By Mandy Ploch
Our small vacation cabin in western Wisconsin is on a sloping site with sandy loam soil. The roof gutters are a 40-foot run to the uphill end of the cabin. In May, 2002, with a few hours work, using the local stone and some added compost, I constructed my garden which functions well through all seasons.
Because of site constrictions it has a 5-foot diameter and goes from ground level to 12 inches high on the downhill side. I scooped some soil out on the high side, mixed it with compost and added it to the low side, leaving a concave surface. There is no liner and I just firmly packed soil mix into the stone joints. The evening I finished we had a good rain and I could watch as the water level rose to the top of the stones where it held for about an hour until it seeped away. Ta da! Success even without plants!
The next day I did plant swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), all transplants from home. These plants all grew well in the mostly shaded site without any more intervention on my part. During late winter there was a solid mass of ice across the garden. The next spring all the plants returned with vigor. I have since added great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), snakeroot (Cimicifuga racemosa), lavender hyssop (Agastache scrophulariaefolia), and grays sedge (Carex grayii). Wild strawberry has found its way in to scramble around its neighbors and the rabbits seem to be dining elsewhere.
This was a simple, quick project that gives me great pleasure. During rains I can look down from a nearby window and watch the garden doing its job of slowly dispersing the water. The bonus is the habitat for lovely plants in a shady site.
Mandy is belongs to the Milwaukee-North (WI) Chapter, and a member of the Journal team and a national board member.
Read about Lorrie Otto's Rain Barrels to Rain Gardens.
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Updated: Mar 23, 2006.