British Columbia is well-known for its long, heavy rains. While this significant rainfall helps make it such a lush, beautiful province, it also often leads to soil oversaturation and flooding. Thankfully, there are ways to create something beautiful and beneficial regardless of the wet weather! Here is our guide to planting your very own rain garden in your Powell River landscape this spring.

Why Are Rain Gardens Important?

A rain garden is a depressed area of land filled with native perennials, shrubs and other plants to help excess rainwater from rooftops, driveways, parking lots, patios, or lawns soak into the ground. BC gardeners have been growing rain gardens for several years now as an eco-friendly way to help reduce oversaturation and flooding in their landscapes. 

Rain gardens are beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, by giving the water a place to divert, we can prevent harmful pollutants within water runoff—like oils, garbage, fertilizers, bacteria and even dirt particles—from entering storm drains and contaminating freshwater sources. Rain gardens also help prevent flooding and erosion and provide valuable habitat for wildlife.

How to Build a Rain Garden in Your Powell River Landscape

If you’re ready to tackle your own rain garden build, here are a few pro tips to keep in mind that will help guide your planning: 

  • Use native vegetation. We recommend using native plants in your rain garden’s design and construction because they require less fertilizer, have strong root systems, and make better use of the native soil structure and nutrients than non-native species. A few of our favourite Powell River native options include salmonberry plants, ferns, yarrow, and aster.  
  • Plant your rain garden at the base of a slope to allow water to flow into it. 
  • Plant your rain garden at least ten feet away from your house or other structures that may produce water runoff, as growing one too close to a building can actually cause more damage to its foundation. Your rain garden should also be about 20% of the size of the area you are draining from. 
  • Never build a rain garden over a septic tank, wellhead, or any major utilities, and remember to always call your local utility companies before you dig!
  • Direct your downspouts towards your rain garden if possible.  
  • Remember: your rain garden is not a pond! The water collected in your rain garden should drain within about 24 hours. To help with this, make sure your rain garden is only about 4″ -8″ deep. Anything deeper could hold water for too long or look like you’ve just dug a giant hole in your yard—not really the aesthetic you’re going for!

What is the Best Shape for a Rain Garden?

While you can make a rain garden any shape you like, some designs might work better for your landscape than others. Generally, if you’re building a rain garden between two structures (like your house and the sidewalk), a long, narrow design will be the best shape. Overall, though, a round or kidney bean shape is used most often, as it’s generally seen as the most attractive. 

The Right Plants for a Powell River Rain Garden

The plants you use in your rain garden must be able to tolerate both wet and dry conditions, as their moisture levels will fluctuate drastically throughout the year. Perennials and wildflowers are the perfect choices for rain gardens, as most of them have robust root systems that can handle both extremes. When designing your rain garden, concentrate your most pooling-tolerant plants in the middle, where water runoff will pool the most.

We recommend water-loving varieties like fountain grass, cranesbill, hardy hibiscus, Juncus patens, Carmen’s Grey, Spiraea douglasii, and Pacific ninebark. 

The outer parts of your rain garden will dry the fastest and generally won’t experience the worst of the wet, making them great for growing coral bells, catmint, butterfly weed, salmonberry, Kinnikinnick, and red elderberry. We also recommend adding rocks around the edges of your rain garden for additional stability and visual appeal.

If you’re ready to start growing a rain garden in your Powell River landscape this year, we’re more than happy to help you out along the way! Come visit us at Mother Nature today for inspiration, plants, materials, and more!