Olbrich Home Bolz Conservatory

Rain Gardens

by Mark Shimasaki, Olbrich Horticulturist

Here in Wisconsin, we're fortunate to live in a water-rich part of the country. However, we've probably all heard news reports of declining levels of underground fresh water aquifers around the state. Besides conserving water, we can help by directing rainwater from hard surfaces, such as house roofs, into areas where it can infiltrate the ground and recharge these aquifers. As homeowners and gardeners, rain gardens can be our contribution to preserving this valuable natural resource.

A rain garden is simply a shallow depression in the yard planted with hardy perennials. The run-off from roof down spouts is channeled into the depression, where it slowly filters into the ground rather than running off into the storm sewer system. The depressions are generally less than six inches deep and easy to dig, especially since the removed soil can be used to form a low berm around the perimeter of the depression.

Depending on the soil type and sun exposure of the site, a diverse mixture of native perennial wildflowers and grasses is then planted and should flourish with minimal care.

Information on determining the size and placement of the rain garden as well as appropriate plants for the site can be found in books and on the web.

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Olbrich Botanical Gardens is operated as a public-private partnership between the City of Madison Parks Division and the Olbrich Botanical Society.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens | 3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704. | Phone: (608)246-4550 | Fax: (608)246-4719