Sunday, January 12, 2020

Summer pictures of the rain garden during its second season

It's a snowy day in January and we' re finally taking the time to update the blog with pictures from the summer. We had started this blog to show how a new rain garden takes shape. It turns that by the end of the second summer, it already looks like a mature rain garden!

We were delighted by the monarch butterflies that came to visit the rain garden!

After a strong rainfall, the clover leaves float like lily pads.

Plants in the rain garden are fully occupying the entire area of the garden

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Flowers are starting to bloom!

We've had a week of beautiful June weather and we are delighted to see the beautiful flowers from the iris versicolor. All our plants are doing great and getting bigger. There was one spot in the garden that had a lot more open space so I added an anemone "Dainty Swan" simply because it was the most rain garden-appropriate perennial at my neighbourhood nursery (and I was in a hurry!).

Here is a close-up of a iris versicolor flower. How lovely!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

All plants have survived from last year!

This is our first spring with the rain garden. The plants were planted last summer in the hope that they would come back next spring. For a while, it looked like the only plants that were coming back were irises and rhubarb but since the May long weekend, I see little sprouts for all the plants. Hopefully they will take up more space this summer so that the entire garden is full of lush plants!

There are little sprouts in the location of each year's plants.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Spring is here!

Spring is here! What does a new rain garden look like after the snow has melted?  I took this picture two weeks ago. The soil had settled much lower than the plants. All it took was a bit of stomping in my rain boots to bring the plants down at the level of the rest of the soil.

Right after the last snow has melted (2 weeks ago). The soil is much lower around the plants.

I took this picture today after a few days of sunshine. We can see that the irises are the first ones to sprout. I hope that my other perennials will all come back (the other perennials in my yard like hostas and hydrangeas have not sprouted yet so I'm not worried). Next year I will thanking myself for having documented what comes out in which order.  

Irises are the first ones to sprout

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Quick update: plants are taller

Here's a quick update after a few weeks...

The plants are taller but I'm disappointed they have not spread out more. The middle plant is supposed to have a diameter of one meter! Hopefully they will all come back next spring and spread out and crowd out weeds.

Not much to report: plants are just taller

Friday, July 27, 2018

Mildew on wild bergamot?

A day after our huge rainfall of 56 mm, I had to rearrange the soil in the garden so that the lowest spot was in the middle instead of on the sides where water was accumulating the most. I was relieved to see that there was no water left 24 hours after it stopped raining.

I was surprised to see white spots on the wild bergamot (swamp milkweed). Is it mildew? Isn't it supposed to be a plant that tolerates having wet feet? I'll have to read up on that to see if there is anything I can do. 

Mildew (white spots) on the swamp milkweed?

Huge rainfall of 56 mm!

On July 25th and 26th we had a total of 56 mm of rain. We had sized the rain garden assuming that a large rainfall would be 40 mm so I was anxious to see how our rain garden would hold up. Since it was raining during the day, we were able to take pictures and videos of the rain garden in action.

When the rain started, the water was gushing in the creek bed.
Water making its way towards the rain garden at the start of the rainfall

Then the garden started to get really full!
Rain garden and creek full of water

Here's a video, taken from indoors of course! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Our first rain with the rain garden

We are experiencing an unusually hot and dry summer so I was wondering when we would see our rain garden in action. A thunderstorm at 5:00 am woke me up. I grabbed my boots and jacket and ran outside to check out the new downspout configuration. Sure enough, the rain barrel was already overflowing and water was going down the pebble creek bed. I was also surprised to how much water was going into the garden from elsewhere in the yard.

Here's a picture about one hour after it stopped raining (total precipitation of 31.8mm)

Rain garden one hour after a thunderstorm

We were relieved to see that we do not have a pond in our backyard. One problem we did not anticipate was the discovery of a lot of grass seeds in our rain garden. During the landscaping work, we decided to resow our lawn with a mix of grass and clover. 

Lesson learned: a rain garden should be dug when the rest of the lawn is mature and won't wash away into the garden.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

What's in our rain garden and how does water get there?

