this post was updated March 7, 2020
Rain gardens are growing in popularity as drainage solutions for environmentally-conscious property owners. These carefully-designed landscapes add more than beauty to their surroundings. They are proven to have a significant impact in reducing the flow of contaminated water from urban areas to wetlands, streams, lakes, and other natural waterways.
Installing a rain garden is a powerful way to directly contribute a positive impact on the environment surrounding your home or business.
Why Do Rain Gardens Matter?
As communities grow and develop, buildings, roads, and rooftops replace native habitats. During times of precipitation, the original flow of water through the enviroscape is disturbed. Instead of being naturally filtered through pre-existing forests and soil, stormwater now flows at a high rate over hard surfaces and carries man-made pollutants with it. Erosion and increased flooding become problematic.
Additionally, the higher flow rate of water and contaminants that result from development cause real problems for regional aquatic life and water resources. However, rain gardens offer an exciting array of solutions.
- Slow erosion and alleviate flooding
- Decrease pollution and waste
- Clean runoff naturally
- Reduce the workload for wastewater facilities
- Can be created in public and private spaces of any shape and size, including businesses, residences, or public spaces
What Is A Rain Garden?
Rain gardens are bowl-shaped depressions in a landscape that collect and clean rainwater runoff from hard surfaces nearby, like driveways, roofs, parking areas, and patios.
They are designed with special soil mixes that allow speedy absorption of water — usually a combination of sand, topsoil, and compost. This amended soil filters runoff and also supports a variety of plant growth.
Note: Rain gardens are not permanent ponds. They are sized to allow temporary pooling after rain. In a well-designed garden, all water passes through very quickly, typically from one to two hours (maximum of one to two days) after a storm. This prevents stagnation and mosquitoes.
Photo: WSU Extension
There are a number of ways water can be diverted to a rain garden through a landscape. It may be that one approach works well for a back yard/patio area, but a different one is more effective for dealing with runoff issues in the front.
Design Features of a Rain Garden
Soil is where it all begins. Reworking the ground to provide the right blend of soil, sand, and compost is critical to having a healthy rain garden. Absorption, drainage, and filtration all rests on getting this foundation prepared correctly.
There are three planting zones in a rain garden:
Zone 1 The wettest area, at the bottom of the rain garden. Important to install plants in this zone that can handle “wet feet” for several hours at a time.
Zone 2 The sloped sides of the garden, which may become wet from time to time. These plants provide stability and prevent erosion.
Zone 3 The perimeter of the rain garden, with the driest soil.
Since rain garden design is based on earth-friendly practice, using native plantings to fill out the three zones makes a lot of sense. Native plants create a nourishing habitat for local wildlife, birds, butterflies, and other important pollinators.
Photo: Washington State Department of Ecology
“Plants and soil work together in the rain garden. The plant roots and soil organisms build soil structure, create channels and pores to soak up and filter water, and improve nutrient and oxygen availability necessary to support an abundance of life. While plants help the rain garden absorb stormwater, they also create an attractive landscape for your yard and neighborhood.” — WSU Extension, Rain Garden Handbook for Western WA
How to Know If A Rain Garden Is Right For You
A rain garden may be a good fit for you if you answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Do you want to improve the landscaping and appearance of your property?
- Would you like to directly reduce the amount of pollutants reaching groundwater and storm drains in your community (as well as wetlands, streams, and other natural waters)?
- Would you like to reduce flooding, prevent sewer overflows, and erosion in streams by absorbing runoff from hard surfaces?
- Is providing habitat for beneficial insects and birds important to you?
- Would you like to be responsible for recharging local groundwater by increasing the amount of water that soaks into the ground on your property
Let’s Get To Work
Frontier Landscaping offers professional expertise and support for residential and commercial clients committed to environmentally-conscious landscaping. While the best time for testing soil drainage and groundwater levels is in late winter months, we are available to walk you through the planning process for a rain garden at any time of year:
- Site assessment & testing
- Garden location
- Soil amendment & excavation
- Planting requirements
- Design aesthetic
- Maintenance goals
- Compliance with city/county regulations
- Long-term success
Call (360) 574-8979 or contact us to get started on your path to a cleaner, greener future.
