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!

A lifelong Oregon resident, Drake has been passionate about plants since childhood, beginning with propagating and growing flowers at his grandfather’s nursery. He opened Drake’s 7 Dees in 1974, while earning degrees in Business and Horticulture from Oregon State University. He later expanded into the design/build side of the industry, allowing him to combine his passion for plants with his love of family by maximizing the quality of family time spent outdoors.

Drake is co-founder of the Oregon Landscape Contractors Association and is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager (LICM)—a designation that less than two percent of landscapers have attained. Additionally, Drake serves on the Board of Directors for the Portland Japanese Gardens, widely regarded as one of the seven best Japanese gardens outside of Japan.

Drake is married to former Oregon Speaker of the House, Lynn Snodgrass. Together, he and Lynn received the Farm Bureau President’s award in 1999 for their service and dedication to agriculture in the state of Oregon. Drake and Lynn have two wonderful daughters, two talented son-in-laws, and seven grandchildren. In his spare time, Drake enjoys camping, water and snow skiing, reading, and of course, gardening.

Born and raised in the Portland Metro Area… Tim has had an appreciation for the outdoors from a young age.  Inspired by our local beauty ranging: the Mt Hood National Forest to salty, sea spray of Cannon Beach, the arid high-desert of Central Oregon to the rugged terrain of Steens Mountain – Tim sought higher education at the University of Idaho in their Landscape Architecture department.  Graduating with honors in 2004, he returned home to establish his professional career.

Now making his home in Sandy, Oregon – Tim and his wife [Nicole] are raising two happy and healthy kiddos and 4 fur-babies.  Between soccer, football, cheerleading, girl scouts and other extra-curricular activities… the Sellin family are heavily involved in their community and church family.  Since college, Tim has spent 13 of his 17 years with Drake’s 7 Dees and has ‘set roots’ in anticipation of long-term growth at the family-focused company.  Having spent his time away from Drake’s in a ‘boots on the ground’ capacity, Tim has fostered a love for the operational/production side of landscape business, as well as the design/sales.

His goal in life as well as business is to put others first.

Bachelor of Science Landscape Architecture, BSLA… 2009
California Polytechnic University, Pomona… Cum Laude
American Society of Landscape Architects – Honor Award

Steven has 15 years of experience in the residential landscape design/build and garden center industry, including 9 years with Drake’s 7 Dees. Steven also has experience working with the National Park Service in Yosemite on sub-alpine restoration projects, as well as volunteer experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer serving the community of Zaouiat d’Ifrane in Morocco.

Together, Steven and his wife Anna have four lovely children, all 5 years old and under! In his (very limited) spare time, Steven enjoys camping, hiking, archery hunting, and cooking. Steven’s passion for his work lies in helping others, through design to envision a more beautiful space that, once built, becomes a reality that improves their quality of life.