Sunday, July 6, 2014

Going Native or How Rain Gardens Change Your Life

First, an apology. One of the consequences of being in horticulture is the tendency for spring to be all-consuming. So, I'm sorry that this little blog has been an unwitting victim of the annual onslaught.

Second, an announcement! I have left the retail garden center world and plunged into the wholesale side of hort. I've also done a bit of a left turn from my tree and shrub obsession and dove into the world of native plants, specifically perennials. I'm now working at Pizzo Native Plant Nursery growing more than 400 species of Illinois natives. I've always been interested in native plants and I have planted a smattering here and there over the years. However, after installing the rain garden, I wanted to learn more.

This little cutie pie, Talinum calycinum is native to rocky bluffs. It's going in between the flagstone stepping stones and will get a pea gravel mulch.

So far the rain garden is, well, it's a weedy mess. See the first paragraph? Yeah, so maintenance in my own yard tends to get shoved to the side in spring. We have been spoiled rotten with abundant rain and cooler temperatures, so needless to say, it's a jungle out there. I'm not posting a picture. Sorry. Just enjoy the bright pink flowers of Talinum above. Most of the installed plants made it through the winter and are settling in. Since the bulk of them were divisions from friends and family, I've been crossing my fingers that they will make it. I am having to add here and there. The rabbits are doing their best to mow down every bit of Echinacea and Rudbeckia I possess. These tough natives are hiding out with the Monardas in an attempt to survive the voracious rodents. I'm not terribly picky about a blended patch of Monarda and Echinacea and so far, they seem to be playing well together. The fragrant Monarda foliage keeps the rabbits at bay and it's just starting to flower. I'm also learning that I could have split the chunks of Liatris further as it is already above my waist and growing with abandon. This week, I'll be tweaking the engineering a bit and making one section a little deeper. I didn't anticipate the level of runoff from the driveway, so I need to rechannel that. Hopefully, by next weekend, we'll finish the fountain setup. Then there will be pictures, I promise.

The upshot of the rain garden is that it is WORKING! We have had only a tiny bit of seepage in the basement, which is remarkable considering the inches and inches of rain. The water is holding and slowly percolating, which means about a quarter of my roof volume and quite a bit of driveway runoff is not speeding off into the storm sewer. We have an abundance of interesting new bees. I haven't mulched this area (it's just going to all flow into the middle anyway), so the open soil was riddled with holes this spring from emerging bees. We shall see what else summer and fall brings, but so far, the rain garden is becoming one of our favorite garden spots.

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