Jason and Nancy Rich of Savage like to garden much more than they like to mow. So instead of grass, their yard includes a number of basins of deep-rooted plants native to Minnesota. These plants need little fuss or weeding, are able to withstand both dry and soggy conditions, have very deep roots and add a rainbow of color (and texture) during summer, spring and fall. These are called raingardens! Raingardens add beauty to your yard while collecting runoff from your roof, lawn and driveway. They can include native shrubs, wildflowers and bunch grasses. In urban areas, they provide wildlife habitat, attract pollinators and prevent excess fertilizer, pet waste, carwash detergents and other household pollutants from reaching the nearby stream, lake or wetland, in the Rich’s case, the Credit River.
“When I bought my home in 2012, it was mostly lawn and rock accents,” Jason explained. He soon discovered he also had some low, poorly drained areas where water tended to pool. When he moved from Prior Lake, he brought some of his favorite native plant clippings along with him and decided to populate the soggy areas with raingarden-friendly plants. He hauled in 20 yards of dirt, planned and mulched a walking path to the east side of his home, redirected his rain gutters and rerouted his sump pump to drain water into the newly dug basin.
Having worked in landscaping prior to a career as a mobile cardiac sonographer with the Minneapolis Heart Institute, Jason picked up gardening as a hobby, he admits through reading and trial and error. “My parents were avid gardeners… Gardening gives me a lot of peace; it’s part of who I am,” he added. “And I’ve always wanted to have a raingarden!” Today he has two primary raingardens, other native plantings and a vegetable garden bordering three sides of he and his wife Nancy’s home on River Crossing.
“It was a lot of work; the digging was the hardest part,” he admitted. “Be patient and enjoy the process. There is a lot of prep work, and although tedious, it’s also the most important part.” Residents of Scott County who are interested in putting in raingardens must attend a Blue Thumb workshop to get started. Funding assistance of $250 is available to those who attend the workshops and complete their raingardens. Jason figures it took him about a week and half to install his two raingardens – start to finish.
He also advises residents to choose natives they like and enjoy the process of installing a raingarden and planting flowers in general. Jason specifically chose peonies in honor of his father; Deep Purple Petunias, a favorite of his mother’s; White and Pink Nancy Lamium, White Casa Blanca Lily and magenta-colored flowers for his wife; Lily of the Valley for the Biblical reference; Rattlesnake Master for his son Josh (who has a pet cornsnake and loves reptiles); Jacob’s Ladder to honor his son Jake; and many plants to attract butterflies for his daughters. Jason estimates about 200 varieties have taken root in his garden areas, the above, along with Yarrow, Butterfly Milkweed, Blue False Indigo, Karl Foerster’s Feather Reed Grass, Sedum, Fox Sedge, Solomon’s Seal, Black-Eyed Susan, Rose Turtlehead, Coreopsis, Yellow and Purple Coneflower, Joe-Pye Weed, Phlox, Prairie Smoke, Hydrangea, Blue Flag Iris, Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris), Delphinium and many others!
Since his yard has both sunny and shady areas, Jason chose native plants that would thrive in the various soil, moisture and sunlight conditions. His Delphinium and Rattlesnake Master are now almost taller than he is, and a lot taller than his twin daughters Samantha and Sarah who love to watch the many butterflies and dragonflies the raingarden’s many blooming flowers attract. It’s also common to see hummingbirds and other pollinators being lured to the colorful and fragrant gardens.
“Raingardens make a lot of sense,” Jason summed up. “They have shifted how I view stormwater runoff… Raingardens really make a ton of sense, plus they are beautiful and help the environment.”