Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rain Gardens at Work

Since we had so much rain over the last couple of weeks, I thought this would be a good time to post about my rain gardens. A rain garden is simply a planted depression that collects rainwater runoff before it leaves the property and allows it to soak into the ground rather than entering the sewer system. A rain garden usually holds water for no more than a few hours, which is not long enough for mosquitoes to develop. Rain gardens are planted with plants that can endure brief periods of wet soil followed by longer periods of dry soil.

The first three pictures are of my front yard rain garden. It is situated on the lowest point in the front yard and built up on two sides with large boulders. To create a depression, I dug out several wheel barrels of soil. I used the soil I removed to grade the other side of the front yard. I did not do much to prepare the depression for planting other than mixing in a couple of bags of compost and expanded shale.

The gutters on this end of the house are connected to underground pipes that empty in the rain garden. It is recommended that you use plants that can tolerate moister soil on the bottom of the rain garden and plants that need drier conditions on the sides. My rain garden dries out quickly, so it includes some surprising plants throughout. I consider the shade from the neighbor's live oak to be a greater limiting factor than the amount of moisture in the soil, although I would never put a xeric plant like a cactus or agave in a rain garden.

The plants in the front rain garden include False Indigo, Amorpha fruticosa, Heartleaf Skullcap, Scutellaria ovata, Gregg's Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, Blue Mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum, Aromatic Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, Gayfeather, Liatris mucronata and Liatris Spicata, Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, Bushy Bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus, Green Milkweed, Asclepias viridis, and a variety of other plants that reseeded in the rain garden.

I also added a rain garden in the lowest point of the backyard. This rain garden is filled by underground pipes that collect rainwater from the gutters on the back of the house. Plants in this rain garden include Weeping Yaupon, Ilex vomitoria 'Pendula', Big Muhly, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri, Seep Muhly, Muhlenbergia reverchonii, Giant Coneflower, Rudbeckia maxima, Gulf Coast Penstemon, Penstemon tenuis, Cherokee Sedge, Carex cherokeensis, Frogfruit, Phyla nodiflora, and a few other miscellaneous plants.

And what do April showers and thunderstorms bring besides hail claims? May April flowers!

Most of the plants have recovered from the hail storms and are blooming away, like the Autumn Sage and Gulf Coast Penstemon in the background. The Gregg's Mistflower around the birdbath have yet to begin blooming.

The Bluebonnets are on the decline, but still look good. The golden flowers of Four Nerve Daisy brighten the scene.

More Bluebonnets and Gulf Coast Penstemon bloom around the prickly Toothache Tree. The Toothache Tree just finished producing its fragrant (in a good way) flowers.

My unidentified giant Hesperaloe will be blooming soon. 

I may have to get a tall ladder to get a good look at the flowers. The will be forming 8-10 feet above the ground. Unfortunately, the Hesperaloe is a little too close to the Toothache Tree and the flowers will eventually be in the canopy of the tree. I may have to try to move or divide the Hesperaloe one of these days.

The larger of the Pale-Leaf Yuccas is in bloom. 

The stress of being pounded by hail in mid-March may have attracted a new predator to my yuccas. The leaves of my Pale-Leaf Yucca and Yucca Gloriosa are covered with little beetles that I think are Yucca Plant Bugs. I will spray some light horticultural oil on them this weekend to see if that will get them under control. Has anyone experienced this beast before?  

A few more shots from the front garden...



The next rounds of blooms are getting ready to open. These are the closed flowers of Antelope Horns Milkweed.

And this is the first flower of Narrowleaf Coneflower. 

More rain and storms are expected throughout the day on Friday. It has been a stormy spring. Let's hope the weather begins to settle down soon.

12 comments:

  1. Interesting, and so beautiful and different from my yard in downtown Chicago! Thank you for posting.

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    1. Thanks Jane. It is different from all of the other yards in my neighborhood too.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your rain garden pics. It looks like it works perfectly to hold water on your property, and it's beautiful too. I've had the yucca bugs, and they can do a lot of damage. Frustrating. If you have success in getting rid of them, please do share.

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    1. Pam, this is my first time with yucca bugs. I have always had little brown beetles that eat holes in the flowers. I went to spray light horticultural oil on the yucca bugs over the weekend and disturbed several anoles (lizards for those that do not know). I don't think the horticultural oil would hurt the anoles, but I decided not to risk it. I hope the anoles are eating the bugs.

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  3. Good to see your garden recovering so well from the hail. It's been a good year for rain gardens and yours looks like it's functioning beautifully. Your list of plants that can handle some wet conditions is quite helpful. I've lost a few plants to this wet spring.

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    1. Shirley, I read you had some hail too. I hope it was not too much damage. I would say it was an unusual weather year, but who knows what is usual any more.

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  4. Nice rain garden explanation. Would love to see a diagram of your yard.

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    1. Thanks Collagemama. I tried drawing a diagram of the garden and the plant locations once. It did not turn out that well.

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  5. Oh my goodness!! I just got caught up on your blog... What a rollercoaster! The hail: awful! We didn't get any here in Lewisville. The April fool's post: initially terrifying and then hilarious (and sad, about the neighbor family and the chemicals, aaaggghhh!!) The rest of your photos, even after the hailstorm: beautiful!! Everything is looking so great and colorful.

    Question about bluebonnets: I had some volunteer by the curb this year, a big pretty clump of them. They've all gone to seed, no more flowers. What should I do with the seeds? Harvest them and plant them? Or will it just reseed itself on its own in that same spot for next year? Or do some of both? No experience with wildflower seeds.

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    1. Laurin, I usually harvest some of my bluebonnet seeds when they are dry and mix them with a little diatomaceous earth to keep them from getting moldy. Around September, I throw the seeds where I want them to grow. I don't make any effort to plant them. They grow best in the my decomposed granite pathways and in the granite between the street and sidewalk. They don't grow nearly as well in soil in the garden. I think it is because the granite drains better and the abrasion from the granite helps the seeds sprout.

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  6. Looking really beautiful on the prairie. So glad everything has recovered from the beating of hail and rain. What a year! Yes, to that darned sap sucking bug. I had thousands of them on my Yucca rostrata. They seem to come overnight and it was only the pale leaves that alerted me to it. Vigilance is something we have to have at all times. And also another kind on the prickly pear and of course scale. It is endless.

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    1. That yucca bug came out of nowhere. It seems like a new pest discovers my garden every year. It does seem that the pests are bad for a couple of years and then their numbers level off and they are not as destructive. I think the anoles may be working on the yucca bugs. I wish there was a good control for the cactus bugs. My only control is to squish them with my gloved fingers.

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