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PA: Philadelphia: Landscaping with water


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Landscaping with water

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PA: Philadelphia: Landscaping with water

  1. 1. Our Rainy Region — CHALLENGE Soak It In! STEVEN J. SAFFIERTIM MCCABE / USDA-NRCS The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain. HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW 43
  2. 2. ater is a vital component of Philadelphia receives an average of Landscaping with water will yield a number W all ecosystems and most especially in the wetland plant communities found throughout our 42 inches of rain each year. The water from these rains that often runs off of hard surfaces can be captured, used, and rich region. In the water-etched hills and persuaded to seep gently into the ground, valleys of our Piedmont and Coastal just as it does in a forest where it slowly of outcomes Plain region, the accumulating of water replenishes groundwater and percolates benefiting not from the most moderate of storms is into underground aquifers. It may also magnified by the extent of impervious serve to nurture water-loving plants in a only the surfaces. The natural water cycle is all low-lying area in the yard; with the use of but invisible as gutters and grooves carry natural or formed depressions, the stage homeowner the torrent of roof runoff and driveway is set for a wonderful rain garden. but also the drainage to some far away place. natural environment in the yard and the greater watershed. STEVEN J. SAFFIER Porous pavers reduce runoff from driveways and parking lots.44 OUR RAINY REGION
  3. 3. NOTESEDIE PARNUM Ponds can be enhanced by a colorful variety of native plants. Photo by Edie Parnum, Backyards for Nature, Valley Forge Audubon Society. Landscaping with water will yield a specialized native plants with unique number of outcomes benefiting not only adaptations. the homeowner but also the natural Here are some other benefits of environment in the yard and the greater landscaping with rain: watershed. Sunny rain gardens and wet • Conserves water and protects its meadows can host a colorful variety of quality — Conscientious water native plants. Vernal or spring pools hold management helps retain supplies of their water for a few months during spring freshwater and allows quantities to and early summer and can provide impor- be filtered and slowly replenish tant breeding grounds for frogs, groundwater supplies. This is salamanders, and a variety of insects. infinitely more valuable than torrents Shady wet woodlands can be home to of water entering drainage channels, OUR RAINY REGION 45
  4. 4. TIP Plants for a rain garden To calculate how many gallons of Common name Scientific name rainwater runs off Perennials your roof each year, first figure out your Swamp milkweed Asclepias incarnata roof’s square footage, New England aster Aster novae-angliae then multiply that Turtlehead Chelone species number by 623. Next, divide the product by Boneset Eupatorium perfoliatum 1,000, and multiply Joe-pye weed Eupatorium fistulosum the result by the number of annual Swamp sunflower Helianthus augustifolius inches of rainfall in Blue flag iris Iris versicolor your location. On Cardinal flower Lobelia cardinalis average, the Philadelphia region Virginia bluebells Mertensia virginica receives 42 inches of Allegheny monkey flower Mimulus ringens rain annually (Source: Beebalm Monarda didyma NOAA). Cutleaf coneflower Rudbeckia laciniata New York ironweed Vernonia noveboracensis Trees and Shrubs Red maple Acer rubrum Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis Sweet pepperbush Clethra alnifolia MAGGIE STRUCKER Red-osier dogwood Cornus sericea Winterberry Ilex verticillata New York ironweed Arrowwood Viburnum dentatum Witherod viburnum Viburnum cassinoides Grasses Lurid sedge Carex lurida46 OUR RAINY REGION
  5. 5. carrying sediment and contaminants to remain and, in many cases, this towards creeks, streams, and rivers. means a reduction in lawn area. NOTES • Increases biodiversity — Water adds Once any necessary grading improve- an essential element to your backyard ments are made and plants are habitat. Wildlife relies on water for selected and established, the work is drinking, bathing, and feeding; done. One only needs to sit back, pay nearby amphibians, dragonflies, homage to the rain and watch the birds, and other wildlife will be garden grow. immediately attracted to a backyard • Provides natural fencing — Because water feature. runoff can be directed to an • Reduces maintenance time and costs excavated depression anywhere on a — Going with the flow means property, wet gardens can have a allowing low-lying areas of collection screening effect and create a natural border between neighbors. • Adds visual interest — With the spent seed heads and dry stalks left uncut on perennials, visual interest and wildlife value is stretched from the multihued days of summer to the bright white days of winter.ALL PHOTOS STEVEN J. SAFFIER A sign at the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association in Ambler (left) and a young gardener examines a cardinal flower (right). OUR RAINY REGION 47