Additional Reading: Washington State Extension Rain Garden Guide
Did you know that interacting with nature provides healing benefits to your body and mind? It’s true. Research has shown that within minutes of moving outside, positive changes occur in the body, such as lower blood pressure, decreased heart rate, reduced stress, and improved mood.
A recent community project at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center has inspired us to revisit the specific elements that can bring a sense of rest and healing to a home landscape. Having a place to unwind, relax, and recharge is a gift, especially if you live a busy life on the go.
The Sanctuary Garden, by Christopher and Tricia McDowell, highlights seven design elements of a peaceful space. Whether it’s for just one corner in the yard or a whole property transformation, using these strategies makes it easy to refresh yourself with restful time outdoors.
Enhance Your Garden Entrance
Use a naturally-styled pathway, hedge, steps, or fence to make entering the sanctuary feel special. This boundary can be soft or firm, depending on the level of privacy desired.
Use Soothing Waters
A water feature doesn’t have to be elaborate to evoke a relaxing feel. Even a simple rock bubbler provides pleasing sounds and visual appeal. For larger spaces, a pond or waterfall puts nature’s beauty just steps away from your door.
Will you be spending time in your sanctuary in the early mornings or evenings? Use low-wattage or LED lighting to set off plants and decorative features to their best advantage when natural light is low. Create beautiful shadows and draw attention to subtle colors and textures of your flowers and plants with discreetly placed lights.
Provide a Resting Place
Whether it’s a single bench or a suite of comfortable garden furniture, pick a spot or two that invites visitors to sit down and stay a while. Consider adding an outdoor bookshelf or blanket box to make it easy to kick back and relax.
Mimic Mother Nature
There’s no better guide to design than Mother Nature for a sanctuary garden. Use natural materials in combination: rocks and boulders, ornamental grasses, wood, shrubs, and flowers. Have a favorite hiking spot or viewpoint? Bring a few elements home with you. You might pair trees and wildflowers, boulders and water, or rocks and ferns to create the feel you love.
Add Pleasure With Garden Art
Accent the natural beauty of your space with an art piece that enhances the mood you’d like to set. Consider colorful ceramic pots, a wind-powered sculpture, or a playful statue to complement the style of your home and continue it in the sanctuary.
Invite Beautiful Visitors
Provide habitat and features to attract birds and butterflies. Using native plants often pays rewards here, as they are conditioned to thrive in the local environment and offer a suitable home to your neighborhood birds. Add a birdbath or feeder to encourage visits from your favorites.
Not sure what to plant? Talk to our landscaping team. We have decades of local experience and will give you our best tips for plant materials that fit your level of interest and design aesthetic.
Following two, three, or all seven of the design principles above will bring you closer to having your own healing sanctuary. The Frontier Landscaping team would be happy to talk to you about the vision you have and how to effectively make it a reality.
“Getting away from it all” might be a lot closer than you think! Call (360) 574-8979 or send us an email to arrange a consultation today.
Hardscapes are composed of the non-living elements of your landscape design. These may include walkways, patios, walls, arbors, fences, lighting, and more. When a hardscape is developed to express a natural design aesthetic, it’s fun because the ‘hard’ pieces (gravel, rocks, and boulders) often play off of nature’s ‘softest’ elements: spongy ground covers, textured bark, and water.
Rocks and Boulders
Does the thought of hauling huge rocks into your yard seem a little strange? It’s not unusual for clients to give us a raised eyebrow or two when we assess their design goals and suggest bringing in boulders and rocks.
Truth be told, natural hardscape designs almost always include accent rockery. Think about the views you encounter when out on a hike. Elements are rarely standing alone: it’s a combination of rocks, grasses, trees and water that work together to create nature’s beauty.
In the installation below, a backyard water feature moved from ordinary to enchanting when we mirrored the composition of Mother Nature.
Fir trees cleared during the home’s construction were repurposed to create this stream, fed by a custom pond above. The strategic placement of large boulders and accent rocks brings power and definition to the piece, maximizing its beauty in the landscape.
Slate and Flagstone
Hardscapes have a few workhorse elements, and slate and flagstone are longtime favorites. These materials are available in myriad colors, shapes, textures, and sizes. While a formal look calls for a tight “jigsaw” style perfect fit of pieces, a charming transformation occurs when we stretch out to 2-4 inches of space between each.
