Thursday, September 9, 2010

Three Bioswales in Three Communities

In 2008-09, a group of local citizens in The Ford Family Foundation's Ford Institute for Community Building leadership program chose as their "class project" to build three demonstration bioswales in three communities in North Curry County on Oregon's scenic south coast: Langlois, Port Orford, and Gold Beach.

The group scouted for spots, researched, designed and engineered the swales, consulted with experts, figured out what native plants would work, raised money, and organized fellow citizens and students to help with planting in the fall of 2009.

Now, the bioswales provide attractive gardens in our public spaces. They also serve the purpose of filtering runoff from parking lots and helping others to learn how best to manage stormwater runoff.

Click on links above to check out our three bioswales, and check out posts on the right to learn how you can build rain gardens and bioswales in your own yard or community.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Our sign, designed by local graphic artists, captures the essence of how bioswales work. The simple swales are like super sponges, located to collect and slow stormwater runoff--in our sites, from parking lots. Slowing the water allows sediments and pollutants to settle out and soak in. Then microorganisms in the soil and wetland plants help to break them down. Cleaner, clearer water flows out the other end--better for the fish (pictured) and all the other creatures that live and play in our local rivers and ocean. For more info, check out this recent research about the benefits of raingardens and bioswales for salmon.


If you want to build your own rain garden or bioswale, Oregon Sea Grant has just published a great, free, how-to guide. Click this link for a pdf version: The Oregon Rain Garden Guide.

If you want to beautify your yard or business with a raingarden or bioswale, and don't want to do it yourself, you can hire Liza Ehle of By the Sea Gardens. Liza has special expertise in both bioswales and the kinds of plants that can work in coastal gardens. She and her crew bring a can-do attitude to any project. (She typically has a waiting list so plan ahead.)

Check out our native plant list for plants that will work locally.


Here are some of the native plants we used in our bioswale gardens:


Twinberry, Lonerica involucrate

Pacific Wax Myrtle, Myrica californica

Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus

Nootka Rose, Rosa Nutkana

Red Currant, Ribes sanguineum

Red Osier Dogwood, Cornus sericea

Evergreen Huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum

Wetland grasses

Slender Rush, Juncus tenuis

Spreading Rush, Juncus patens

Tufted Hairgrass, Deschampsia caespitosa

Slough Sedge, Carex obnupta

Other plants

Dune Wild Rye, Leymus Mollis

Coast Strawberry, Fragaria chiliensis

Sword Fern, Polystichum munitum

Yellow Monkey Flower, Mimulus guttatus

Douglas Iris, Iris douglasii

Douglas Aster, Aster subspicatus

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

Pacific Potentilla, Potentilla pacifica

Fringe Cups, Tellima grandiflora

False Lily of the Valley, Maianthemumd ilitatum

Seaside Daisy, Erigeron glaucus

Sea thrift, Armeria maritima

Wetland plants that don't mind "wet feet" were planted in the lowest part of the swale. Plants that can tolerate both winter wet and summer drought and winds were planted on the slopes.

Each of our bioswales has a different microclimate so it will be interesting to see and learn which plants will thrive at each site. We'll be weeding out troublesome and invasive weeds, such as sheep sorrel, blackberry, broom, and crab grass. However, because the design is naturalistic, we'll be expecting volunteer plants--some native, some weedy but not invasive--to join our mix.


California poppy


Queen Anne’s Lace

Yellow primrose




We purchased our plants from Trillium Gardens, Curry Native Plants, and Huckleberry Lane nursery, all of which offer wholesale services. (We bought and planted thousands of plants!)

For a great source of information on landscaping with native plants in the Pacific Northwest, check out King County's Native Plant Guide website. King County is located in Western Washington state, and though it's far to the north, we share many plants, especially close to the coast.