plant rainy day

Rain Garden Design for the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest is a land of misty mornings, emerald forests, and abundant rainfall. While this precipitation nourishes our lush landscapes, it also presents a challenge: managing stormwater runoff. Traditional lawns and impermeable surfaces often send polluted water rushing into our precious waterways, harming ecosystems and aquatic life. But what if there was a way to harness the power of rain while beautifying your yard and protecting the environment? Enter the rain garden, a sustainable landscaping marvel that's rapidly gaining popularity in the region. 

What is a Rain Garden?

A rain garden is a strategically designed depression or berm filled with native plants that collects and filters stormwater runoff from roofs, driveways, and other impervious surfaces. It acts like a miniature wetland, slowing down the water flow, allowing it to soak into the ground, and naturally filtering pollutants before they reach our waterways.

bee feeding on a native wildflower

Benefits of Rain Gardens in the Pacific Northwest

  • Reduces flooding: Rain gardens act as sponges, absorbing excess rainwater and preventing overwhelmed storm drains from causing floods.
  • Improves water quality: Native plants in rain gardens filter out pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides, and sediment, protecting our rivers, streams, and marine ecosystems.
  • Creates habitat for wildlife: Rain gardens attract pollinators, birds, butterflies, and other beneficial creatures, promoting biodiversity in your backyard.
  • Low maintenance: Once established, rain gardens require minimal upkeep, making them a sustainable and eco-friendly landscaping choice.
  • Enhances curb appeal: Rain gardens add a splash of color and life to your property, transforming it into a beautiful and functional oasis.

Designing Your Rain Garden

  • Location: Choose a low spot in your yard that receives moderate to full sun exposure. Avoid placing it near foundations or septic systems.
  • Size: The size of your rain garden will depend on the amount of runoff it needs to handle. A general rule of thumb is to make it 10% of the impervious surface area it drains.
  • Soil: Amend your soil with compost and organic matter to improve drainage and moisture retention.
  • Plants: Select native plants suitable for your local climate and soil type. Opt for a variety of plants with different heights, textures, and bloom times to create visual interest. Some popular choices for the Pacific Northwest include:
  • Mulch: Cover your rain garden with a layer of wood chips or bark to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and regulate soil temperature.
stone path with water loving plants

Additional Tips

  • Incorporate rocks and stones: Add visual interest and create pathways with decorative rocks and stones.
  • Edge your rain garden: Use edging materials like bricks, logs, or stones to define the borders and prevent erosion.
  • Get creative: Don't be afraid to experiment with different shapes, sizes, and plant combinations to create a unique and personalized rain garden.

By incorporating a rain garden into your landscape, you can become a responsible steward of the environment while creating a beautiful and functional addition to your Pacific Northwest home. So, grab your gardening gloves, embrace the rain, and let your creativity bloom! Let's make the Pacific Northwest a region of thriving rain gardens and sparkling waterways, one backyard oasis at a time! Remember, even small rain gardens can make a big difference in protecting our environment and beautifying our communities. So, get out there, get planting, and let the rain nourish your landscape and your soul!



  • Washington State Department of Ecology Rain Garden Handbook:
  • King County Rain Garden Design Guide:
  • Native Plant Society of Oregon:


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