Tag Archives: rain gardens

Spring Fever!

crocusYesterday The New York Times published a lovely editorial praising the robin as the harbinger of spring. The editors wrote:

Somehow the robin stands for all the birds migrating now, the great V’s of geese heading north, the catbirds that will show up surreptitiously in a month. It also stands for the surprise of spring itself, which we had begun to fear would not arrive. We have all been keeping watch, as though one morning it might come sailing over the horizon. And now it’s here — the air a bit softer, snowdrops and winter aconites blooming, the bees doing their cleaning and the robins building their nests again.

As Denise mentioned yesterday, Sunday’s equinox marked the official beginning of spring, and in celebration I’m engaging in all sorts of seasonal activities. From watching the peregrine falcons at the Cathedral of Learning guard their newly laid eggs to checking up on what the fashion world‘s elite have in mind for post-sweater weather, all things spring have caught my attention. My reading taste has spring fever, too, and I’m checking out lots of books related to nature and the outdoors.

John Fowles The TreeThe other day I stumbled across John Fowles’  The Tree, a naturalist classic whose website describes it as a “moving meditation on the connection between the natural world and human creativity, and a powerful argument against taming the wild.” The newest edition boasts an introduction by Barry Lopez, whose own nature-oriented meditations I’ve recently enjoyed in magazines like Tricycle.

The Tree is light enough to bring it with me on walks, another favorite warm weather Wanderlust : a history of walking / Rebecca Solnit.activity of mine. In the fall, I moved into a new house, so I’m looking forward  to discovering the changes warmer seasons bring to my new neighborhood.  As I read Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking,  my mind can wonder about walking as I wander around.

The spell of the sensuous : perception and language in a more-than-human world / David Abram.One book that’s inspired many a musing since I read it is deep ecologist David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, a philosophical reflection on the ways nature may have shaped humans’ linguistic and perceptual evolution. In lyrical, moving prose, Abrams imagines our place in nature as participatory and reciprocal–both seeing and seen, feeling and felt–by the network of animals and landscapes we’re part of.

Springtime inspires my political activity as well. The more time I spend in our beautiful habitat, the more I appreciate and want to protect it. Locally, concerns about the environmental effects of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale and uncertainly about how our state’s elected legislature will handle it motivate me to stay informed about the subject and tell my state representatives how I feel.

In terms of my personal habitat, I’m preoccupied with all of the possibilities for a raised bed garden I’m planning. To prepare, I’m consulting every gardening resource I see (including my wise coworkers), and tomorrow I’m attending Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s free lunchtime lecture about rain barrels and rain gardens.

Reading, walking, gardening, and generally growing give me plenty to do as the days lengthen. I hope spring fever also brings you lots of ways to spend your ever-increasing hours of sunlight!


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Rain? Let It!

Saturday, July 17, the First Floor hosted “Gardening for Water Conservation.” Juliette Jones, Education Specialist of Sustainable Programs at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, delivered a smart, engaging presentation about water in home landscapes.

Her timely talk reminded me of a chore I need to complete. Last month a plumber removed a broken cast iron pipe that one of my downspouts drained into. The clogged pipe froze last winter and cracked. Now instead of sending rain from the roof into the city sewer, I have the opportunity to direct it into a rain barrel.

As soon as I get a barrel, I’ll use collected rain to hand water nearby pots and raised beds. Since a rain storm will likely supply more liquid than one barrel can contain, Juliette Jones suggested using the barrel’s overflow to grow a rain garden.

A rain garden is dug more deeply than a conventional garden, usually four to eight inches, forming a shallow pool. Full of deep rooted plants, during a rainstorm the garden quickly fills with water that slowly filters into the ground.

Phipps Conservatory is a member of The Three Rivers Rain Garden Alliance, whose Web site explains why rain gardens are valuable elements of sustainable landscapes.

On the surface, a rain garden is the same wild flowers and other native plants you’d expect to see in any garden. But the difference runs deep. During a storm or shower, the rain garden soaks up a few inches of water runoff from a roof, driveway, or other paved surface. That water slowly seeps into the ground instead of heading for the nearest storm drain.

Why does that matter?

It’s all about runoff. As our region’s forests, farmland and other green spaces are paved over for highways, housing developments and shopping centers, the amount of impervious surface continues to grow. All this “progress” paves over the ground’s natural ability to absorb rainwater.

In many local communities, sewage and storm water systems are still connected underground. It takes as little as a tenth of an inch of rainfall to overload them, causing sewage to overflow into streams, yards and rivers. And even where storm water doesn’t enter the sewage system, runoff follows storm drains and surface paths, picking up pollutants that contaminate our rivers.

The Rain Garden Alliance provides lists of plants native to Southwestern Pennsylvania for both sunny and shady sites. These plants tolerate wet feet as well as extended dry periods. They provide habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects, which is good for the entire garden.

From a Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy blog post, "Calming the storms in Schenley Park" with a new rain garden.

In the neighborhood 

From CLP – Main, take a short walk up Schenley Drive to visit a newly planted rain garden at the Schenley Park Café and Visitor Center. p 




Ideas and instruction

From the Library’s shelves . . .







— Julie


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