Plants & Gardens Blog

Rain Gardens Capture Stormwater

Sweet bay and black gum trees, grasses, and wildflowers were recently planted in the three sunken rain gardens in the Visitor Center's surrounding plaza. These plants and gardens are part of an innovative stormwater management system that also includes the building’s living roof, its landscaped berms, and the new and existing tree beds along Washington Avenue. The system is expected to capture all of the rain that falls on the space—hundreds of thousands of gallons each year.

Systems like these are a relatively new green building technique, and this one is particularly ambitious. It’s probably the first in New York City designed to fully collect all the precipitation that hits it. Rain falling on the building and plaza will soak into the roof or berms or run into the rain gardens, where most will be taken up by the soil and plants.

Any overflow will be directed into the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. Not only will this conserve water for irrigation, it will prevent it from flowing into New York City’s overtaxed sewer system, which will help keep local waterways clean. It will also serve as a model for similar systems. Be sure to see for yourself.

Sarah Schmidt is a former editor of BBG's digital editorial content and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.

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Image, top of page: Blanca Begert