Rain Garden Update

Root simple reader Julia requested an update on the rain garden our landscaper Laramee Haynes designed and installed in 2019. Laramee’s rain garden idea solved two problems by taking care of a confusing, unused area of the yard and sending valuable rainwater to our landscape.

We consider the rain garden both a success and a work in progress. As Kelly put it, “I’m still trying to figure out what plants work best.”  She adds, “The issue with our rain garden is the soil around the edges is different than the soil at the bottom. And also the light conditions are such that one side is in shade and one in sun.”

The soil at the top is loose and the soil at the bottom is a heavy clay. Kelly planted Douglas Irises (Iris douglasiana) and sedges in the bottom. Around the edges she started with Coyote Mint (Monardella villosa) but it struggled and faced nightly digging from the many skunks that drop by while we’re asleep. Bees Bliss Sage (Salvia x ‘Bee’s Bliss’) was another casualty.

Kelly says, “I also planted Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) but I’d didn’t work even though it’s supposed to be hardy. I’m also trying Seaside Fleabane (Erigeron glaucus). I thought it would like the sandy conditions around the edges but it’s been slow to establish and is just holding on.”

Mimulus ‘Jelly Bean Dark Pink’

What has done well? Kelly says, “I’ve placed my hopes in creeping sages such as Salvia sonomensis Mrs. Beard which is doing pretty well. Mimulus ‘Jelly Bean Dark Pink’ looks good sometimes but not all year round and needs to be intermixed with other plants.”

Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens)

Kelly says we’ll be heading back to the nursery soon for more Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens), “It’s been under attack from the skunks but I’d like to put more in. It tolerates shade so I’d thinking of adding three more.”

To prevent the skunks from ripping up the bottom of the pit Kelly put down some pomegranate branches. Pomegranate trees have wicked thorns and that seems to have inhibited those pesky skunks. You can see extensive skunk damage in the top photo in this blog around the top of the pit. Maybe we need one of those motion sensitive hose gadgets?

A rain garden in a climate that gets year round precipitation would be very different than our dry, Mediterranean region where rain falls only during a short period in the first few months of the year. Kelly has thought about treating the rain garden as a kind of rock garden and planting succulents amongst the river rock but has decided to try to let the plants along the top, such as the sages, cascade over the sides.

Volunteer New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonoides)

She says, “Landscaping the pit is like 3D chess–it’s hard enough to plant a flower bed but this is harder because you have in the same space different growing conditions and you have to make use of this unusual space in a clever way. Is it densely or lightly planted? Is it like a rock garden or do you have plants that cascade down the sides? How do you balance all this and not look crazy? I’m worried ours is looking crazy.”

I’ll add that at the very least the avocado tree appreciates the water and we’re not contributing to pollution by sending our rainwater to the gutter where it just washes oil and brake dust out the ocean. And I like the little bridge I built over the pit. The path leads to Kelly’s shed and something about crossing the little bridge adds some interest to a stroll in the backyard.

Here’s our original post on the rain garden.

I haven’t mentioned this in awhile but it’s worth repeating. The reason I include the scientific names of plants is not to show off but because this blog has international readers and the common names for plants can lead to confusion and, worse, cases of poisoning.

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4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Thankful for the New Rain Garden | Root Simple

  2. Very cool. Gardening seems like a constant challenge which is one of the things I enjoy about it. Love the little bridge!!

  3. I suddenly feel very important, hehe.

    I really enjoy the technical follow ups to your projects (thoughtstylings included), and rain gardens have been on my mind lately.

    Does it make sense to wish someone a happy equinox? Happy spring? Have a good weekend sounds better. Cheers!

    • Happy Spring to you too Julia and thanks for the nudge on this post. It’s not good when I write about the early stage of a project and don’t follow up on it. I appreciate the reminder.

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