Rain Garden


The campus rain garden under a set of treesIn 2012, Graceland University partnered with local environmental agencies to build an enhanced rain garden on the Lamoni campus. A rain garden is a depression sculpted into the landscape, planted with perennial flowers and native vegetation, to help soak up rainwater runoff. It is strategically located to capture runoff from impervious surfaces, such as roofs, streets, sidewalks, parking lots, etc. Rain gardens are designed so that the storm water they capture infiltrates into the garden and thereby slowly contributes to groundwater flow within 24-48 hours of a rain event. Take-away message: Rather than storm water flowing directly into storm drains where it would contribute to local water bodies in the form of untreated water, the rain garden intercepts the storm flow and improves water quality.

Working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Decatur County Public Health, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Graceland University Facilities Services and the Department of Math and Sciences, campus Sustainability Coordinator, Jennifer Abraham-White, has transformed a small parcel of campus turfgrass, located west of Resch Science and Technology Hall, into an educational demonstration rain garden. Representatives of the aforementioned government agencies help keep the project low-cost with the donation of native flora (USFWS), pro bono design and technical guidance (NRCS and IDALS). Decatur County Public Health funded the educational signage.

In addition, the rain garden not only demonstrates how Lamoni residents can improve water quality in their backyards, but it also provides a native pollinator habitat for species like the migrating monarch butterfly and the honeybee.

Greg Pattison stands on the middle of a large rain garden
"Rain gardens are an excellent way for universities, schools and communities to contribute to habitat for a diverse array of pollinator species. Pollinators have been on the decline in recent years due to many factors. Providing a rain garden or flower garden with a high diversity of flowering plants that provide nectar from early spring through the fall help many pollinators make it through the summer so the next generation can survive. Having the small flower gardens scattered across the landscape also gives migratory pollinators stopping points for food — the energy they need to make their long trips. The monarch butterfly is a great example of a species that is dependent on having flowering plants scattered over a large area as they migrate from Iowa to Mexico." 

— Gregg Pattison, Private Lands Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


“This project was a great collaboration between Graceland and several Iowa environmental agencies. What’s great is that we have something beautiful and regenerative to show for our alliance. I’m now looking at what other locations on campus could benefit from a second rain garden. My thoughts are leaning toward a milkweed theme; a native plant species that is often overlooked.”  — Jennifer Abraham-White

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Rain Garden flowers