Interested in getting acquainted with your neighbors, but don’t want to go through the trouble of making endless jello salads? Larry and Kalleen Ormand have an alternative solution — install a rain garden.
After this pair of Do-It-Yourselfers installed a rain garden in their front yard, they noticed an increase in the number of butterflies, hummingbirds, and neighbors hovering around it. While the butterflies don’t ask too many questions, their neighbors are genuinely interested.
Some people already know what a rain garden is and the rest, the Ormand’s are happy to educate. Larry said, “There has been a lot of interest in it and it’s a nice ice breaker for talking to our neighbors.” Recently I was the one hovering around their new rain garden, and was able to ask them about the process, favorite moments, and lessons learned.
Q: How/where did you first learn about rain gardens?
A: We first learned about rain gardens during a workshop series at the Snohomish Sno-Isle library. While we left the workshop with a rain garden poster and new knowledge, the main draw was the chance to meet Ciscoe. Rain gardens were not a part of our landscaping plans until we contacted the City of Snohomish for help with drainage issues on our property. Our driveway would flood when runoff from the street poured in, which caused our small drain to back up. The city eventually referred us to the Snohomish Conservation District, where it was suggested that a rain garden might be a good solution.
Q: What was your favorite part about the project?
A: Kalleen – I was just so excited to start the project, and to go plant shopping! It was like waiting for Christmas and Larry had a lot of fun with the joystick (driving the track hoe).
Larry – I did enjoy driving the track hoe around, but I also really enjoyed knowing that the runoff would be going into the rain garden once it was done, that was really my favorite part.
Q: Tell us about the construction process, was it what you expected?
A: We decided to do the construction ourselves rather than hire out the work since we were able to do it, but we were probably slower than a contractor would have been. Looking back, we might have been too excited to start and didn’t plan things out enough before “digging in”.
Q: How did you go about choosing your plants?
A: We used the plants from the rain garden poster as a guide and picked plants that would offer year round color in a variety of textures. When we could not find the listed plant, we used hybrids and other
substitutions. We wanted more than just ornamentals so we incorporated “useful” plants, like broccoli and cauliflower on the upper edges of the garden. We were even able to divide and relocate some plants from the yard to save money.
Q: Was there anything you were concerned about going into the project or in trying to decide to move forward?
A: Kalleen – It was hard to change our mindset from the landscape plan we had done several years back, which did not include a rain garden. However now that the rain garden is installed I realized that you just need to be flexible and embrace the change because it will all come together to work out.
Q: If you could offer one piece of advice to other landowners, what would it be?
A: Planning ahead of time (before starting the project) will really help reduce the stress of the project.
Things we wished we’d have known or considered:
• Bin for hauling excavated soil, making sure it can be picked up and dumped on weekends
• Consider business hours (some close early on Sundays)
• Space (for storing materials) and access issues
Q: Overall, would you recommend the process to others?
A: Yes, to other Do-It-Yourselfers (but you have to be flexible), or hiring it out.
Unique Features of the Ormand’s Rain Garden -
• Edible plants (broccoli, cauliflower, and one-day tomatoes) on the outer edges, away from storm water drainage
• Rocks gathered from the excavated depression were used as part of their inlet pad
Whether you have drainage problems on your property, are interested in changing your landscape and reducing your lawn area, or are interested in becoming better acquainted with your neighbors, it might be time to investigate how a rain garden could benefit your life. To learn more about rain gardens, contact Stacy Aleksich, Low Impact Development (LID) Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or Derek Hann, Design Engineer at email@example.com.Both can be reached at 425-335-5634, ext 112.
Larry and Kalleen’s rain garden was partially funded by the Snohomish Conservation District’s LID Cost Share Pilot Program. This pilot program offers partial funding as an incentive to get qualified Low Impact Development projects on private property installed. It was first offered to landowners we had created rain garden plans (and other similar plans like permeable paving and rain water collection systems) for in 2010 and 2011 . We hope to be able to offer these incentives to more landowners in the future as well.