Showing posts with label rain gardens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rain gardens. Show all posts

Friday, September 27, 2013

Woodwardia fimbrata, my favorite plant in the garden this week

I bought this giant chain fern (Woodwardia fimbrata) last year at the HPSO Hortlandia sale. I wasn't sure how it would like the rain garden. I knew it would like the winter wet but I didn't know if it would be able to take the dryness in summer, not to mention the midday sun.

Well, this guy has behaved like a champ. It gets the carwash treatment in summer instead of a proper slow soak and yet it never showed signs of wilting or browning. I suspect I got lucky but I'll take it.

Better yet, it reproduced.

I hope it will continue to reproduce because I would love for this area to be covered in giant ferns. In the wild these ferns can get to 10' tall. Whoa.

The stats (source: Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes):

  • Zones 6a-9b
  • Prefers moist to wet soil
  • Full to part shade
  • 5x5' in a garden setting, much larger in the wild
  • Evergreen
My favorite plant in the garden this week is hosted by Loree at Danger Garden. Be sure to check out what she's liking this week!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Retooling the back rain garden

I didn't really know what I was doing when I built the rain garden in the backyard. For starters, it's comically large. When I do something, I really do it, and I was like, "I'm gonna harvest all my rain water!" I really listened to the rain garden instructors when they told me to give the grasses plenty of room.

I also thought the Juncus effusus in the back of the rain garden would get taller than the Deschampsia cespitosa in the middle. They did not. The deschampsia is gorgeous but it probably shouldn't be smack dab in the center of the rain garden like that.

The rain garden elders really emphasize that you should only plant natives in your rain garden but I'm fudging that a little bit.

I moved the deschampsia toward the back and some will get removed to go live at Scott's soon. I grabbed the Juncus tenuis from the front rain garden, which was gorgeous until it got totally crisped in the searing summer heat. It was so pretty that I only took one single blurry photo of it:

Poverty rush (Juncus tenuis)
I planted some Geranium 'Rozanne' in the rain garden, which should appreciate the moist soil and hopefully weave through everything. Let the native purists rain down their judgement! (Just kidding, they can zip it.)

I also put in Carex comans 'Bronze' because I enjoy grasses that look dead. I also want to put in some Sedum 'Autumn Joy' toward the front, where it gets more sun in summer.

Image source: Annie's Annuals
Image source: Annie's Annuals

Lastly I put an Aquilegia chrysantha 'Flore Peno' in. We have some native Aquilegia so this didn't feel like cheating, somehow.

Image source: Annie's Annuals
Image source: Annie's Annuals

If it makes the native purists feel better, the Erythronium oreganum has naturalized under the cedar tree and I have a spreading swarm of beautiful flying nuns. I love them.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Want to build your own rain garden?

Hey Portlanders! If you've ever been interested in building a rain garden on your property, now's your chance!

There will be a free Rain Gardens 101 workshop on December 1st. I took this class last year and it was excellent. They give you all the tools to plan and build your rain garden and the presenters are great.

My friends have a phenomenon we call "hippie trump." You know when you go to a barbecue and someone asks if there are veggie burgers and you're like, "Yeah, I picked up some from Whole Foods," and then someone else is like, "You know, their oats aren't locally sourced. I made some from scratch. They have bulgar wheat and organic mushrooms," and then someone else is like, "Oh, that's cute. I brought homemade ketchup that I made from tomatoes and onions I grew in my garden, using a bike-powered blender."

You've just been hippie trumped. And they probably spelled ketchup "catsup," the big jerks.

Rain gardens are the ultimate hippie trump. You do our rivers and streams a solid all winter long, the birds and butterflies love them, and when your native purist friends ask why you're growing agaves (BECAUSE THEY'RE AWESOME. GOD.) you can be like, "rain gardens, bitches."

I also think they're pretty and topography changes in the landscape only up the interest. And they are really fun to watch fill.

Super blurry because it was POURING.

Can you believe my castor bean plant was ever that small? Can you see it?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Officially ready for rain, damn it.

Guys, I'm so sick of watering the garden. I'm sick of sunshine and warm weather and the hard rocky soil that prevents me from putting my new grasses in the ground.

OH I KNOW. I know. I should shut up.

I just want three days of light but steady rain, enough to recharge the ground a bit. I'd also like to test out our new gutter situation. Since I built the rain garden in front the size of an Olympic swimming pool, I've determined that it can handle all the gutter outflow from the front of the house. The only problem is that the gutters on the left side of the front of the house all tip toward a downspout here:

I need the gutters to tip toward the right side of the house, to the downspout that leads to the buried PVC pipe that carries the water to the rain garden. 

So these guys came out, removed the gutters, cut them down, then repositioned them so they tip to the right.

They also removed the downspout there, so we need to do some touch-up painting.

They left the gutters a grimy mess but otherwise everything looks fine. Now I just need some rain to make sure they work properly. I spent the weekend ignoring the sunshine and making a freezer full of empanadas and contemplating sewing projects.

I am ready for cool weather. I'm ready for long sleeves and homemade pasta and movies and pining for spring. Let's do this.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Aquarium, be gone!

