By Jane Milliman
Who knows what vagaries of weather the summer brings? The Farmer’s Almanac claims it does, predicting it’s “going to be a scorcher with higher-than-average temps and lower-than-average rainfall throughout most of the continent” in 2014
While this may come to pass, surely you can expect periods of sogginess too. If you have a low-lying area on your property, you may find the wet-parched-wet cycle a challenge. The solution? Try a rain garden.
There are subtle differences, but rain gardens, ecoswales, and bioswales are basically the same: areas that help prevent flooding and filter groundwater. That they look good doing this job is a definite bonus! Plants in these gardens need to tolerate wet feet and dry, cracked soil with equal aplomb.
My favorite example of this kind of garden is at Cornell Plantations in Ithaca, New York.
In the summer and fall the swale, made up mostly of natives, is an absolute riot of gorgeous color. In the woody department are river birch, smokebush, and the year-round pleaser, winterberry holly, to name a few.
There are 10 varieties of switchgrass (Panicum), some fountain grass (Pennisetum) and fescue (Festuca), and a handful of other grasses to add graceful movement.
But the stars of this garden are the herbaceous perennials. Butterfly weed (shown at top), aster, goldenrod, bee balm, liatris, iris, and Joe Pye weed (pictured here). The list goes on and on. It’s a seven-page document, and if you are looking to plant a rain garden in the Northeast, you’ll want it as a shopping companion. Here’s the link.
Many of these plants are available at Lowe’s. I just picked up an adorable yellow yarrow to go in my tiny garden, right where the roof gutter empties into the soil. Even in microcosm a little knowledge about what to plant in a rain garden is a useful thing.