Nature’s Perspective Landscaping, in collaboration with Evanston Environmental Association, recently rolled out the Livable Landscapes Program for residents in Evanston, to promote the practice of water-absorbing, habitat-friendly landscaping to help manage storm water run-off in yards.
We hosted two free workshops in Evanston several weeks ago sharing information about rain gardens. In response to the deluge of rain on June 15th throughout Chicagoland communities, we are sharing this information to all of our blog readers.
Installing a site-appropriate rain garden helps to manage on-site water so that it mimics and enhances the natural water cycle by increasing infiltration, reducing run-off that overloads sewers and eliminating or reducing the use of potable water in the landscape.
We highly recommend reading ILCA Contractor’s Guide to Small-Scale Rain Gardens, an in-depth, easy to read manual about planning rain gardens, written by fellow Illinois Landscape Contractor Association member Kevin Herbert. Offered as a free download to the public, Kevin addresses the following:
- Why install a rain garden?
- How do I find my yard’s low point?
- How do I determine the appropriate rain garden size?
- What plants are suitable for a rain garden in a sunny location? How about a part shade location?
Additionally at the workshops, we offered Evanston residents a chance to buy select rain garden plants at cost. Following is a list of rain garden plants we recommend for the North Shore/Chicago’s north side. All except one (starred with an asterisk) have the added benefit of being native to Illinois.
Sunny Rain Garden Perennials
*Blue Ice Blue Star Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ has a mounded form with green willow-like leaves; clusters of dark blue buds that open into starry soft blue flowers. Foliage turns buttery gold in autumn. Height x Width: 12-18 in. x 18-24 in. Bloom Time: April, May
Culver’s Root Veronicastrum virginicum is a tall perennial with a sculptural appearance, that prefers moist to well drained soils, but can be adaptable. Attractive flowers, clean foliage make this a versatile plant for the contemporary garden. Height x Width: 4-6 ft. x 3-4 ft. Bloom Time: July, August
Common Ironweed Vernonia fasciculata has aster-like purple flowers with attractive clean foliage. Prefers moist soils, but tolerant of variable soils. Holds tufted seed heads well into winter, providing food for birds. Height x Width: 3-4 ft. x 24-36 in. Bloom Time: July, August
Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium (Eutrochium) purpureum is a tall, stately plant with whorled leaves and silvery-pink flowers that are attractive to butterflies. Height x Width: 4-6 ft. x 3-4 ft. Bloom Time: July, August
Purple Lovegrass Eragrostis spectabilis is a low mounded grass; sprays of tiny reddish-mauve flowers late summer resemble a haze of smoke. Self-seeds. Drought tolerant. Light red flowers. 12-18 in x 12-18 in. Bloom Time: August
Blue Sedge Carex flacca is a cool season sedge that creeps slowly by rhizomes; not invasive in habit. An excellent matting groundcover. Will stand up to some light traffic and is somewhat drought- tolerant once established. Height x Width: 8-12 in. x 18-24 in. Bloom Time: June, July
Common Rush Juncus effusus is a grass-like, rhizomatous perennial that features cylindrical upright green stems in spreading basal clumps. Clumps provide vertical accent to moist garden areas. Height x Width: 3-4 ft. x 24-36 in. Bloom Time: June, July, August
Part Shade Rain Garden Perennials
Nodding Wild Onion Allium cernuum has grass-like foliage with elegant nodding flower heads. Early summer pinkish-purple flowers. Can be used in cultivated beds in masses. Height x Width: 12-18 in. x 12 in. Bloom Time: June/July
Gray’s Sedge Carex grayi has very ornamental seed heads and pleated foliage that thrives in both sun and shade rain gardens. Prettiest in mid-summer. Height x Width: 12-18 in. x 12 in. Bloom Time: June, July
Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium (Eutrochium) purpureum is a tall, stately plant with whorled leaves and silvery-pink flowers. Height x Width: 4-6 ft. x 3-4 ft. Bloom Time: July, August
Tufted Hair Grass Deschampsia cespitosais a clumping cool season grass with airy seed heads. Will tolerate light shade. One of the earliest grasses to bloom in the spring. Brown flower at 3-5′. Height x Width: 3-4 ft x 18-24 in. Bloom Time: May, June
Long-beaked Sedge Carex sprengeliiis a grass-like perennial. Long bright green leaves cascade from a clump. Tiny light green flowers. Height x Width: 18-24 in. x 18-24 in. Bloom Time: May, June
Turtlehead Chelone glabra is found in streambanks and on damp ground. White blossom often tinged with pink in late summer. Good for cut flowers. Height x Width: 24-36 in. x 24-36 in. Bloom Time: August, September
Blueflag Iris Iris virginica var. shrevei Moisture-loving Iris has fragrant blue-violet flowers with falls crested in yellow and white. Narrow bright green leaves often lie on the ground or in the water. Height x Width: 24-36 in. x 8-12 in. Bloom Time: June, July
Besides a rain garden, other ideas we’ve shared on this blog to mitigate drainage problems are to add a drystream bed in the flood-prone area of your yard, install permeable paving on your property and harvest rainwater with an underground system.