When I built the rain garden out front I only intended to use rocks right where the water was entering it, to prevent erosion. I had used every large rock I had scavenged in the backyard rain garden, so while I was at Home Depot buying the PVC pipe I picked up a bag of rocks. Those rocks were very small.

The backyard rain garden right after installation, with nice fat rocks

Once I got the small stones in the rain garden I kind of liked the idea of a dry creek bed. So I got more bags of small stones but then it looked less like a creek bed and more like the bottom of an aquarium. Laurrie helpfully advised making it wider (so the scale would be right when the plants get bigger) and to add larger rocks.

I ran down to Oregon Decorative Rock and grabbed a 50 pound bag of mixed medium stones and handpicked 25 larger stones. We had also scavenged some really large river rocks when we moved the dirt pile in back. I have over 60 gardening blogs in my RSS reader and I know someone posted in the last week about how to make these look natural, but of course I can't find it now.

It needs more rock down on this end but I'm not sure how to terminate the creek bed naturally.

In nature, as the water in a river (or under a glacier) slows down it drops the larger, heavier stones first. I tried to add more of the largest stones at the sides where they'd be in nature (the water is slower there), and to bury them a little in the center of the rain garden.  It still doesn't look quite right but it looks a lot better than before. And hey, look at me using those hydrology/geography classes from college! I also used algebra to calculate the water runoff to this thing. If building a rain garden has taught me anything, it's that Mom was right: you will use this stuff later in life.

I removed the dagger-leaf rushes that were responding so poorly to the summer heat and relocated a slough sedge. I need to buy more rock and then maybe have Greg's parents over to help with rock placement. They have a gorgeous garden and they have a good eye for this kind of thing.

I also decided to move one of the Zaschnerias that got covered by the Coreopsis. I thought I had read that they spread through rhizomes but it turns out they have a tap root and none of that foliage is anchored into the ground. I don't know that this guy will survive the move.

I'm still waiting for that Festuca glauca 'Golden Toupee' to get up to size. It grows so. very. slowly. If any of you more experienced gardeners want to get opinionated on the creek bed (or anything else), I am all ears. Just don't tell me I'll use that Women in World Religions class that I dropped my junior year.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Come hell or high water . . . oh god, what did I do?

Because I had AC installed and I put tomatoes in the ground, it rained a lot this week. We got a break yesterday afternoon so I decided I wanted to work chicken grit into the berm out front and get the succulents planted. I went to Garden Fever and they were all out of big bags of chicken grit. I caught myself eyeing ferns before I snapped out of it and started calling other suppliers. I called Livingscape Nursery and they weren't selling it in bulk. I think that's when I muttered "Goddamn it, come hell or high water I want to do this TONIGHT." But I didn't want to drive down to Milwaukie to Concentrates NW, plus I'd never make it before they closed.

I called Urban Farm Store and they had big bags! I had 20 minutes to get down to Belmont Street before they closed! When I arrived I asked for 300 pounds of chicken grit. The lady rang me up, ran my card, and as I was signing she started giggling.

"I don't know why I rang you up for that. We don't have that much in stock."

Son of a. It turns out they only had 200 pounds, so we had to reverse charge my card and all of that, but then I was home with my plants and my chicken grit, hallelujah. I got the Dasylirion in the ground and then the sky opened up and was like, "COME HELL OR HIGH WATER? WATCH THIS YOU SILLY GIRL." Epic. rain. y'all.

The rain garden out front, which only has one gutter feeding it, never fills. It actually had four or five inches of water. 

Crappy phone photo!

The rain garden out back, which is humongous and serves the most roof water, almost overflowed. That's why you install an overflow notch, but I honestly never thought I'd need it.


Note to self: don't change perspective halfway through a video.

Eventually it stopped raining and I threw on my rain boots and dry pants and got back out there. Getting the agaves out of their pots was easier than I thought it would be. Sarah gave me the helpful advice to use a garden knife around the edges of the pot, then put the agave face-down into wet soil, then pull. In most cases the pot comes right off, though your poor agaves have mud all over their faces.

Agave americana

The back side of the berm is still a bit empty, though I have two more agaves to put in. I wish I had bought more Lewisia last weekend

I still need to acquire rock to edge the berm, then mulch the berm with gravel, and then maybe I can just let it do its thing for the summer. I'd still like to work in a black daphne (to the right by the castor bean plant) but I may wait until fall to put it in.

I can see the finish line and I think, with some tweaks (like redoing the dry rock bed and editing down the grasses), it's going to look pretty out there.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I think they leaped

This past weekend the boy and I missed the 80 degree weather in Portland to fly off to Minnesota for a really lovely wedding. The weather wasn't quite as nice there but the company was so good I don't think anyone cared. Greg's family is warm, welcoming, and hilarious. I didn't want to leave.

The garden went nuts while we were gone.

My trillium, after two and a half years, finally multiplied. At this rate I should have a nice clump in about 40 years.

I think it's finally time to admit that I can't cram many more ferns into this area. I'll still try but I really shouldn't.

