This article appeared in the February issue of Bay Leaves
Rain gardens have three major benefits: (1) they absorb water into the soil, (2) the beautify our own yards and the community, and (3) they provide an important habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies threatened by reduced food stuffs. The New York Times reported that 2013 was the first year that the Monarch butterflies did not arrive in droves in Mexico for the Day of the Dead (November 1st). It is more important than ever that we think about how we can support the Monarch butterfly in our yards.
Let's explore the benefits...
Water absorption. Ideally rainwater should infiltrate the soil at the point of the downpour. You can capture the water with rain barrels, then use it to grow flowers and vegetables. Or it you want to go the low maintenance route, you can install a rain garden. The EPA reports that lawns have 10% of the water absorption capacity of native plantings. Together we could dramatically reduce the water entering municipal systems.
Beautification. In 2008, WFB residents Nathan and Jean Guequierre finished installing multiple rain gardens and rain barrels at their home on Newhall. The rain gardens not only absorb water-approximately 60,000 gallons/year-but also bring four season appeal. The landscape includes a variety of perennials, mostly plants native to Southeastern Wisconsin.
Important habitat. Experts fear the Monarch butterfly is on the verge of collapse, threatened by the loss of its only food source for the caterpillars-milkweed. The good news is that native plants-like milkweed-both absorb a significant amount of water and benefit the threatened Monarch populations. Milkweed is a native perennial and can easily be grown in your garden as it is in the WFB Butterfly Garden. The garden in Cahill Square has many features to attract and sustain butterflies over their short life cycles-rocks warmed by the sun for resting, shallow sources of water, colorful plants to attract adults and hiding places for developing offspring.
What can you do?
- Attend the Whitefish Bay Garden Club meeting on Tuesday, April 8th at 7:00 PM at the Village Hall to learn about rain gardens and the WFB Village incentives for installing them. Click here to RSVP.
- Consider how you might want to support butterflies in your own yard.
- Decide whether to use rain barrels, install a rain garden-or both!
- In the spring, visit the Butterfly Garden at Cahill Park...or volunteer to help maintain it with the WFB Garden Club.
- Watch for notices in Bay Leaves about garden walks featuring rain gardens. These events will be hosted by the Civic Foundation and the WFB Garden Club.
- New information will be posted on the WFB Garden Club website.