I love a rainy day but I hate to see rainwater rushing down the street and into the city's over-burdened storm drains. Rain gardens catch and absorb rainwater and reduce erosion. Even better they give gardeners a chance to turn to good advantage a spot where rain causes drainage problems. It's great to see so many rain gardens being planted in the Kansas City area and the Midwest in general.
In Kansas City, the 10,000 Rain Gardens initiative has helped gardeners and garden designers learn to manage storm water runoff. Garden plans and lists of suitable plants are available on the organization's website.
One of my favorite public rain gardens in the Kansas City area is on Theis Mall, near the Nelson- Atkins Museum of Art. Iris, asters, prairie blazing star, Missouri primrose, coneflowers, goldenrod, purple poppy mallow and other colorful native plants keep this garden lively from spring through fall, and native grasses give it great character in winter.
Rain gardens are not plantings in permanently wet spots; they fill up in a downpour and soon drain away. In low spots that stay wet even in dry weather, you need plants that love moisture, such as button bush, which thrives in sun or shade; Cardinal flower or marsh milkweed.
In my garden the driest places are actually under mature trees, which compete with my perennials and shrubs for moisture and nutrients. I let the natural mulch build up under trees, and in the pretty, dappled light grow American beautyberry, wild ginger and Solomon's seal among other tough, hardy plants. I still have to water occasionally but not often - and nature does the rest.