Rain Gardens Are Design Elements that Work with Excess Rainwater

In the Pacific Northwest, it rains. In the times when it is sunny, it pays to consider what we can do to better prepare our landscapes for the excess rainwater that is bound to plague the Northwest again in the fall.

The winter should give your landscape a chance to rest and prepare for spring. But in the torrential downpours that often describe February and March in our area, you may have found rainwater puddling in places you’ve never seen it before, uneven drainage, and waterlogged planting beds. Don’t put all these problems aside until next year when they arise again. There are many different solutions for rainwater management. In addition to using the traditional drainage techniques such as trench drains, flo-wells, and catch basins, we can help remedy these issues with rain gardens, which also add some pizzazz to your landscape whether wet or dry.

What is a Rain Garden?

Rain gardens are a great way to dress up part of the landscape as well as add functionality to it. It often involves a grouping of stones and water-loving plants. The plants may be bright and colorful during much of the year, with lots of different textures and varied bloom times, adding to the beauty of the overall landscape.

There are many different ways to build a rain garden, but the overall concept is the same: make a depression where you have a low spot/water pooling already, put in some fresh soil and/or drain rock, move in some water-loving plants, and watch the area collect rainwater and thrive. There’s more that goes into it, but that’s the basic idea. A good online resource for the DIYer is Portland Metro.

The following images show how lovely and useful a rain garden can be.

rain garden

A rain garden in action! Source: SailorsTales

Related image

See? Don’t they look great? A whole lot better than a mud puddle.

Dry Stream Bed

dry stream bed

Dry stream beds go by other names such as dry river bed or dry creek bed, but it’s all the same. A dry stream is a shallow swale lined with stone substantial enough to withstand a serious downpour while securing the soil and directing rainwater runoff. They look their best when they emulate a natural waterway. Creating a gentle curve in a stream bed results in a more natural appearance, serves to reduce the velocity of the water, and creates areas for major plant groupings.

In general, a dry stream bed should be located an area of your landscape that is naturally low, or where water drains poorly. A dry stream can “flow” across an open expanse, or it can be located at the base of a slope or raised flower bed.

Rain Garden Examples

For an example, take a look at some of our finished products.

dry stream bed
dry stream bed
dry stream bed

Permeable Paving for Functional Rain Gardens

Pavers appropriate for a rain garden are themselves made up of of concrete bricks separated by joints filled with small stones or sand which are laid over a bed of aggregate rock. Water is able to infiltrate through the joints in the pavers and is then stored in the void space underneath the paver surface where it is slowly filtered back into the soil.

Patios and walkways are essential to using your outdoor space. Using permeable pavers on these elements is an easy way to make your hardscape more environmentally friendly by reducing the amount of rainwater that is put elsewhere – meaning they can cut down on flooding.

While the long-term benefits are greater, the initial cost of installation for permeable pavers exceeds that of impervious concrete or pavement. In other words, it’s worth it if you have flooding/drainage problems and a lot of concrete or other impervious surfaces, or you care about the quality of water going back into the ground.

There are a lot of different types of design aesthetic with this product. Depending on the end result you’re looking for, there are numerous variations to choose from. See below for some examples:

pervious pavers, permeable pavers

Source: ReadingRock Building Materials and Services

permeable pavers

Source: Mutual Materials

Rather than grass, you can put gravel in the voids to keep a cleaner, more traditional aesthetic for the paver area.

permeable pavers

Source: Krienbrook Permeable Pavers


Rain gardens are a way to deal with all the water that we experience in the Pacific Northwest in a creative manner that is both functional and beautiful at the same time. Don’t you love seeing form and function working together? 

We would love to collaborate with you! If you’re interested in starting a project, give us a call. We would love to help with the design, planning, and installation of a rain garden or other rain water solution. If you have questions about your rain garden, be sure to reach us at our Portland garden center!