Is A Rain Garden Right For You?

this post was updated March 7, 2020
A rain garden is a sunked garden bed that collects and treats stormwater runoff from rooftops, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, and streets.

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.

Rain garden drainage solution WSU Extension

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

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.

Plantings

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.

Rain Garden Planting Zones Infographic - Washington State Department of Ecology

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

Rain garden in neighborhood settings

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

Fall is a great time for Landscape add-on’s and Renovations.

Have you been wanting to freshen up your space and give your backyard a new feel?  Perhaps you’ve thought of transforming your backyard into an entertainment space, perfect for hosting get-together’s and even Holiday events if the weather is right. Below, we selected six renovation ideas to spruce up your landscaping and get your backyard ready for anything.

1. Adding Hardscape

Looking to add texture to your backyard design? Adding hardscape will greatly increase your backyard’s appeal and usability.  Hardscape design can be simple, like a river rock path meandering through your greenery. Or you can choose to be bold and do the entire backyard in natural stone slabs., pavers or something entirely different. There are endless design options you can create by choosing natural stone, pavers, bricks, river rocks and more. Our Professionals at Frontier Landscape can help you design outdoor spaces that are truly your own.

Adding hardscape can also create a kid and pet friendly play space. 

2. Build a Retaining Wall

Do you have a sloped backyard? Building a retaining wall, or a tiered retaining wall, can create depth and add character.  Kick your design up a notch by adding flowers, plants, shrubs, or even a couple of trees.

3. Design a “Native” Landscape Area

In Washington, we have many different colorful trees and shrubs that add texture and form to your Landscape. You might try a Red Dogwood or Ninebark for year-round color. Planting a Native Garden keeps us in touch with the flora around us.

4. Create a Natural Outdoor Space

Do you find lush trees and cascading waterfalls relaxing?  You can use natural rock slabs to create a waterfall and river that re-circulates through your yard.  Plant trees that give a home to birds, and add bird feeders throughout your backyard.

While you’re at it, add a hammock for relaxing at the end of a long day for when the season rolls back around.

5. Add a Garden or Planter Boxes

Ready for some garden to table living? Starting your own edible garden with fruits and veggies can be very rewarding.  You can start big or small, depending on what your outdoor space will allow. Planter boxes are perfect for creating an area for fruits, vegetables, or herbs to grow without compromising on space. This can be rather seasonal depending on your location and winter temperatures. But… once you have the Garden or Planter Boxes, you can rotate “off-season” with color/flowers that work well when your edibles do not.

Our final thoughts on renovating your backyard:

Add some personal touches!  Maybe some outdoor sculpture with an artistic flare…Consider adding lighting (pathway lights, twinkle lights or tiki torches), a fire pit, or maybe even a bocce ball court.  Personal finishing touches will bring your backyard renovation together and make it the perfect place to relax and welcome friends and family. Have fun and make it your own!

Whatever your backyard renovation dreams or desires are, we want to be a part of them!  Contact US!  or visit our contact page to schedule an appointment with our Frontier Landscaping Professionals. Start making your backyard dreams a reality.

Contact US to schedule an appointment!

Fire Pits and Outdoor Spaces for Fall

Fire Pits are a popular and comforting addition to any yard, especially in the temperate Pacific Northwest! As our weather begins to change, our busy lives do too. Work, school, kids and Pre-holiday projects are picking up as we enter the Fall Season.

What better time than now to consider putting in a Fire pit? You have likely thought about it on many occasions, but not gotten around to it. Maybe now IS the perfect time.

