My Journey to Become RainWise

My husband and I moved into our Loyal Heights home about 4 years ago and much to our dismay quickly learned the joys of homeownership.  When we bought our home we fell in love with the way the home sat back from the street and created a large front yard.  We had many hopes and dreams for ways to improve the visual qualities of the yard but somehow, three years later discovered nothing had been accomplished.

In early Spring of 2011 I started receiving pamphlets and flyers in the mail from contractors and landscape designers wanting to help me install a rain garden and take advantage of the Ballard Rain Wise program.  I was intrigued to say the least.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to install some much needed landscaping and visual interest to our growingly neglected front yard, while at the same time helping the environment. 

 None of the pamphlets and flyers caught my eye quite like the one I received from Seattle Rain Garden.  The  letter I received from this company promised me a rain garden at no cost! I was surprised and a little skeptical.

After doing a bit more research, I contacted Stephan Appleyard of Seattle Rain Garden to discuss our possibilities.  Stephan was extremely enthusiastic and wanted to get started on the project as soon as possible.  I gave him my address so he could look at the site and provide us with some idea of what was possible.

 A few days later we had our first meeting and Stephan already had an idea of the size and best location for the rain garden.  Stephan discussed with us how he calculated the size of the rain garden which is based on the roof line of our house.  He explained that due to the size of our roof we would need to provide two separate rain gardens.  The RainWise program outlines that no more than half of the property’s runoff or up to 1,000 sqft filter to a single rain garden.  In Seattle, the bottom area of the rain garden should be about 15% of the contributing roof area.

 Stephan discussed with us that the best location of the rain garden would be close to the street as the design guidelines require a 10’ setback from the house, in addition a route to street drains is needed for overflow in case of a big storm.  These parameters made us all agree that the best location might be the northwest corner of the front yard along our existing rockery.  We decided that this location would be best visually also as it can tie into the existing rockery and landscaping.  We discussed that although there would be two separate rain gardens we would prefer to have them blend together visually as much as possible. 


 The next step was the fun part!  Stephan came over a few days later to layout the general shape of the rain garden.  He brought a garden hose and we used it to shape the garden.  We tried a few different general shapes, he ended up leaving the hose for my husband and I to manipulate as we thought it looked best.  Over the next few days, we adjusted the hose slightly here and there and settled on a final shape.

 A preconstruction inspection was performed and approved by the RainWise inspectors.  This process was managed entirely by Seattle Rain Garden.

 After the shape was determined, the Seattle Rain Garden crew came to my house while I was at work and pulled up the grass where the garden was going to be.  I am not going to lie, when I first got home from work and saw, what seemed to be a large chunk of my yard, now dirt; I began to wonder what I was getting myself into!  Luckily, I received a call from Stephan shortly after returning home and he assured me that the initial shock was all part of the process.  He agreed to put a bit more grass back into the yard to blend the rain garden so to not overwhelm the feel of the yard.

 Over the next few weeks the rain garden began to gradually take shape, and the contractors dug the required holes. Installed the piping from the downspouts to the rain garden, and laid the special soil.

 For plant selections we decided on a simple modern look with a lot of color and texture in all seasons.  We choose the Cornus Alba Elegentissima (Red Twig Dogwood) which has this great shimmering varigated foliage when leafed out & in the winter has this spectacular bright red stem. The cornus is backed up by Salix purpurea “Nana” or Dwarf Arctic willow with a mass planting of Carex Testecea along the borders.

As the process was taking place our neighbors loved stopping by to observe the progress. Many of them were complementary of the outcome and wanted to learn more about the program.  It was nice to be able to share with them and feel like we were benefiting our neighborhood environment.    

 After the project was complete the RainWise inspector came out again and confirmed the project   He placed a sign in the yard confirming “I am RainWise”!  It made me proud.

As far as the rebate process was concerned, it was surprisingly easy. Stephan at Seattle Rain Garden took care of most of the process, and I received the rebate in a timely manner.  Stephan made good on his promise to deliver a rain garden at the cost of the rebate, so the project cost my husband and I nothing!  I am very happy with the outcome and would recommend the RainWise rebate program to everyone!