University of Delaware
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New rain gardens open for view at Blackbird State Forest and St. Jones Reserve


Contact:  Melanie Rapp, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

New rain gardens open for view at Blackbird State Forest and St. Jones Reserve

DOVER, (April 15, 2011) – Rain gardens are sprouting up throughout Delaware – courtesy of the “Rain Gardens for the Bays” campaign that encourages citizens to create rain gardens where they work, live and play. Two rain garden demonstration sites for the public to view and enjoy were recently created at the Blackbird State Forest, 502 Blackbird Forest Road near Smyrna and the St. Jones Reserve, 818 Kitts Hummock Road near Dover. The rain gardens are open daily, from dawn until dusk.

A rain garden is a garden located in a shallow depression near a runoff source – a downspout, driveway or paved surface – with soil that drains quickly and deep-rooted native plants and grasses that naturally absorb water and filter pollutants.

Rain gardens are sustainable, affordable and particularly effective in capturing rain water, preventing flooding, creating habitat for local wildlife, and reducing up to 80 percent of pollutants in stormwater runoff. According to the Center for Watershed Protection, typically about 30 percent more water from a rain soaks into the ground in a rain garden than the same size area of lawn.

“Spring is the perfect time of year to plant a rain garden. We invite homeowners and businesses to learn more by visiting a rain garden or accessing our website,, where they will find a photo gallery of rain gardens and information on how to create a backyard rain garden,” said Lara Allison, environmental scientist with DNREC’s Watershed Stewardship Division.

The new rain garden at Blackbird State Forest is located adjacent to the Blackbird Forest headquarters building and measures 740 sq. feet. About 340 native plants were added to this garden, including: Joe pye weed; cardinal flower; blue flag iris; Virginia Sweetspire; blazing star; wild columbine; and more. The St. Jones Reserve’s rain garden is approximately 520 sq. feet and includes about 340 native plants – blue flag iris, Virginia Sweetspire, blazing star, wild columbine and swamp milkweed, to name a few.

The gardens were the hands-on component of rain garden training provided by the Rain Garden for the Bays Campaign partners, DNREC’s Delaware Coastal Training program and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program.

At the training, instructors presented topics on rain garden site selection, design, installation and maintenance, including soil function and what native plants to choose when planting a rain garden. The training culminated in all 50 participants – master gardeners, scientists and engineers, and representatives from municipalities and landscaping companies - planting the two rain gardens.

The gardens were funded by the Rain Gardens for the Bays campaign, Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR), and the Delaware Department of Agriculture. The gardens were designed by DNREC and a registered landscape architect, excavated by Kent Conservation District and the Blackbird State Forest crew, and planted by the training participants.

Several campaign partners are working with homeowners, organizations, schools and others to provide assistance with installing rain gardens. Campaign partners are also conducting workshops, trainings, native plant sales and other activities promoting rain gardens. Education and outreach materials are available to organizations, landscapers and garden centers. Visit the Rain Gardens for the Bays website, for more information.

The “Rain Gardens for the Bays” campaign includes the following partners: Partnership for the Delaware Estuary; Center for the Inland Bays; Maryland Coastal Bays; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 3; Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Sussex County Conservation District; University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Service; University of Delaware Sea Grant program; Delaware Nature Society; Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association; Town of Ocean City, MD; Assateague Coastal Trust; and Grow Berlin Green (City of Berlin, MD).

Other demonstration rain gardens are located at: the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment campus in Lewes; the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service building in Dover; the St. Jones Reserve, a component of the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve, near Dover; the Germantown and Rosewald School in Berlin, Maryland; and the Delaware Agricultural Museum in Dover.

For more information, contact Lara Allison, DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship, 302-739-9922 or

Vol. 41, No. 153