Ulster County master gardener on choosing plants for your rain garden

Go native with Barbara Bravo!

planting, rain garden, Hudson Valley gardening, eco-friendly gardening


I have to admit that I am a plantaholic. I find beauty not only in flowers but leaf shape, color, and texture. I also find it hard to pass up something I haven’t grown before. Plants that originated with the local ecosystem are your best choice for a rain garden. These tough, hardy species are well adapted to our Hudson Valley conditions of drench and drought.


I knew we would need a variety of wetland plants for the basin as well as plants for the berm. For the Saugerties project it was necessary to cross-reference the wetland plant list with plants that were road salt tolerant. Even with these considerations I was able to come up with a selection of shrubs, perennials, and grasses that were a good match. The plants at the senior center include blue flag iris, New York aster, and evergreen winterberry.


No fertilizers or pesticides


One of the many attributes of native plants is that they are low maintenance. In a rain garden fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides are to be avoided. Pruning is minimal allowing plants to grow naturally. Two things that are ever present are cutting back the perennials and weeding.


Another feature of a rain garden is the overflow outlet. This winter we had a warming trend with heavy rain, and I noticed that the garden was severely flooded. Mulch had washed over the overflow outlet, creating a dam—the excess water couldn’t get out. With a little cleaning out of the debris the water began to drain with no harm done. 


Creating your own rain garden has many benefits. It will add beauty and value to your landscape and help to protect our water quality while providing a nourishing environment for birds, bees, and butterflies.


Barbara Bravo is a garden coach, master gardener and ceramic artist.  She has 24 years experience gardening in Ulster County. Visit her website enterthegarden.com.


Check out these bonus tips:  

Your rain garden toolbox:


Get a complete analysis of your soil through your county Cooperative Extension.


Be mindful of buried utility lines, before you dig call 811.


A helpful article, Rain Gardens 101, can be found at groundwater.org/ta/raingardens.html.


Costs for creating a residential rain garden is about $3 to $4 a square foot.


A local resource for native plants:

Catskill Native Nursery catskillnativenursery.com


Some plants you might want to include are Bee Balm, Cardinal Flower, Blue Flag Iris, Highbush blueberry, American cranberry and Winterberry.


Plant lists resources: