May has been a mixed bag. It has rained, a lot. It has been chilly overall and there were few warm days. According to the weatherman it rained 20 days out of the 31 days we had in May and pretty much each weekend or at least part of each weekend has been rained out. But, oh, the world is green and lush.
In this new house, all of the rain collected in the gutters goes into the downspouts and drains the rain right on the property, just feet away from the house. In our previous home, the downspouts were connected underground to the sewer system and as a result, all the rain was carried away from each property, leaving it drier than this garden will ever be. When the pond was built in 2016, rather than let the downspouts expel water right next to the pond, black corrugated pipe was connected to several of the downspouts, buried underground and diverted towards the back of the garden. That alleviated the problem of having large amounts of water draining into the pond, potentially creating a problem for the fish. But when you have mulch instead of lawn, the rain rushes down the drainpipe, carves a neat channel into the mulch and soil and carries itself away to the lowest point leaving you with gullies throughout the garden. So, rocks come to the rescue.
Wherever the corrugated pipes come out on the property (or where there is a drainpipe close to the house, as is the case with the two rain barrels on the side of the house) we put down rivers of rocks sloping away from the house. Now when it rains, the water comes down the drainpipe, into the corrugated pipe, out over the rock and then drains down towards the lowest points of the garden. Since a “river of rock” looks rather odd by itself, I have turned these wetter spots into rain gardens. First, I had to do a bit of research to come up with plants (trees, shrubs, and perennials) which can tolerate wet conditions but which will also tolerate dry conditions when we have periods of dry weather. For the tree, I found a nice native variety, the American fringe tree, or Chionanthus virginicus. It has white fragrant flowers in mid-spring and grows about 15 to 20 feet high and wide. I then planted several different varieties of Siberian and Japanese irises next to the channel of rocks. I dug up a few of my hostas from the side of the house, divided them and grouped them around the rain garden as well. A tiny cutting from one of my hydrangeas from the old house had finally rooted last year and was moved to the edge of this garden. It was joined by another hydrangea bought last fall. While it still looks a bit sparse, the plants will fill in over time and soon enough this rain garden will be lush and bloom with abandon in spring. The colorful rounded leaves of the hostas will provide interest for most of the gardening year and they will provide a contrast with the spiky leaved irises. It also creates an added interest to the garden while dealing with a spot which would otherwise be boggy and not very useable.