One of the fastest growing trends in landscape design today is something known as Rainscaping. Simply stated Rainscaping is a technique that combines garden aesthetics with stormwater management. Some municipalities such as Montgomery County, Maryland will pay up to $2,500 per garden to motivate homeowners to recycle rainwater and the plant industry is viewed as the key to increasing their acceptance of the need for garden features that serve this purpose. There are a variety of ways to “make a splash” and save water at the same time.

The Missouri Botanical Garden website defines Rainscaping as a combination of plantings, water features, catch basins, permeable pavement and other techniques that manage stormwater as close as possible to where it falls, rather than moving it someplace else. Impervious surfaces such as rooftops, roads, and driveways have replaced the soil and plants that once absorbed rainwater. This results in runoff that contributes to water pollution and property damage. The premise of Rainscaping is that a gardener can landscape their yard with both beauty and environmental stewardship in mind. It makes it possible to address water-related issues on your own property such as erosion, consistently wet areas, and difficult-to-mow places, while positively impacting your neighborhood and local groundwater sources such as streams

You may not be familiar with all of the language of Rainscaping but you may already have seen it in action without even realizing it:

  • Green Roofs - More and more buildings are adding green roofs as a way to handle rain runoff as well as address energy issues. They also serve as a place where employees can take a break and destress for a while before they return to work.
  • Bioswales - These structures are not new. We used to call them drainage ditches but they are much more than just a place for the rainwater to collect during a storm. I drive past one every morning on the way to work and its cattails are a refuge for birds and years ago I saw a pretty yellow Japanese Iris that was planted on the bank which I found online and added to my own garden!
  • Woodland Restoration - If you see workers planting trees and shrubs along streams and rivers it is not only a project to make the area look pretty! These plantings slow down the flow of stormwater which decreases erosion and they reduce the intake of pollutants into these water sources which eventually end up in our groundwater.

You don’t have to take on big projects in your yard to “make a splash”. Instead of pavers or a concrete walkway try mulch or pea gravel which will allow water to soak into the soil rather than run off. Instead of a lawn which can require a lot of fertilizers, you can substitute a groundcover such as Vinca or native grasses which don’t require the additional nutrients or water that a green lawn needs. Try planting more trees in your yard. They help bind the soil as well as filter out pollutant in the air as well as the water.

Being a good environmental steward is every gardener’s responsibility and “making a splash” is a great way to start!

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