Duck Duck Book

49 – rain gardens
09.17.2007, 12:02 am
Filed under: technology

Rain gardens : managing water sustainably in the garden and designed landscape / Nigel Dunnett and Andy Clayden.
Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2007.
[MCL call number: 635.95 D923r 2007; eight copies, seven holds]

Here in the maritime Northwest, it rains a lot, for most of the year.  For cities, this causes a lot of problems for water and sewer authorities, for rivers and streams, and of course for wildlife, and eventually for people — because most of the land is paved over with streets and won’t absorb water.  In Portland (and no doubt in other cities and towns in the region), there has been a huge push in the last few years to promote on-site stormwater management — this sounds boring as hell, but in fact what it usually means is turning downspouts into waterfalls and turning gutters into gardens.  This is good for the natural water system (yay!), but it’s also often beautiful, educational, and fun (more yay!).

Cities in other parts of the world have similar stormwater management concerns, of course, and Rain Gardens is a kind of text book for residential, neighborhood, and municipal management of stormwater with rain gardens and other similar systems suitable for temperate climates.  Many topics are addressed — water cycles, the effect of paved surfaces on natural water filtration, the effect of planted surfaces on stormwater, and more.  The only serious complaint I have about the book is that it focuses almost exclusively on commercial and institutional rainwater management projects — in schools, housing complexes, office parks, municipal buildings, and public parks.  Too little attention is paid to stormwater management solutions for small buildings (like houses), and small projects that can be designed and built by amateurs.

However, Rain Gardens is still a practical work.  Case studies of successful rain garden projects are sprinkled throughout the text — including one describing Sutcliffe Park  (pages 126-127), in London’s Borough of Greenwhich, which was redeveloped in 2004 to decrease flood danger in the area, and included the “daylighting” of the once-buried River Quaggy.  A quarter of the book is taken up with a detailed discussion of rain garden design, and the last chapter contains a detailed chart of useful plants.  Rain Gardens is liberally illustrated with photographs and diagrams showing design principles and real-life examples from around northern Europe and North America (including Portland!).  There is a weak index at the back, not useful for much, and a brief and helpful bibliography.

 * * *

Some of you may be reminded, by my mention of the River Quaggy and its ressurection from an underground pipe, of N. J. Barton’s The Lost Rivers of London (Phoenix House, 1962, and Historical Publications, 1992; reviewed in Duck Duck Book number 20), Christopher Fowler’s The Water Room (reviewed in number 44), and Richard Trench and Ellis Hillman’s London Under London (reviewed in number 45).


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