Taking cues from English gardens, these pathways and patio have been spaced widely to allow hardy groundcover to grow in around each piece of stone. Irish moss, Corsican mint, and Blue Star creeper all shine when put to use in this way.
If you’re considering a naturalized area for seating or dining, keep in mind that flagstone is more textured and makes for a bumpier surface for your tables and chairs. Larger pieces with wider bases will allow you to sit more comfortably.
Paver-style stones can offer natural texture in conveniently standardized sizing, typically 18×18 or 24×24 inches. Considerations for slope, drainage, and planned use in your landscape will all play a part in determining which material is best for your project.
Get Your Look
After nearly three decades of residential and commercial installations, we’re still energized by the process of finding the “just right” balance of hardscaping and plantings for our clients. Are you ready to trade a monotone view for natural beauty around your home or business?
Call (360) 574-8979 or send us an email to arrange a consultation today.
Further Reading on Hardscapes:
What is Houzz?
Houzz is a website and online community designed to put meaningful resources in the hands of homeowners ready to make change.
It started as a side project by a couple frustrated with their remodeling efforts. They couldn’t find the tool they needed to make communicating their ideas easy. They used their frustrations to build the solution they needed. Now, the Houzz community numbers more than 40 million people worldwide.
Frontier Landscaping is a proud member of the Houzz Pro community. Now it’s easier than ever to collaborate. With Houzz, it’s a breeze to explain exactly what you have in mind. Planning your dream landscape has never been more convenient–or fun!
Inspiration On The Go
On the Houzz website or mobile app, you have access to photos, articles, and product recommendations. You can browse specific portfolios, or by general category. It’s designed for convenience: the site displays perfectly whether you’re on your phone, tablet, or web browser.
Look at real-world examples and ideas for your side yard, patio, fire pit, or outdoor lighting. You can ask questions or initiate a discussion about what you see. Pin down exactly what you like with regards to style and materials.
“Ideabooks” are photo albums filled with ideas. Browse them for inspiration. Save photos you like to your own Ideabooks as you go. Additionally, if you see something that you have a question about, you can ask and get answers, right in Houzz.
Collaborating Is Easier Than Ever
After you’ve decided on the look, feel, and products that you want to bring into your home, you can share them them directly with us on Houzz. We can give feedback and build on your ideas while literally being on the same page.
Best of all, this gives your project a head start. Instead of spending our first few meetings trying to figure out what you want, we already have a good idea of what you’re looking for.
How To Use Houzz
- Write a review. Reviews are the best way to help others connect with the qualified professionals they need. Do your fellow homeowners a favor. Let them know what it’s like to work with us.
- Start browsing! Save photos you like to your own albums. When you’re ready to meet, you can share your ideas with us directly.
Whether you’re updating or building, Houzz is an excellent place to get inspiration for what you’d like to do–and then get connected to your local pros to get it done. Join the community! We are looking forward to collaborating with you. Start Now
LED lighting continues its rise as a top trend for homeowners looking to get the most out of their landscape design. While low-voltage lighting is a traditional favorite, LEDs offer their own distinct range of benefits. It’s hard to resist the serious energy efficiency, ease of control, and nearly limitless design possibilities available to reflect your style.
Whether it’s bringing the view from your windows to life, or creating an outdoor room that’s welcoming and comfortable, LED lighting is a versatile and sustainable choice to fulfill your vision.
Light with Purpose: Set The Mood
First of all, what atmosphere do you want to create around your home after dark? With the right lights, you’ll trade flat, dull views for textured visual interest that increases your sense of enjoyable living space.
“Most people don’t realize this, but the backyard is a whole new room that they haven’t explored fully,” says HGTV outdoor lighting designer Michael Sestak. “You have the option to go beyond that light bulb at the doorway.”
Romance: Inviting Natural Charm
Use lighting to create a romantic view from your windows after sundown. Gently illuminated paths and layered accent lighting around plants and rockery creates a sweet invitation to savor your yard in the evenings.
If you’re a fan of a naturally-styled landscape, use delicate lighting to play across water features. In addition, the right shade of light bulb will echo the blue tones of moonlight. Consider soft uplights into your trees to showcase their shapes and textures.
