Northland Arboretum placed a rain garden on their property to demonstrate and educate the public on their effectiveness on dealing with rainwater and snowmelt runoff.
The "rain garden" improves local water quality while creating a beautiful natural area that will attract birds and butterflies. This helps recharge our groundwater supply, and prevents a water quality problem called polluted runoff. Rain gardens are an important way to make our community a more attractive place to live while building urban ecological health.
A rain garden is a landscaped area designed to complement the existing landscape and to collect rainwater and snowmelt runoff allowing water and pollutants to be absorbed into the soil and by the plants.
They are designed to hold water for up to 12 – 48 hours before being absorbed. This is useful when excessive runoff and soil erosion are problems.
Rain gardens reduce the amount of rainwater runoff leaving your property and reduces the amount of pollutants present in that rainwater runoff.
- Sediments - soil, sand
- Nutrients - yard waste, animal waste
- Chemicals - fertilizers, pesticides, salt
Do rain gardens control all rainwater runoff?
- Rain gardens capture the “first flush” of rainwater runoff
- Most of the pollutants are in the “first flush”
- Rainwater runoff may exceed rain garden capacity – plan for an overflow.
There are some considerations when making a rain garden.
1. Landscaping - Rain gardens are designed with a dip at the center to collect rain and snow melt. Any degree of indentation is useful, from slight dips made with your garden trowel to large swales created by professional landscapers. Neatly trimmed shrubs, a crisp edge of lawn, stone retaining walls and other devices can be used to keep garden edges neat and visually appealing. Sidewalks, pathways should use permeable materials such as permeable concrete, asphalt and pavers which allow rain to seep through.
2. Location - Strategic placement next to hard surfaces such as alleys, sidewalks, driveways and under gutters makes your rain garden effective.
3. Plant Choices - Hardy native species that thrive in our ecosystem without chemical fertilizers and pesticides are the best choices. Many rain gardens feature shrubs as well as wild flowers and grasses. As a rule, the less "turf" on lawns, the better it is from a water quality stand point -- turf-style lawns create a harder surface which does not absorb water as readily as garden areas. Also, turf-style lawns often require chemical treatments and extra water to look uniform. Yards that feature native plants, grasses and shrubs are much easier to maintain.
Low Maintenance Garden
Native plants are best adapted to the local climate and once established, seldom need watering, mulching, protection from frost or continuous mowing.
Native plants are used by beautiful and diverse native butterflies and insects. In contrast, many common horticultural plants require insect pest control to survive.
Native plants and plant communities provide habitats and refuges for wildlife, especially birds.
Native grasses protect soil between wildflowers while root systems spread and grow deep for excellent erosion control. This combination reduces water runoff compared to monoculture ground covers.
The Arboretum's low maintanence garden uses a variety of hearty plants such as the dappled willow (pictured at the right) which blooms in spring. Its traditional use is beside streams and water features in Asian gardens where, like most willows, it is tolerant of perennial damp and seepage. The drooping form is considered a fluid accent for natural waterways. Cold hardiness makes these shrubs an ideal candidate for natural woodlands or combined with American natives with similar requirements for more varied early spring interest.
Choose hardy perennials that need very little division or deadheading and can withstand summer heat and occasional drought. If your plants are wilting and thirsty, chances are you will be, too. Perennials such as ornamental grasses, fringed bleeding heart, echinacea, lady's mantle, artemesia, vinca vine, sedum, hostas, coreopsis (tickseed), daylilies, and yarrow are all workhorses that need minimal attention.
Shrubs and trees also are increasingly popular additions to the garden because they provide visual interest without much effort. Many nurseries now stock specialty shrubs and unusual trees that are suited to zones three through five. Remember, annuals look beautiful and provide instant gratification, but they have to be planted every year.
Mulch is a terrific way to reduce work in the garden. It helps reduce water evaporation, gives the garden a neat appearance, and discourages the growth of weeds.
Bark, pine needles, and shredded leaves are common organic mulches that decompose over time and add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Apply the mulch after plants are well established and the soil is reasonably moist. Add a little extra in the winter months to protect them against damage from fluctuating soil temperatures.
