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In 2007 my husband I were happily renting a little craftsman home in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. We loved being able to walk to the shops and restaurants lining Market Street, to Old Ballard Ave for the weekly Farmer’s Market, and to Golden Gardens for a game of beach volleyball. And then we received notice from our landlords that they planned to move back. We decided we no longer wanted to rent and it was time to buy. At the time, the real estate market was crazy. Homes for sale were regularly the subject of outrageous bidding wars. Our real estate agent suggested we, “take a tour north” to Shoreline, where there more availability. Well, homes for sale in Shoreline were still getting bid up, but instead of bidding on a 2 bedroom, 1 bath home, we were able to bid on a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home. I’m so glad we did because we found our little home situated on and 8000+ sq ft lot, more than we could have afforded in Seattle.

Shoreline is a city of approx 54,000 residents, just 9 miles north of downtown Seattle. It was once part of Seattle, but officially became incorporated as its own city in 1995. Doing so has allowed Shoreline to be much more flexible when it comes to voting for ballot initiatives. One such issue is Shoreline’s commitment to a healthy environment and more specifically, Stormwater Management. The city of Shoreline has undertaken several projects such as incorporating pervious concrete into new sidewalk additions and converting planting / parking strips into thriving rain gardens. The city even has an incentive program to encourage private residents to convert portions or their property into rain gardens. For more information on Shoreline’s LID (Low Impact Development) incentive program check their Soak It Up Rebate Program page.

As a horticulturalist and landscape designer with an interest in preserving and creating a healthy environment, it’s these rain gardens that I’m most impressed by. A project close to my home is the installation of rain gardens running the entire length of the East side of Ashworth Ave N between N 185th Street and N 192nd St. I watched as they created the beds and planted them with Pacific Northwest natives and plants capable of thriving in wet conditions in the winter, when the beds would hold water, as well a dry conditions during the summer drought months. I’ll admit, there was a little part of me wondering if these rain gardens would be successful after the well publicized failures of rain gardens in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. I’m happy to report, approximately 2 years after the initial installation, these rain gardens are not only thriving, but are brimming with color and life! They’re beautiful!

strawberry

This is a particularly attractive time of year with the sea thrift, Armeria maritima, beach strawberry, Fragaria chiloensis and Nootka rose, Rosa nutkana all blooming. Other plants include; red flowering current, Ribes sanguineum, sword fern, Polystichum munitum, salal, Gaultheria shallon, vine maple, Acer circinatum and various emergents such as sedges and rushes.

The benefit of rain gardens and pervious concrete is two-fold, to allow more water to return to our groundwater and replenish the water table and to act as a natural filter helping to reduce the amount of pollutants entering our stormwater system and flowing into the Puget Sound. In the image below the new pervious concrete driveways are visible.

driveway

 

Though my husband and I didn’t initially think about moving to Shoreline, I’m so glad we did. Yes, it’s more suburban, but I’m proud of our city and think we’re “getting it right” in many ways.

If you have a wet portion of your yard that you can’t quite figure out what to do with or if you’re interested in creating a rain garden for environmental or aesthetic reasons, I’d love to help you create both a functional and beautiful space.

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