Gardens change the face of a community

MIDDLEBURY — Rain gardens are designed to be both attractive and functional, to enhance a property and make people happy while they do the dirty work of trapping and filtering stormwater, thus keeping pollutants out of the lake, explained LandWorks landscape architect Patrick Olstad, who designed the 2013 rain garden at the Marble Works.
Olstad’s original Marble Works rain garden is based around native plants — native iris, red twig dogwood, serviceberry, Joe Pye weed, and others — and is designed to look like a sort of naturalized wet meadow, albeit one that’s laid out in gorgeous undulations. At the deepest spot are plants that like to stand in water; at the higher edges are plants that like drier feet. Olstad designed the garden around snaking drifts of plants, with attention to plants that would look good across seasons. Even now, with the bushes denuded, the milkweed erupting in tufts of seed, and the other plants brown and waiting for snow, it’s a beautiful spot.
As a landscape architect, Olstad is seeing a change in how these kinds of “bioswales” are being used and envisaged to contain stormwater.
“It’s a little bit like the way we’re viewing energy these days, a little bit more decentralized a strategy,” he said. “It used to be you’d see these big impoundments of stormwater. There’d be a fence around it, very engineered. That still has its place, but we’re looking at softer approaches to dealing with stormwater. And I think it’s great because you can integrate it into a park setting. It becomes an amenity rather than just a utility. The idea of fencing off a water feature in a landscape seems like such a missed opportunity.
“So we’re trying to look at opportunities of where you can integrate it into the landscape as a visual amenity, but it still has a functional aspect to it as well.”

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