The landscape guys are gone. We now have a fully functional rain garden. We did a bit of creative rewiring of the downspouts so that they both feed in the rain garden. 

One downspout feeds into a rain barrel. So why do we need a rain garden if we have a rain barrel? Well, in our experience, the rain barrel fills up in a few minutes of heavy rain so we felt like we still needed better stormwater management from this downspout. The overflow of the rain barrel feeds into the large pipes that pour into the dry creek bed that leads to the rain garden.

Downspout configuration

The plants have been planted in a mixture of compost and normal soil. These plants have been selected with the help of a botanist at VertCité and purchased at Aiglon Indigo.  They are indigenous plants that can survive in humid and dry conditions.

Plants in our rain garden, week 1

In the middle we have a spotted joe-pyeweed (Eutrochium maculatum), which is expected to grow very tall (2 meters) and reach a diameter of about 1 meter.

Around the spotted joe-pyeweed, we have four swamp milkweeds (Asclepias incarnata). They are expected to reach about 1 meter in height and hopefully we will be able to attract monarch butterflies this fall.

Scattered around in the garden we also have 2 Canada anemones (anemone canadensis), 4 iris versicolor (those are the ones with the long straight leaves) and 3 wild bergamot (monarda fistulosa).The wild bergamot plants are supposed to spread by rhizomes so it will be interesting to see if they will end up taking over the entire garden.

We have also transplanted a rhubarb plant and an asparagus patch that were growing in pots in order to keep our hardy perennials in the same garden. The rhubarb and the asparagus are on the edge of the garden to make it easier to reach for harvesting next spring. Surprisingly, the rhubarb is not tolerating the move very well but rhubarb being rhubarb, it will surely thrive for years to come. 

We have also sowed some German chamomile seeds directly on the edge of the garden. Our household drinks a lot of chamomile tea so hopefully we will be able to grow our own.

Our yard before the rain garden and during construction

Our yard before the rain garden had very uneven ground and old grass and weeds. Whenever it rained, water would just accumulate in large puddles.
Note that this side of our house has two downspouts. These two downspouts will feed our rain garden.
Our yard before the rain garden

Our rain garden was dug by a team of professional landscapers from Antesco Construction. They were hired to create a flagstone patio and even out our yard. We took advantage of their presence with  the right equipment to dig the rain garden.
Digging the rain garden


What is a rain garden?

According to Wikipedia:

"One of the wide variety of soil-absorption/filter systems, a rain garden, also called as stormwater garden, is a designed depression storage or a planted hole that allows rainwater runoff from impervious urban areas, like roofs, driveways, walkways, parking lots, and compacted lawn areas, the opportunity to be absorbed. The primary purpose of a rain garden is to improve water quality in nearby bodies of water and to ensure that rainwater becomes available for plants as groundwater rather than being sent through stormwater drains straight out to sea."

Why are you installing a rain garden?

We decided to create a rain garden in our yard as an additional stormwater management feature of our property. We are planning on getting some professional landscaping done during the Spring of 2018 so we are using the opportunity of having workers with digging equipment to create the basin of the rain garden. We also plan on using the flowers of our rain garden to attract butterflies for our children’s enjoyment and pollinators for our vegetable garden.

Aren’t you afraid of having a pond that will attract mosquitos?

Rain gardens are not ponds. If we have sized the garden correctly, there will be no standing water left in the basin of the garden the day after a downpour.

Why are you blogging about your rain garden?

When we did research about rain gardens, we found many examples of finished gardens. However, we did not find any examples of the entire process as the garden is dug and plants grow. We hope to use this blog to share how our garden grows over time.

How did you choose your plants?

We had a free consultation with our city’s botanist. She suggested hardy perennials that tolerate exposure to water and drought conditions.

Where are you located?

We are in the Montreal area (hardiness zone 5a/5b). The last frost date is May 7th and the first frost date is October 7th.
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Summer pictures of the rain garden during its second season

It's a snowy day in January and we' re finally taking the time to update the blog with pictures from the summer. We had started this...