Functional Landscaping Rain Gardens and Xeriscapes

In the realms of resource management and environmental concerns, coal, oil, and carbon dioxide get a lot of press—yet water is one of our most precious, most wasted, and least talked about commodities. One of the biggest culprits when it comes to wasted water is lawn care—grass requires a great deal of moisture to look its best, and irrigation, sprinkler systems and hose-watering all use a tremendous amount of water.

There are alternatives to turf, however—landscaping formats that use less water, but that can be as attractive, or even more so, than plain grass. Rain gardens and xeriscapes are two such solutions, and in addition to helping to provide some relief to the environment, their installation can make a landscape unique and beautiful.

Basic Concepts

A rain garden is a shallow depression planted with native perennial plants designed to catch and absorb rainwater as it runs off higher elevations. The absorption significantly reduces the erosion, water pollution, and flooding that can accompany runoff from impervious surfaces like roofs, sidewalks, parking lots, and hard-packed ground.

“Rain gardens help create a more sustainable landscape,” says John Senn, spokesperson for the EPA’s Region 2 office in New York. “Planting and maintaining rain gardens, especially those that feature native plants, help with storm water management. They also help create a more natural environment.”

“We are talking to people about keeping the rain water that falls on their property on their property, as opposed to letting it wash into gutters and sewer systems,” says Sue Cubberly, from the Rain Garden Network in Chicago. “And a great way to do that is through a rain garden.”

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