a rain garden holding stormwater

What is a Rain Garden?

At Maas Verde, rain gardens are focal to our process. But…what are they? Isn’t every garden technically a “rain garden?”

While you could apply the description to any planted area that gets rained on, a proper rain garden has a specific structure and function.

Technically, a rain garden consists of a shallow, vegetated depression or swale that collects rainwater from hard (impervious) surfaces nearby. Rain gardens typically catch runoff from roofs, driveways, or patios.

Most good ideas are simple, and in Maas Verde’s opinion, a rain garden is one. The goal is uncomplicated: just catch water.

Along with creating an attractive, low-maintenance point of interest in any landscape, a rain garden also conserves resources in a simple way. Rain gardens don’t just mimic nature — they are nature.

Key Functions of a Rain Garden

With their shape and plantings, rain gardens retain stormwater in the land. They cause natural water infiltration in the soil, prompting deep root growth and groundwater recharge.

a garden bed filled with rainwater

(Photo/Maas Verde)

And as surface pollutants like fertilizers, oil and gas, and other chemicals soak into the soil in a rain garden, they filter out of the water supply instead of draining directly into it. This occurs through several processes that mainly take place in nutrient cycling. (A deeper dive is available via the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.)

Even a small rain garden can process a lot of water!

Maas Verde project manager Marc Opperman created one on approximately 100 square feet of space between his driveway and front door. With one downspout draining into it, the garden consistently held a six-inch-deep pool during one moderate January rain event.

Opperman also chose hearty plants that do well in wet conditions and drought. Woodland sedge (carex blanda) and Webberville sedge (carex perdentata) have performed well in this shady area, and have thrived despite recent freezes. The Webberville variety will flower nicely in purple. So will nearby snake herb (dyschoriste linearis).

rainwater collected in a garden bed

Snake herb rings this garden with Webberville sedge planted in the basin; (Photo/Maas Verde)

“The freezes, the droughts — nothing’s bothered it. Whatever the weather throws at it, it’s just like ‘thanks! Can I have some more?’,” Opperman said. The garden is around eight months old as of this writing, and all species are growing as expected.

Choosing the right materials, location, and size for your rain garden is key to a successful outcome. You can go a long way by observing drainage patterns on your property, measuring your lawn’s slope, and calculating the area of impervious surfaces that will drain to the garden.

Or, for expert help including decades of construction and horticultural experience, don’t hesitate to call Maas Verde.

Featured image: Rain gardens, like this one by Marc Opperman, have specific structure and function; (photo/Opperman)

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