Last week I wrote a post on rain gardens and thought it would be fun to use my theme garden design process to add a little more punch to this type of landscape.  I've been thinking about using Wellington rain boots as a theme for months and this was the perfect opportunity.

I followed my theme garden design process to whip up my Wellie Rain Garden Plan:

1. PICK A THEME. Wellington rain boots!

2. BRAINSTORM. These are the words that pop into my head then when I think about rain boots: colorful, fun patterns, rubber, polka dots, red, yellow, rain coat, puddles, umbrellas, storms, wet, showers, wellies, Britain

3. RESEARCH. To find out a little bit more about Wellie rain boots, I dove into the internet.  This is what I found:
  • The Wellington boot was invented by the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, in the early 1800s in Britain.
  • Wellesley was considered one of the greatest defensive commanders of all time.  He beat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.
  • This time period was also the height of the English landscape style.  This style broke away from the formal gardens of the Renaissance into expansive informal landscapes with large lawns and curving paths.

4. TRANSLATE TO PHYSICAL FORM. After looking at my brainstorming and research lists my plan evolved this way:
  • Colors: bright, mostly warm colors that make me think of fun rain boots.  I threw a little bit of purple/blue in there to signify rain, but focused more on the reds, oranges and yellows.
  • Shapes: The circles are inspired by umbrellas and polka dots, plus the rectangle and rows of plants symbolize the Duke of Wellington's marching army. Though these are both strong, geometric shapes they are placed informally like the English landscape style (yes, I know I'm stretching it here on the English landscape style, but decided to just focus on the informal/asymmetrical aspect of it).
  • Furniture: Of course, I included a bright colored umbrella. Wouldn't it be nice to sit under the umbrella during a spring shower and watch the rain garden do it's magic?
  • Plants: All of my plants are recommended for rain gardens in US zone 5.  When designing your own rain garden, just Google rain garden plants for zone # and a myriad of sources will pop up for you. Think about height, textures and colors.  I kept mine to 3' or less.
5. CREATE THE PLAN.  See above.

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Leah said...

Hello Lisa, I wish I could draw even half as well as you! The elevation and plan views have charm as well as clarity. I plan to share your examples posted here with my landscape design students (at a community college). The "Wellie Rain Garden" is a fun idea. I am very curious about the species selected which I normally recommend for dry sites and well-draining conditions.
I consider Asclepias tuberosa very susceptible to rot over winter and spring in wet/clay soils (as we have around Kansas City) unless in a berm or on a slope. When I worked in a nursery with an emphasis on native plants, that crop had a high rate of failure if overwatered. I usually suggest Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)for rain gardens instead although it does get a lot taller. I usually think of all these species for more dry soils except the Lysimachia--it does run happily in moist sites. Seems like a majority of rain gardens installed over recent years here have been removed due to failure of many of the species selected to establish properly, followed by weedy volunteers triggering neighborhood complaints. Some shorter species I observe doing well in rain gardens over a long period of years include a native reed Juncus effusus, sedges like Carex muskingumensis (palm sedge) and the agressive but pretty and long-blooming disobedient/obedient plant Physostegia virginiana. I am interested in hearing what luck others have had with various species in rain gardens lasting at least several years. Thanks! Leah

Lisa Orgler said...

Hi Leah. Please do share this with your class!

To answer your questions. If installed properly a rain garden should not hold water for more than 12-24 hours. Clay soils are not recommended because of that. Soils need to allow water to percolate through.

Ironically rain gardens are dry most of the time, which is why plants that can handle dryer conditions are recommended. If water is being held all the time then it's probably not a rain garden, but another type of garden...one for wet-loving plants.

This is a great resource for the Midwest: http://www.iowaagriculture.gov/press/pdfs/RainGardenManual.pdf

Here is a cross-section I also drew: http://lunchboxproject.blogspot.com/2014/01/what-is-rain-garden.html

Hopefully that explains why I chose the plants I did! Thanks so much!