Here are some of the advantages to consider…

  • Increase your outdoor season. Mother Nature decides what portion of the year that we can spend outdoors – or comfortably anyway. And outdoor fire pit extends the portion of the year that you can spend in your backyard by providing a heat source. Outdoor gatherings and family evenings can still be enjoyed well into the Fall and sometimes beyond.
  • Creating and Outdoor Gathering place. People love to gather around a fire. A fire pit gives you the perfect focal or gathering point where you can relax with family, friends and neighbors. Putting the word out that you are having a fire that night, and your people will come!
  • Light… Let’s face it, fires provide heat but they also provide light. When you add a fire pit to your backyard or outdoor spaces, you are also adding light.
  • Adding art and ambiance. Fire pits also add a focal point and a touch of artistry to your outdoor spaces. If it’s a block ring to beautifully tiled fire pits made with natural stone, slate, blocks and even the addition of water, you can really add beauty along with the warmth and light to your yard or garden.
  • Fire Pit functionality. In addition to the warmth, light and ambiance that fire pits provide, there are some things that can also be very functional.

Slate, wood burning fire pit.

Block Fire Pit with Grill

Some fire pits can be equipped with a grilling surface for barbecues or convert to a table. Fire pots can be wood burning, propane or natural gas and light with a push of a button or ignite the old-fashioned way… The different versions and possibilities are endless. Based on your personal taste and sense of style, our Frontier Landscaping Staff can help you with the best “version” for you.

Contact US to schedule an appointment!

Summer Landscape Additions

Summer Landscaping… There is still time to make your landscape everything you had wanted when the summer started. These summer landscape additions can transform an “average” yard into an excellent one. And, with that in mind, you and your family and friends can enjoy the remaining warm weather in the comfort of your own backyard. Use these summer landscape additions to reinvent your design in August and well into Labor Day.

Lighting up the Night

Adding lights along your sidewalks and gardens creates an enchanting ambiance to your yard when the sun goes down. You can have your family and friends over for a summer evening barbecue. A romantic evening for two…Or even some quiet time of your own for an evening. Adding the element of the soft lighting contrasts the darkness and allows you to experience your yard in a whole new way.

Learn more about how we can light up your landscape

The Sound of Water

A fountain or stream in your landscape can transform your yard to a private oasis. There is nothing more soothing than the sound of running water. Water summer landscape additions are perfect for enjoying a summer evening with a book, or a morning cup of coffee. Water features also improve the look of your landscape design. Even the simple addition of a small water feature can enhance the aesthetic quality of your yard. Or perhaps you want to make a bigger statement? In this case the larger water features’ possibilities are endless. You can even make this the focal point of your yard. With any of these choices, you can’t go wrong adding the calming effects of water.

Learn more about our fountain and water installation services

And then there was FIRE!

There are few things in a yard that can make people come together more than a fire pit. A fire pit is a staple for classic American, summer time cooking. Making hotdogs, s’mores or campfire pies is sure to draw a crowd. Incorporating a fire pit into the overall design of your landscape will make the property feel like it’s made for enjoying good food, fun people, and making memories.

Following the right path…

Paths and Patios may start with a new path from the street to your front door so guests don’t have to traverse the front lawn, stairs and a front porch. But don’t stop there!

Paths and Patios can be created using slate, brick, concrete, rough stone, gravel, crushed granite, pavers of all shapes and colors or a mix therein. Frontier Professionals can create paths and patios, steps, fire pits to suit your needs, solve problems and enhance your landscape and property value.

Suited to your own aesthetic tastes, we can create living spaces that extend the hospitality of your home, extended and open up an area for entertaining or create a quiet retreat. We can configure them to fit nearly any shape, size or scope of project; they may be used to meet a number of landscape goals while letting water drain through.

Check our our full range of Path and Patio services

Color…Color…Color…

Summer…You want to make the most of it while you can. Adding flowers along your walkways, on your front step, or in a flower garden will help you enjoy some of the best delicacies of the season. Flowers are easily maintained. They add character and texture to your yard. They also make for a nice contrast between the seasons and give you something fresh to look at and enjoy. There are also different types of foliage plants that have texture and color. Needles, flowers on plants, perennials, annuals, grasses and even brightly-colored bark on shrubs and trees give something even in their dormant season. Your Professionals at Frontier will surely fit your needs and work with you to get the best result possible.

