What’s a Rain Garden? FAQs for the Northwest Gardener

by Janaki Kilgore of Wonder-Flora Landscape Design

As inspired by our upcoming Rain Gardens 101 class this Saturday, July 25 at 9am, Janaki Kilgore of Wonder-Flora Landscape Design gives a FAQ for the Northwest Gardener on what rain gardens can do for you. Call (360)676-5480 to register or online here.

Photo Cred: Wonder-Flora Landscape Design

Photo Cred: Wonder-Flora Landscape Design

What are rain gardens and swales?
They are landscape features designed to direct rainfall, allowing it to soak into the ground and grow plants

Why build rain gardens?
Plants and soil work together to filter and store stormwater before it can quickly wash away, reducing pollutants flowing into our waterways

Locate rain gardens below where rainfall flows off roofs, driveways and other impervious surfaces and at least ten feet from buildings

How to do it?

  • Make a plan: choose the site, test the soil percolation, determine rain garden size
  • Work when the soil is dry and avoid compaction!
  • Use earth moving equipment or digging forks and shovels to shape the land
  • Mix sand and compost into native soil, or replace with ‘ bioretention’ soil
  • Conveyance systems direct water flow, rocks stabilize the inflow and outflow
  • Right Plant, Right Place: Choose plants for moisture, drought tolerance, sun or shade
  • Mulch. Weed. Water for the first year or two. No chemicals, please!
Model Rain Garden

Model Rain Garden


  • Directing stormwater to where we need it – in the garden!
  • Creating function and interest with changes in topography
  • The layered landscape: Bulbs, groundcovers, annuals, perennials, shrubs, tree canopy


  • Healthy soils and thriving plants
  • Creating micro-climates for moisture loving plants and for plants needing fast drainage
  • Weed suppression, low maintenance and low water use landscapes
  • Stormwater management and biofiltration= less pollution in our creeks, rivers and bay
  • Welcoming wildlife: the birds and all the beneficial biology
  • Four seasons of beauty!

Resources for a successful project: www.wastormwatercenter.org

For more information on rain gardening and Wonder-Flora Landscape Design, visit Janaki’s website here.


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