Ruth WalkerComment

Help Maintain the Health of our Beautiful Waterways with Rain Gardens

Ruth WalkerComment
Help Maintain the Health of our Beautiful Waterways with Rain Gardens

Sometimes you just have to get your nose out of a book and go listen to an expert for an added inspiration boost.

That’s what happened to me earlier this year when my local master gardener chapter hosted Carolyn Thayer to discuss rain gardens, buffer strips and storm water retention – all issues that are particularly near and dear to us in Northern Michigan.

Carolyn is a landscape designer and the owner of Designs in Bloom in Frankfort, Michigan. She is also one of the founders of Plant it Wild which promotes the use of native plants in home landscapes.

As a landscape designer in a coastal village, Carolyn is focused on protecting the water in the Great Lakes in her designs by creating rain gardens, planting buffer strips, designing storm water retention systems and permeable hardscapes.   And she’s also focused on native plants and their role in rain gardens as well as in pollinator survival.

Over the past two decades interest in native plants has grown – aided by professionals like Carolyn.  “Shoreline design is of such great importance in lake communities,” she says.  “It’s something that we need to be concerned about whether we’re on the sandy beaches of  Lake Michigan or working along the inland lakes, rivers and creeks – creating the habitat that should be there.”  

What can the average gardener do to benefit the environment?  She advises these steps:

  • Avoid neonicotinoids.

  • Shrink your lawn and, if possible create a no-mow situation.  If you can’t do that, mow higher and less frequently.

  • Plant buffer strips between your home and any waterway.

  • Create rain gardens with native plants. 

Carolyn likes the slogan the Tip of the Mitt Watershed council uses “Slow it down, spread it out and soak it in.”  She adds that small rain gardens can be put in by individuals as long as they make sure it’s properly located away from the house, properly sized and that you choose your plants carefully. 

For those interested in establishing their own rain garden Carolyn advises studying the website for the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council for in depth information on native plants as well as information on protecting water resources.

In her years in the design industry Carolyn has seen constant change, especially when it comes to the way people view their front yards.  Several decades ago a lawn with border planting was expected.  Today you may find a mix: traditional front yards, front yards filled with flowers and even front yard vegetable gardens.

When asked for book recommendations for gardeners who are interested in bringing native plants into their landscape, Carolyn suggests Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy and Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan by Lynn Steiner.

If you’re interested in either Tallamy’s book or Steiner’s book there are several ways you can purchase it. You can contact your local independent bookseller or find it on Amazon by following the Buy on Amazon button below the visual of the book’s cover. If you do buy this book by following the link in this article, I may receive a commission.

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