Here’s how the rain garden design evolved over two years, from sketches to plants in the ground. Because of the site, all the plants need to tolerate occasional flooding and enjoy wet or damp soil. They thrive in filtered shade, with only about four hours of direct sunlight during the long days of June. The original design used all native plants except for the irises.

Original Drawing

Original Design for Rain Garden Plantings

I used Photoshop to make the drawing, using circles sized to show the room needed for mature plants and roughly the color of the flowers. Debbie Roos taught me the technique of starting with the plants you want the most, then adding layers to provide interest in all seasons. I assigned plants to Photoshop layers representing each season plus year-round to make it easy to see the bloom cycles. Debbie also emphasized planting in groups to minimize travel distance for pollinators, which is why most plants are in groups of three or five.

Current Rain Garden Design as of May 2022

Actual plantings as of May 2022

Some native plants turned out to be hard to get, so we chose others. Justin Durango persuaded me to plant tropical Dutchman’s-pipe vines in several places, including the rain garden, to feed glorious pipevine swallowtail butterflies. He said they eat this smaller tropical vine as well as the huge native.

My original design didn’t take advantage of the sloped sides of the rain garden, which stay relatively damp but don’t flood. I was able to tuck in several smaller plants there. I also couldn’t resist adding in a few crinum and tropical gingers that I already had. Friends gave me atamasca lilies and rain ferns. Yaay!

I did the drawing above with Excalidraw, which is ultra-easy to learn, free, and also works as a whiteboard for collaboration. Whoo-hoo! I can’t use Photoshop anymore because Adobe decided my computer is too small for their newer releases.

Current Rain Garden Plant List as of May 2022

The following table is sorted by planting date and then by common name.

dateCommon NameScientific Name
F2020buttonbushCephalanthus occidentalis
F2020cardinal flowerLobelia cardinalis
F2020chocolate Joe Pye weedEupatorium rugosa ‘Chocolate’
F2020cinnamon fernOsmundastrum cinnamomeum
F2020ironweedVeronia spp.
F2020Shenandoah switchgrassPanicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’
F2020swamp milkweedAsclepias incarnata
F2020white-veined Dutchman’s pipeAristolochia fimbriata
S2021blue-eyed grassSisyrinchium angustifolium
S2021Cupid Culver’s rootVeronicastrum virginicum ‘Cupid’
S2021highbush blueberryVaccinium corymbosum
S2021pink crinum, unknown varietyCrinum spp.
F2021butterfly gingerHedychium coronarium
F2021Virginia spiderwortTradescantia virginiana
F2021white turtleheadChelone glabra
S2022atamasca lilyZephyranthes atamasco
S2022blue lobeliaLobelia elongata
S2022bluestarAmsonia spp
S2022Palace Purple coral bellsHeuchera ‘Palace Purple’
S2022Plymouth rose gentianSabatia kennedyana
S2022rain fern?
S2022swamp rose mallowHibiscus moscheutos
S2022white-topped sedgeRhynchospora latifolia

The rain garden is probably more than full of plants. I expect to take out the Virginia spiderwort as other plants begin to fill in because it does well across the path on the pond slope. The blueberry bush that I thought had perished came back to life this spring, so the butterfly ginger may move again to make room.