Hooker's fairybells! Thank goodness I didn't weed these when I forgot I planted them.

Disporum hookeri var. oreganum

Shooting stars bloomed. I still wish they were broad leafed starflowers.

Dodecatheon hendersonii

The black tulips all finally bloomed . . .

. . . and the 'Flair' tulips and hyacinths went to the big wooden shoe in the sky. Hyacinths don't go gently; these keeled over dramatically, all of them at once, and then turned brown overnight.

I am very excited about what the hesperaloe is about to do. That stalk doubled in size while we were gone.

Hesperaloe parviflora 'Brakelights'

And the dogwood out front started to blossom! This is the time when I get to put my money where my mouth is. Orange door, pink dogwood, purple maples. Oof.

We've had trips and meetings and so many fun things eating up our weekends lately that I feel completely scattered. The front yard is still a mess, I need to install baseboard in the kitchen, and I really meant to rebuild the kitchen's screen door this winter. Pretty soon warm weather will be back and I won't have a screen door in the kitchen to usher it in.

But we will have that swimming pool we've always wanted.

I think I dug the rain garden too deep.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just some updates on the rain garden

One thing I never knew before I dug my rain garden was how nerve-wracking the first winter would be. Did I make it big enough? (Yes.) Will it overflow? (Not yet.) What if my basement floods because my work has inadvertently directed water toward the house instead of away from it? (Not yet, thankfully.)

I also never knew I'd like my rain garden as much as I do. I love seeing how high it's getting and what's responding well. When I installed it I planted some dormant stream lillies and really felt like they weren't going to thrive. Truthfully, I thought they were dead and I'd been hoodwinked by the Audubon Society. I mulched over them and forgot they were there. It was a wonderful surprise to see them pop up, no worse for the wear.

It never ceases to amaze me how much water the soil can accept. This was all gone within an hour.

Or that these Cascade penstemon (Penstemon serrulatus) can hang out under water for so long and be so happy.

I'm trying to figure out when I can do the work to install the rain garden in the front yard. If it would stop raining I could rent the sod cutter and dig the hole and plant the plants and take the pretty pictures. But still, it pours. 

It was actually sunny on Monday and all the tulips had stretched their petals wide open to sun themselves. By the time I finished weeding the perennial lab they had all closed up again.

They are forecasting sun for Saturday but that could change by the time the weekend rolls around. Everyone keep everything crossed! 

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's unorthodox but it works

We wanted to reroute more gutters to the rain garden but I didn't want to do anything permanent until we'd really tested whether it could handle so much more water. My first thought was a racquetball over the downspout hole (I don't know) but Greg didn't have one, despite the fact that he owns every piece of sporting equipment ever.

But a measuring cup worked. Don't laugh.

Believe it or not, this is effectively blocking that downspout and the water is now dumping into the rain garden (which is now filling a lot faster). I can watch it during heavy rain and see if it's in danger of overflowing. If the extra rain overflows or overwhelms the rain garden, I can just yank the measuring cup out of the gutter and take the pressure off.

And if it continues to work we can have that downspout removed professionally. And I own three measuring cup sets so I should survive without this one. Everyone wins! Now stop laughing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The rain garden in action

Here's a quick video of the rain garden in action.The excitement, I can barely stand it.

The basin is maybe a third full. I'm not sure now if I'd want to direct more gutters here. We'll just have to see how it performs throughout the winter. Sometimes I remember that scene from the end of Poltergeist where Craig T. Nelson is running around the backyard and everything is flooding, including the half-dug swimming pool, and all the bodies start popping up. I don't want that to happen.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Can you see the finish line?

Greg and I hustled back from the coast this weekend to pick up plants from the last sale of the year from the Audubon Society. When you let hippies run things it can get a little confused. When I got there they didn't have all my plants because someone had miscounted and maybe people took too many plants? And then we had this conversation:

Me: I ordered five gallon-sized Juncus but there's only three here.
Him: Just take more of the pint-sized plants instead.
Me: But don't those plants belong to someone else?
Me: So it's just anarchy at this point?
Him: (smiles)

In their defense this was the biggest sale they've ever had, with over 4000 plants ordered. That's a LOT of natives to keep track of. I ordered a combination of soft rush (Juncus effusus) and tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) and a few penstemon and stream violets to round things out. I also ordered kinnikinnick for the drier edges, which will hopefully cover the berm after a few years.

I hindsight I wish I had ordered a vine maple and incorporated some ferns but who am I kidding? I'm going to end up digging up and rearranging half of these anyway. It's what gardeners do, even gardeners who really know what they're doing. Greg raked up the leaves from the dogwood in the front yard and I deposited them into the beds around the yard as mulch. I don't have compost bins built yet but I couldn't bear to give up my leaves to the city compost. They'll just have to compost in place and I'll have to deal with the fact that I'm now a hoarder of leaves, in addition to everything else.

I ran out of fine bark mulch for the rain garden but once I get that covering everything this baby will be DONE. And then I've promised Greg I'm done with garden projects until next spring.

And I think I actually mean it.