a stone patio and walkway amid a rain garden

Rain Capture Sanctuary

Priorities: Rainwater Catchment – Outdoor Seating – Native Plantings
Challenges: Expansive Grass Lawn
Solutions: Channel Rainwater to Cistern and Rain Garden – Install Patio – Terrace and Grade Area

This cistern, rain garden, and patio project functioned as an example of mutual inspiration. Maas Verde’s nature-centric client helped us reframe our own thinking about rain gardens. And in turn, we helped her vision become a lush, rain-collecting, native planted reality.

A small shady spot below a tall pecan tree overlooked a gently sloping turfgrass lawn. It was a natural seating area, and the install would revolve around it.  

The plan incorporated a 20’ x 10’ rain garden swale with berms, native karst limestone boulders, a 1,000-gallon galvanized cistern, and 317 native plants representing 17 species. This and a honed limestone patio would partially replace the Zoysia grass lawn. Advantageously, we were able to repurpose some materials from the site: ¼” steel edging, and part of a limestone block wall encircling the tree.

Maas Verde built an 8’ x 8’ CMU (concrete masonry unit) pad for the cistern to stand on. To match the block walls to the house foundation, the crew finished the surfaces with stucco. A 5-foot pony wall helps divide it from the side yard. And a galvanized pipe trellis help screen and cool the tank, once native coral honeysuckle plantings establish.

The rainwater catchment system works via collection and cascade. First, piping funnels rainwater from the roof into the tank. When the tank overflows, it disperses into the rain garden below. Finally, a gentle channel cut into the garden and adjacent limestone wall allows any water still moving downhill into the lawn. 

The system handles a surprising capacity of water. Together, the cistern and garden can hold 1,980 gallons. That’s enough to fill about 45 bathtubs to the brim. In a 1” rain event, the client’s roof would collect 840 gallons of rainwater.

Maas Verde’s system only needs to capture a fraction of that to sustain its hearty native plantings. The outdoor seating component adds novel functionality to the space.

“Most people don’t think of rain gardens as landscapes that are particularly geared toward humans. They’re considered more like ecologically-focused elements than practical spaces for people to hang out,” Maas Verde project manager John Harris explained. “But this design proved, any rain garden can be both at the same time.”

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