Catching the Rain

With the extensive rainfall we receive on Vancouver Island in the fall and winter, many gardeners are challenged by the excess water which floods the landscape. But a rain garden is a creative solution to help you work with the bountiful rainfall we receive.


Rain garden in Seattle (Seattle Public Utilities)

A rain garden is a portion of a landscape planted with wildflowers and native plants designed to withstand the extremes of moisture and concentrations of nutrients that are found in urban stormwater runoff.  Rain gardens can be any size and are ideally situated close to the source of the runoff but at least 10 feet from your house so as not to impact its foundation. The rain garden serves to slow the stormwater as it travels downhill, giving this short burst of rainwater more time to infiltrate the soil and less opportunity to gain momentum and cause erosion.

Why are rain gardens important? As towns grow and replace forests and agricultural land, increased stormwater runoff from roads, roofs, and lawns can increase flooding, carrying pollutants into local rivers and lakes, potentially leading to costly municipal improvements.

Following is a suggested list of plants to incorporate into a boggy area, creating the foundation of your rain garden:


Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)
Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) 
Possumhaw (Viburnum nudum)
St. Johnswort (Hypericum densiflorum)
Silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) 
Smooth alder (Alnus serrulata) 
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum) 
Swamp rose (Rosa palustris) 
Wild raisin (Viburnum cassinoides) 
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

Perennials and ferns

Blue flag iris (Iris versicolor)
Blue vervain (Verbena hastata)
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
Golden ragwort (Senecio aureus)
Goldenrod (Solidago patula, S. rugosa)
Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphlitica)
Green bullrush (Scirpus atrovirens)
Horsetail (Equisetum species)
Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
Monkey flower (Mimulus ringens)
New England aster (Aster novae-anglia)
New York aster (Aster novi-belgii)
Royal fern (Osmunda regalis)
Seedbox (Ludwigia alternifolia)
Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)
Soft rush (Juncus effusus)
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)
Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
Tussock sedge (Carex stricta)
White turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
Woolgrass (Scirpus cyperinus)


Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Birch (Betula lenta, Betula nigra)
Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)
Black willow (Salix nigra)
Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Pin oak (Quercus palustris)
Pond pine (Pinus palustris)
Red maple (Acer rubrum)
Swamp oak (Quercus bicolor)
Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis)

If this sounds like something that your garden would benefit from, please call Nora at Ceres Edible Landscaping to discuss a design approach for your own rain garden this winter.  Phone: 250.748.8506.


CMHC Fact Sheet on Rain Gardens:



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