Decorating & Design · Garden · HOME & GARDEN

Building a Butterfly Rain Garden

The goal for this summer is for the butterfly rain garden to be completed (for the most part!) Gardening is a never ending task of course, but building a garden is a lot of work and even for the most frugal, not the cheapest of projects. A lot of work has been put into this garden in the past 6 months. Last late summer the yard was cleared and sheet mulched. It involved lots of cardboard round up time and lots of wheel barreling around mulch. We are installing two rain gardens and making it all a certified Monarch Waystation through

Monarch WaystationWe’ve started an Indiegogo project to help purchase beautiful native plants for the Butterfly Monarch Waystation Garden. You’ll receive something in return for your contribution based on your level. $8 will help us purchase one plant for the garden!

yard4Then began other tasks. We tore down the old brick mailbox and built a new sho-sugi-ban cedar post modern mailbox. I took off the shutters on the house, made a rain chain, and a drainage pit for it to drain. We are making these rain gardens an extensive system with a piping system where we’ll be able to catch a lot of water off the roof. Just a few weeks ago we put in the council ring made of wood rounds, a design feature made famous by the famous landscape architect Jens Jensen. Right now it’s holding some old spruce limbs that we hope to get broken down soon and out of there.

IMG_0071This is what the front yard looked like at the beginning of last summer. Behind the pear you can see the trunk of the uplimbed blue spruce. The yard was also all weeds, and even an unsolvable big brown spot which would grow nothing.

yard1The yard is pretty brown right now, but as soon as we get plants in, it’ll be flourishing! We hope to put in some evergreens to keep some interest all year.


This weekend we installed a cinder block wall that will hold up the soil near the house. The house was built on a slight slope, so soil had eroded down the slope. I hope to paint the bottom of the house a dark gray color, and to do something to pretty up the block wall.

Building this wall was a learning curve for us, but we did it and it’s sturdy! It was hard to get the mortar to stick to the block, it would fall off and was hard to apply. We read it should be the consistency of peanut butter, which ours was but we were worried. But it seems to be setting up nicely. The key is to get it level by starting with a nice level soil base, then adding a level gravel base to set the block on.yard2Once the wall sets, we’ll be able to fill in soil and install the plumbing which will take water from the roof of the house to the rain garden. We purchased perforated pipe, so some will slowly trickle out of the piping before reaching the garden. The purpose of all this is to keep more water on site instead of running into the storm sewer, where it often overloads the whole city’s water system causing flooding.

We had hoped to receive a grant to build this rain garden system, but we were told wrong information about applying and weren’t treated very well about it.

yard3There are a few plants we purchased last year that are beginning to show some action. These fuzzy pussy willow catkins came out a couple of weeks ago. They’re so cool! You can even cut them and use the limbs as dried arrangements. Once the catkins form their pollen during spring they’re great for bees. They’re easy to propagate from cuttings. This one is the native Salix discolor, but there are other fanciful varieties.pussy willow salix discolorAnother plant will little fuzzy buds is this star magnolia, magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’. This deciduous magnolia only gets about 10 feet. They are best planted in part shade and sun, in a protected spot away from wind. I can’t wait to see it bloom with white flowers. There are a few other flowering shrubs I will write about later.

star magnolia


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