  6. 6. My AHA!s AHA! Water gardens can be created from reduce the demand on municipal water scratch (such as the addition of a pond) supplies, but also provide chemical-free or can take advantage of existing depres- water for future yard applications. sions on properties. Here are some tips: Monitor mosquitoes: Be conscious of Make a plan: Before digging in, have a standing water and take measures to plan in place that allows the implementa- alleviate mosquito breeding. Keep ponds tion of changes in small, incremental aerated and stock them with mosquito- steps. Appraise your existing landscape eating fish. By adding water-loving plants and be clear about your short-term and to low-lying areas, standing water will long-term goals. A depression that more quickly seep into the ground. Avoid collects water should be at least 10 feet vernal ponds if your property is not from any structures. adjacent to habitat from which frogs, salamanders, and bats will visit and help Be a good neighbor: Not only might keep mosquito numbers in check. your new water garden impact a neighbor’s water flow and view, but it also may present an opportunity for you to share your plans and conservation goals. Perhaps a block-wide plan for water management and gardening can be implemented in areas where water flow affects many. Evaluate soil, sun, grade: If you’re using existing depressions, you’re already familiar with grade and soil type. Combine this knowledge with sunlight factors and select the most appropriate plants. Go native…plants! Plants native to southeast Pennsylvania wetlands will have the most wildlife value and growing success with the least amount of effort. Re-creating the vertical tiers found naturally will provide nooks for birds and other wildlife. STEVEN J. SAFFIER Rain, rain…don’t go away: Rain spouts dedicated to a collection barrel (photo) or directed to the rain garden not only48 OUR RAINY REGION
  8. 8. t was an August day when Bill and much like a bowl, catching most of the This one-and- a-half-acre site has been I Alexa Dwyer bought their home in a pretty Ambler neighborhood with a big yard for their children and some runoff from the neighboring properties. The first thought was to get heavy equip- ment in to re-grade it, but the township great old trees. But when spring rains ordinances presented many challenges for came, the yard became so saturated their compliance. A friend suggested they transformed children could not use it, and entire soggy contact Larry Weaner, a landscape archi- from a muddy sections could not be mowed for months. tect whose projects were noted for using It quickly became evident to the native plants and natural habitats, to mess to a living Dwyers that their property was shaped come up with a possible solution. world that is filled with music and movement day and night... ALL PHOTOS MAGGIE STRUCKER The Dwyers’ backyard is a vibrant sanctuary.50 THE DWYERS
  9. 9. NOTES MAGGIE STRUCKERA serpentine border surrounds a lawn area. They made a plan to address key and much more. What once was a soggyissues: yard now feels like an oasis in the• Solve the water problem. suburban landscape. It provides a• Be maintenance free. surrounding of water-loving plants, a palette of the wildflower colors that• Blend in with natural backdrop of changes with the seasons, and the sound woods. of moving water from a man-made• Act as a screen for privacy. waterfall. Visiting the garden today, it is easy to The final design included a smallrealize that what has grown from the berm that was constructed along theoriginal plan has accomplished all of that neighbor’s property line to help channel THE DWYERS 51
  10. 10. water into the natural low spot of the has also become a favorite spot for local Take a dip Dwyer’s yard, fortifying the wetland. wildlife. “There’s a party out here every There are contoured sections of day and night,” comments Bill, just as a in Bill’s wildflowers mingled with lawn areas bullfrog jumps into the pond. A curious wetland tips where the children play and a small but often thwarted Great Blue Heron footbridge to cross the waterway. regularly visits to eye the fish while • Carefully nurture The Dwyers have been living with hummingbirds and butterflies compete first-year plantings especially in an unusu- this garden now for several years. When for nectar amongst the flowers. This one- ally dry season. There asked his favorite part, Bill said the and-a-half-acre site has been transformed was great effort spent garden is “just very peaceful.” He loves from a muddy mess to a living world that watering the young the sound of water and watching the is filled with music and movement day plants. garden progress through the seasons. It and night, season to season. • Channel natural rainwater flow into dedicated habitat areas. • Flag native seedlings before you mow to encourage growth; if conditions allow, reuse the trees elsewhere in the yard. • Create areas of refuge within a pond to protect fish from predators. • Occasional pruning will help maintain mature trees and prevent damage caused by dropping branches. • Use hedgerows of native shrubs instead of fencing to screen MAGGIE STRUCKER unattractive areas. A small footbridge provides a link to further exploration.52 THE DWYERS