditions described above. Further, I’d rewrite the article to include a rain garden to prevent runoff which will still occur with the Downspout Garden as described.
Building a Rain Garden
I haven’t talked about rain gardens for awhile, so I thought this was a good time for me to reiterate the importance of controlling runoff — especially because of the hard rains we’ve been having lately.
If you’re going to build a rain garden, be sure to locate it at least ten feet from the foundation of your house. Because your rain garden basin will likely hold water for several days, you don’t want to create an opportunity for seepage into your basement. See Rain Gardens – a How to manual for homeowners. This book also has some nice designs for your use.
For the basin itself, I’d recommend any of these sun-loving species. Placement would be by size according to the line of sight desired:
And around the outside of the Downspout Garden, I’d use any of these sun-loving native plants. Placement again would be by size according to the line of sight desired:
*Because of their size, consider using these plants as a specimen or showcase plant. Use only one as an attention-getter (unless you are building a very large garden space).