ST. LOUIS, Mo. – In the early hours of July 26, 2022, training thunderstorms set up along Interstate 70 and Interstate 64 and dumped more than half a foot of rain from Montgomery County, Missouri to St. Clair County, Illinois. The volume of water overwhelmed streams and storm water drains leading to terrible flash flooding.
It’s hard to contain historic rain like that. But Jean Ponzi, the Green Resources manager with the Missouri Botanical Garden, is passionate about one way to help protect homes and property when heavy rain falls.
“You are creating habitat. You’re managing storm water. You’re mowing less. You just have win, win, win, all the way around,” says Ponzi.
It’s called rainscaping, and it is any combination of native plants, water features, catch basins, and permeable pavement designed to capture and hold rain where it falls.
“That should be designed and constructed for the topography of the place so it does the best job of managing the water,” explains Ponzi.
Urban landscapes are loaded with impervious surfaces, like concrete and asphalt. Rainwater can’t soak into the ground and runs off to storm drains. Rainscapes, like the big bioswale in the Missouri Botanical Garden parking lot, give the water someplace to go.
“This is a constructed landscape feature,” says Ponzi on the lush parking lot garden. “It is designed to capture rain water from the upside of the parking lot that sheets down here and runs into this big feature instead of running off into sewers.”
Ponzi calls it using the power of plants. They capture water and filter it down into the soil.
“Rain gardens, bioswales, rainscaping uses native plant species that almost always have really deep root systems. Those roots go down into the soil, creating little pipes, little tunnels”
If you are considering a home remodel or making improvements to a business parking lot, consider adding a rainscape feature.
“Rainscaping does not put the concrete guys out of work. It brings in the green industry. It brings in the power of plants. And it brings in the landscaping specialists. And we need all of that, especially when we’re talking about the crazy rain cycles.”
With the right combination of native plants, catch basins, and other activities that manage stormwater, you can landscape your yard or property for both beauty and function.
“Look at your property. Look at how water follows. Establish a balance. Have a balance of plants and hardscaping, and buildings. And there’s wonderful expertise around our community that can help you do that,” says Ponzi.