• Mary Ellen Guest, Executive Director

An Inspiring Rain Garden Seminar


At our seminars, one of my favorite things is talking with folks who attend. This is one of the many ways we stay connected to our members. I also look forward to learning from our presenters because I live in a very old house in Beverly (built in 1888).

If you attended our April seminar “Rain Gardens: the Beauty and Benefits of Stormwater Management” at Avalon Library, you might have spotted me furiously taking notes in the back of the room. Our presenter, Ryan Wilson, gave us solid, factual knowledge, along with a hefty dose of inspiration.

Rain gardens can help manage stormwater on property and can be a beautiful design feature as well. I have an area in my backyard that floods every time it rains. Over the last few years, I have tried to plant perennials and grass in this spot and nothing will grow.

Thanks to Ryan’s presentation, I learned that this area is a low spot and the perfect place to site a rain garden. To confirm this, Ryan instructed us about how to do a percolation test by digging a hole 6-8 inches wide and 12-18 inches deep and filling it with water. If there is still water in the hole after 24 hours, sand and organics need to be added to the soil to improve drainage. My yard has heavy clay soil--like most Chicago backyards--so I will need to add soil amendments.

He also instructed us to call the City at 312.744.7000 or visit www.ipi.cityofchicago.org/digger to learn the location of buried cables or utilities in our yard, 48 hours before digging.

We learned so much about style and design of a rain garden. Curvy vs. straight? Low vs. high? Messy vs. neat? High or low maintenance? I have decided on a curvy design with a mix of high and low plants, with a special emphasis on native plants that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Ryan gave us many great web resources to learn more about planting and maintaining our rain gardens. You can view, download, and print his presentation here. His presentation was inspirational and I am excited about getting started soon.

Ryan’s presentation inspired us to compile a list of plant sales and nurseries to help our members find where to buy native plants. You can find that in our other blog post here. As we put this list together, we were reminded that there are few sources for native plants on the South Side of the City. One thing led to another, and we have begun to plan the “Chicago Bungalow Association Plant Sale and Garden Festival” for next May at a South Side location. Stay tuned for details!

Do you have a rain garden? Share you experience and pictures with us! Or if you are interested in planting a rain garden but have questions, let us know! You can leave a comment or send us a message.

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