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Serenity now


August 2009

A partial ravine in the backyard of Maureen and Chris Greene has been transformedfrom eyesore to eco-friendly eye candy, thanks to a rain garden grant from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District, Maureenís diligences and the expertise of her landscaping team.

Seeking a solution for the dead area in the middle of her yard, a posting by the MMSD at the Alterra coffee shop in Grafton caught her attention. She checked it out online, wrote a proposal with the help of Pat Baganz of Petite Gardenscapes and was selected for the award, which meant she could purchase native Wisconsin rain garden plants at half price.

East Towne Landscape Services in Port Washington prepared the ravine, which included removing the stumps of several dead elm trees and installing the Lannon stone path that is the centerpiece of the garden. "It gives the appeal of walking into the depths of the rain garden," Greene says. "Itís nice and serene."

By the end of summer, the Greenes were realizing the fruits of their labors as the 4-inch plantings grew to a fully appreciated rain garden that attracted birds and butterflies as well as the less welcome deer. "Rather than having just more grass to cut I have the opportunity for floral growth of all different types," Greene says, "from grasses to bush specimens that are wide and broad and give texture to the backyard."

Greene says she loves watching the colors of the self-sustaining rain garden evolve throughout the summer. She is also very pleased about the environmental benefits of the rain garden, which has helped decrease water runoff into nearby Lake Michigan.

"I think Maureen was very proactive in going about solving her problem," Baganz says. "I think she provides a good example to the average gardener. She was resolute in making sure this problem in her backyard was going to get solved."

Baganz says there are lots of good sites on the Internet to find information about installing a rain garden and which plants to choose. "If you can also use the runoff from your roof, you can save a lot of water from running off down streets and into rain sewers," she says.

In selecting plants for the rain garden, Baganz chose two types: those that need moisture and those that donít. "We combined them because we know itís not alwaysgoing to be moist in there," she says. But, she notes, she selected plants with deeper root systems that donít require a sprinkler system to survive. "That kind of defeats yourpurpose," she says. 

In this garden

Blue vervain
Culverís root
Red milkweed
Cardinal flower
Great St. Johnswort
Goldenrod varieties
Wild bergamot
Big bluestem grass
Fringed sedge grass
Iron weed
Spotted Joe-Pye



This story ran in the August 2009 issue of: