Meadow + Rain Garden

Our rain garden doesn’t look like a rain garden. It looks like a meadow. Unless someone asks, visitors don’t realize that this space was indeed designed to collect rainwater. A deck passes water into a gravel bed that seeps into the rain garden depression, as do the surrounding gravel paths. The gravel itself holds water for additional water infiltration.

Water Flow

This schematic section shows how water flows through the garden to infiltrate the groundwater.

Rain garden schematic section

This is a schematic section of how the rain garden works. The overflow drain keeps water from running into the neighbor’s yard when everything is full and saturated. It leads to a sump that gets emptied after the rain stops so it doesn’t increase flood surge.

The plants

Plants mimic nature in the rain garden depression. Those that tolerate being underwater thrive at the low point. Others spread across the upper areas that drain into the depression.

This list isn’t in any particular order, other than the plants’ wetness zone.  

wetter zone

  • Dogbane / Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum). This should also spread into the asters and other plants for a “tapestry” effect.
  • Sticky Cinquefoil (Drymocallis glandulosa). This gets a lot of native bees.
  • California aster (Symphyotrichum chilense) – these have spread into the wet zone, although they weren’t planted there originally.
  • Tufted Hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa ‘Susan’s Choice’). This has gradually been dying off over the years.
  • Soft Rush (Juncus effusus).
  • California Gray Rush (Juncus patens ‘Will Fleming’).
  • California Goldenrod (Euthamia occidentalis). Another, different California goldenrod.
  • California meadow sedge (Carex pansa).

middle zone

  • California Goldenrod (Solidago californica). A recent planting, we’re hoping this will spread into the asters.
  • California field sedge (Carex praegracillis). Spreads slowly, would probably rather be in damp sand.
  • Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa). It seems to like a bit more water than we thought. Difficult to establish!
  • California aster (Symphyotrichum chilense). Spreads everywhere, needs to be pulled out where not wanted. This is a great butterfly plant!
  • California Melic Grass (Melica californica). Too soon to see what this plant will do.
  • Alkali Sacaton (Sporobolus airoides). Too soon to see how this plant will do. Plants in the wetter zone did not grow.
  • Camassia (Camassia quamash). Our only native bulb in the meadow area.

drier zone

  • Narrow-leaved wyethia (Wyethia angustifolia). This plant took a long time to reach flowering size.
  • Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea). Planted on the edge of the meadow where it gets afternoon shade.
  • Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens).
  • Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum). Volunteer from elsewhere in the garden.



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