Right Plant Choices
- Choose drought-tolerant plants
- Choose disease-resistant plants
- Choose plants that do not require staking, pruning, deadheading, cold protection and/or frequent dividing
- Choose salt-tolerant plants
- Choose according to your hardiness zone
So which plants are the least work? The answer is clearly trees and shrubs, which also offer the most benefits to air and water quality (and according to some sources, the most benefit to wildlife, too).
Low-Maintenance Gardening - Top Tips for Site
- Amend your soils with organic matter
- Cover your beds with organic mulch
- Determine your site true conditions so you chose only the right plants!
- soil type
- soil moisture level
- amount of sunlight
Amending soil with organic matter
- Add peat, cured manure or compost
- supply nutrients
- increase water retention
- Work in a 2-inch layer
- Mix in the top 4-6 inches of soil!!
Northland Arboretum's water garden project was started in the spring of 2010 and was completed in 2013. It has a beautiful 25 foot cascading waterfall lined with stone and shrub which flows into the pond which has many native aquatic plants. Paver stone paths and benches surround the garden for the enjoyment of visitors.
Water gardens, also known as aquatic gardens, are a type of man-made water feature. A water garden is defined as any interior or exterior landscape or architectural element whose primarily purpose is to house, display, or propagate a particular species or variety of aquatic plant. Although a water garden's primary focus is on plants, they can also house ornamental fish, in the case of the Arboretum, the pond is stocked with goldfish and koi.
Although water gardens can be almost any size or depth, they are typically small and relatively shallow, generally less than twenty inches in depth. This is because most aquatic plants are depth sensitive and require a specific water depth in order to thrive. The particular species inhabiting each water garden will ultimately determine the actual surface area and depth required.
When the aquatic flora and fauna is balanced, an aquatic ecosystem is created that supports sustainable water quality/water clarity.
Butterflies are some of the most beautiful and interesting creatures on Earth. A butterfly garden is an easy way to see more butterflies and to help them, since many natural butterfly habitats have been lost to human activities like building homes, roads and farms. Here at the Arb our butterfly garden promotes and encourages visitors on the beauty of our little pollenators. We simply grow the plants the caterpillars like to eat, and plants that adult butterflies feed on!
We conducted a research to learn which kinds of butterflies are native to the area. By planting our butterfly garden with all of the right kinds of plants and flowers that butterflies love to feed on and lay eggs on, we have butterflies throughout the growing season.
We help them and they help us.
List of Gardens at the Arboretum
- Gardens at Northland Arboretum
- Front Sign Garden on Excelsior Road
- Visitor Center Bushes around building
- Visitor Center Sign Garden
- Butterfly Garden
- Rain Garden
- Water Garden Area
- Water Garden Hill Area
- Low Maintenance Display Garden
- Visitor Center Holden Pavillion Gazebo (roses)
- Fish Out of Water Garden
- Landsburg Garden
- Research Garden
- Field Gazebo
- Rose Garden
- Memory Garden - Tiered Garden Area
- Memory Garden - Water Garden
- Freds Garden
- Jeannes Garden
- Old Gate House - West side Milkweed Garden
- Old Gate House - East Side
- Kay's Garden/Woodland Garden
- Gazebo/Landscaping for Wildlife
- Hosta Bed by Lower Gazebo
- Girl Scout Garden Section 1 (succulents)
- Girl Scout Garden Section 2 (daylilies)
- Girl Scout Garden 3 Kinship/boyscout area
- Girl Scout Garden Section 4 (girl scout area)
- Raised Weekly Weeders Sign Bed
- Garden by Maintenance Building (iris)
- Childrens Garden
- Border Garden Between gatehouse/woodland
- Tree/plants north area by visitor center waterfall
- Bandstand garden area
- Grass garden (old gate)
- Gazebo parking lot area/raised bed with birdhouse
- Gazebo-rock tiered area west of fence
- Native beds @ exercise area(old dump)
- Brown wood raised bed-picnic pavillion -1
- Brown wood raised bed by front door