Serenity: Relax and Enjoy
If you’re busy working during daylight hours, maximize your sense of rest and comfort around the places you enjoy when you’re at home. Tasteful accent lighting in shrubs and plantings around your deck, fire pit, or hot tub creates a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy a glass of wine and good company at the end of the day.
With the wide variety of LED lighting fixtures now available, it’s easy to carry over your design choices from inside your home to your outdoor space as well. This keeps a sense of natural flow to all of the living and entertaining areas you share with your guests.
“The right lighting can take any outdoor space from invisible to inviting,” explains Kate Campbell of HGTV’s “Decked Out” series. “Adding dimmable LED lighting to railing and stairs not only adds atmosphere but also enhances safety and security – and extends the time you can spend enjoying your outdoor living space.”
Excitement: Flaunt What You’ve Got
Gardening enthusiasts, use dynamic lighting to showcase your favorite trees, shrubs and flowerbeds. Additionally, don’t be afraid to exchange perfect symmetry for more irregular placement of your lights. This gives an organic feel that naturally complements each layer of your garden. With the right lights, you’ll lead the gaze of your viewers without overpowering your beautiful plants.
Do you have dramatic trees? Emphasize their structure and foliage with uplights, which enhances their scale and creates beautiful shadows.
Power: Forever First Impressions
Effective lighting strategies for your front yard sends curb appeal soaring with a few simple tweaks. Don’t settle for basic porch and walkway lighting. Set off an interesting front door or stonework with fixtures that showcase the uniqueness of your home. This creates powerful first impressions at walk-up (or drive-by). A small yard looks even larger when you bring lighting closer to the curb. Work the perimeters of your space for maximum impact.
Frontier LED Lighting Installation Services
In conclusion, outdoor LED lighting is a great fit for homeowners who want more from their landscape. It’s an environmentally-friendly solution that saves a lot of money over the long haul. Frontier offers low-voltage and LED lighting installation for new homes as well as retro-fitting existing landscapes. Contact us for a free consultation! We’d love to help you create the perfect setting around your home. Give us a call at (360) 574-8979, or send us an email: [email protected].
Hardscape design is one of the most exciting topics a homeowner can dive into. What is it, exactly?
In a nutshell, hardscape design encompasses the placement of non-living elements of a landscape: walkways, patios, fences, lighting, retaining walls, arbors, rocks etc.
Effective hardscape design adds function, greater enjoyment, and value to your home. For over 28 years we’ve been in the business of solving unique landscape problems. We know how to provide creative solutions to transform your outdoor spaces, and can guide you in renovating the ordinary into the perfect. Check out these recent samples of projects that have been fun to work on:
Hardscape Design for a ‘Home Away from Home’
These avid travelers presented us with an interesting challenge. Could we ‘naturalize’ a look around their comfortably-sized RV, which they keep securely parked in front of their home?
A direct approach, blending hardscape design with horticultural elements, was the answer.
- Low-profile lighting, a custom concrete pad, and fencing provide needed structure and privacy.
- Attractive groupings of native plantings is laid out in harmony. As the plants grow up and mature, they’ll provide additional screening, softening the RV surround with a naturalized feel.
Hardscape Design Trifecta: Yard, Garden, Patio
These homeowners won big with a hardscape design that accomplished three things at once:
- A raised garden bed made of retaining wall blocks is sturdy, accessible, and ideal for supplying their kitchen with fresh herbs and edibles.
- The gravel surround and dry creek bed act as natural dividers for the different uses in the new yard, and also reduce thirsty lawn space without sacrificing it completely.
- A handsome paver patio allows this family to extend the hospitality of their home.
Hardscape Design on a Dime: Gravel Paths and Pathways
Inexpensive and multi-purpose, gravel paths pair nicely with a variety of border elements, and their texture can be quite pretty when set against a lush lawn or garden.
Pictured below: Gravel dressed with bricks and pavers combine for a decorative approach in lawn and gardenscapes, while a simple partnership with 6×6 pressure-treated timbers provides instant, well-drained access to service areas alongside a home.
Feeling inspired? Our expert team is ready to help. Let us transform your outdoor space with a creative hardscape design that adds function, increases enjoyment, and adds value to your home. Let’s Get Started!