Find out more about how we can add color to your landscape

7 Design Elements of a Healing Garden

sanctuary garden entrance with decorative gate

 

 

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.

 

natural hardscapes pathways English garden style

 

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.

 

 

Color Creatively

 

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.

 

low voltage lighting LED lighting outdoor landscape

 

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.

 

natural water feature landscape installation

 

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.

 

glazed ceramic pot water fountain planter

 

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.

 

element of a healng garden butterfly on plant

 

 

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.

Four Strategies for “Set It and Forget It” Curb Appeal

curb appeal front yard makeover lawn loss dry creek bed native plantings Clark County WA

 

Investing in curb appeal is a triple win: it establishes beauty you can enjoy every day, creates an irresistible invitation to potential buyers, and adds tangible value to your home. Here are four of our best strategies for maximizing the impact of your home’s first impressions.

 

Get Green and Clean (and Stay There)

 

First things first: proper landscape maintenance works wonders. Green lawns, pruned shrubs, and weed-free flowerbeds surrounded by a fresh layer of bark dust are straightforward ways to create a manicured, attractive atmosphere.

 

curb appeal - manicured lawn, curved pathway, entrance

pathway mulch lighting native plantings curb appeal

 

If you’ve been complacent about keeping up the landscape, take another look at your reasons. It’s highly likely that the solution you need is simpler than you think.

 

Too short of time? Hire a maintenance crew to handle these regular tasks for you. Frontier’s maintenance agreements can be customized to offer support that’s tailored to the needs of your landscape.

Trying to save on water? Earth-friendly drip irrigation allows you to add water where it’s needed. Sprinkler systems with rain sensors keep the sprinklers quiet on the days Mother Nature takes care of watering the landscape.

Tired of overgrown or outdated plants? It’s hard to be motivated to maintain plants you don’t like. Upgrade to plantings that make sense for you and working with them becomes a treat instead of a burden. Consider fresh ornamentals to attract birds & butterflies, double-duty beds that are decorative and grow edibles, or native plantings that need little attention to look good.

manicured garden with flowers, pathway and bench frontier landscaping

 

Highlight with Hardscaping

 

Hardscaping refers to the non-living elements of your landscape design. Adding dramatic boulders, understated accent rockery, or a focal point like a dry creek bed brings contrast and texture – things that are fundamentally appealing to the eye.

 

curb appeal residential-installation-dry-creek-bed-accent-rockery-boulders-plantings-bark

 

Rocks and boulders will look sharp for the long haul and won’t die out, need pruning, or suffer from hot summers and cold winters. Dry creek beds do triple duty by reducing lawn care, providing excellent drainage, and looking gorgeous across all four seasons of the year.

 

Take Advantage of Native Plantings

 

Native plantings keep your property looking sharp without needing much tending at all. Because they are perfectly suited to the water, light, and soil conditions of the local environment, they can thrive on their own once established. Pick the right plants and you can even stop or reduce irrigation after the first two years–things will keep growing for you to enjoy, naturally.

 

 

spirea-japonica-golden_elf

Dwarf spirea ‘Golden elf’

 

One way to make upkeep even easier is to feature dwarf varieties of your favorite native plants. They’ll be beautiful but won’t cause headaches by sprawling out of control as they mature.

 

Light With Purpose

 

A few mindful changes in your front yard lighting go a long way to creating a ‘wow’ impact. Do you have an interesting front door, pathway, or stonework? Add fixtures that play up the uniqueness of your home and accentuate its curves and angles.

 

low voltage lighting LED lighting outdoor landscape

 

Mature trees become dramatic centerpieces with the addition of uplights to emphasize their structure and foliage.

 

Make the Call

 

Are you ready to update or reinvent your approach to curb appeal? We’d love to discuss your goals and can offer expert insights to help create a look you’ll love for years to come.

Call (360) 574-8979 or send us an email to arrange a consultation today.

 

Additional Resources

 

Miles Parade of Homes front yard lawn irrigation flowerbed installation curb appeal

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