Rainwater Conscious Landscape Features

Sustainable Landscaping Welcomes Rainwater!

Homeowners typically want excess rainwater kept off their property to prevent flooding in the yard or leakage into the home’s foundation (i.e., wet basement). Sustainable landscaping welcomes rainwater and offers solutions that make rainwater beneficial to both the landscape and the environment.

Ideally, excess rainwater filters through the ground and becomes part of the water table. In most residential communities, this process is impeded because of multiple paved surfaces like roads, driveways, parking lots and sidewalks. These surfaces cover a significant portion of the available ground space, blocking access to the soil.

Because a significant volume of rainwater is not immediately allowed to seep into the ground, it ends up flooding sidewalks and roadways. Excess rainwater often collects on top of paved surfaces, picking up dirt, oils, chemicals, and other debris along the way. This dirty water then empties into our local streams, lakes and rivers, resulting in further pollution to our waterways.

Rain Gardens

Residential rain gardens are shallow depressions in the front yard or backyard that capture and retain the rainwater that washes off of rooftops, sidewalks and downspouts. These shallow depressions are typically filled with a combination of native plants and absorbent soils. These items work together to help direct water into the ground, where it first filters through the soil before becoming part of a river or lake.

In addition to capturing storm water from our rooftops and other covered surfaces, rain gardens are an appropriate solution to low spots and standing water in the yard.


Bioretention rain gardens are simply rain gardens built on a larger and more commercial scale. These larger gardens might contain a layer of gravel, followed by a layer of bioretention soil, followed by a mulch layer and native plants.

Bioretention rain gardens are intended to collect and absorb storm water runoff from large paved and hardscape structures including shopping mall parking lots, highways and corporate garages.


Bioswales are narrow strips of depressed land (i.e. ditches) that convey storm water much like storm sewers or underdrain pipes.They can also absorb a good amount of low level rainfall. During heavier rains, bioswales carry water runoff into nearby sewers or waterways. Because bioswales are often planted with thick grasses or other native plants, they not only help to absorb rainwater, but they offer aesthetic appeal as well.

Bioswales can exist as stand-alone installations or carry rainwater to another part of the lot, such as a rain garden.

Rain Barrels

Rain barrels collect and store rainwater for home and garden use at a later and dryer time, also known as rainwater harvesting. Due to its lack of chlorination and fluorination, rainwater is the water of choice for many homeowners, who prefer using it versus tap water for their vegetable gardens and indoor plants.

Rain barrels do require some initial set-up as well as seasonal maintenance. Also, in the winter, the rain barrel will need to be emptied, dismantled and stored, then reinstalled in the spring season.

Green Rooftops

A green rooftop is a roof that is partially or even completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium such as soil. This green rooftop sits atop of a waterproof membrane that protects the roof from moisture.

Green rooftops not only absorb storm water, but they also reduce home energy costs by generating a natural layer of insulation. Green rooftops create peaceful retreats for wildlife. Finally, green rooftops actually last longer than conventional rooftops.

Let Formecology Help You Welcome The Rain

Let Formecology design and install a rainwater conscious landscape for your home or business. Rain gardens, bioretention rain gardens and bioswales not only provide functional benefits by helping with rainwater absorption and rooftop runoff, they create aesthetic appeal too!

Additional information can be found here:

Rain Gardens How To Guide For Homeowners
How To Build A Rain Barrel

Or see our clip on rain gardens on The Wisconsin Gardener!