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From Flood to Raingarden

Updated: Mar 26

How a catastrophic flood destroyed our garden - and inspired us to create our dream raingarden.

For everyone who read the earlier blog [see link below] describing our gardening journey from 2016 to recent times, here's the missing chapter of the story.

Back Yard Before - 2016

The phrase “In every adversity is the seed of an equal or greater opportunity”[1]  clearly describes the abrupt change we faced in 2019 – the beginning of the 3rd gardening season in our current home.

We had a basic garden design in mind, and had spent 2 years slowly but steadily implementing it. Challenges from the beginning included a limited budget and a plot with neglected grass, a damaged concrete patio and not much else. We weren’t deterred (well, not too much at first); we’ve done this before, and we both love a blank canvas.

Until the rains came – and didn’t let-up for weeks!

“Spring 2019 will go down in history as one of the wettest on record. It rained 55 out of the 93 days since the calendar turned from winter on March 20. Only twice since 1900 has it rained more often.”

Flooding during weeks of rain

Week after week, it rained the majority of the time. We were becoming more alarmed daily as the water began to edge closer to the house. When the rain ceased for a day or two, the flooding would begin to recede, only to get even closer after each deluge.

We lost dozens of perennials, and began to remove many others – transferring them to plastic trays to try to salvage them. Most of them didn’t make it.

When mud pulled the boots off our feet with every step, we quickly learned to lay boards to form a path across the flooded area.
Childhood stories about quicksand came to mind.

Using a pump to remove excess water

In late April, we decided that the only recourse was to dig two trenches – deep French drains – on both sides of the area with the deepest water. We filled them with gravel and used a pump – alternating between the two trenches - to siphon out water which a long hose carried around the house and down the driveway - and from there to the city storm drain.

We realized that by deepening and extending the gravel path we had started, we could direct future heavy rainwater so that it began by filling the two French drains, and then accumulated on the rest of the path area as necessary, eventually seeping into the adjoining garden beds. We discussed how easy it would be to dig out the gravel in the French drains and re-install the pump in the event of another major flood event. We're grateful that it hasn't been necessary.

At the same time, we learned that a minor regrading was necessary to stop rain runoff from properties to the south and east of us from draining onto our property.

Rock Garden 2021

The Rock Garden

The soil we removed from widening and deepening the French drains and circular path was piled in the center to create a rock garden, which is the center of the garden. [See Garden Tour Video below for a recent view of the path and surrounding garden.]

We have also begun to create pockets in the main perennial gardens to hold rain and allow it to seep into the surrounding area. In addition, this year we are installing new rain barrels, which will attach to drip hoses to irrigate primary garden beds and raised gardens.

Front Rain Garden in progress - 2023

The Disappearing Front Lawn

Our front lawn sloped toward the street, resulting in significant runoff during heavy rains. Over the past few years, we have reached about 90% of our goal to replace all turf in the front garden with perennials. Our garden design includes significant terracing, so that rain can collect and water the plants on each level, and there is little erosion. We grew many of the perennials from seed, so it is taking longer than we had hoped to fill in, but it’s better every year. We expect to continue to enhance the overall rain garden concept wherever we can. This also supports a variety of birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects.

No discussion of our garden is complete without an explanation that – as much as we have invested in nurturing the garden – it has nourished and sustained us. We have both recovered from major medical conditions within the past few years and we know that we would not be as strong or as hopeful – both physically and emotionally – if we were not devoted gardeners.

Here's the two-minute garden tour video - 2022

© 2024 copyright Marilou Myrick - Myrick Creative LLC

[1] Attributed to Napoleon Hill


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