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July 31, 2013

Lathrup Village Rain Garden Tour set for Aug. 8

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

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Lathrup Village Rain Garden Tour set for Aug. 8
Patty Keenan and her daughter, Elena, 7, stand next to the rain garden outside their Lathrup Village home.
 

LATHRUP VILLAGE — It’s Patty Keenan who has the green thumb in her house, on Saratoga Boulevard, and she’s always trying to plant the seed of knowledge when it comes to teaching others about gardening.

“It’s a passion of mine,” said Keenan, an advanced master gardener and president of the Lathrup Village Children’s Garden. “I’ve been gardening more than 20 years. It allows me to be outside and in tune with nature.”

Along with her husband and 7-year-old daughter, Elena, Patty Keenan has established an impressive rain garden in the house her family has lived in since 1999. It’s one of the stops of the upcoming self-guided Lathrup Village Rain Garden Tour 6-8:30 p.m. Aug. 8, where she will meet and mingle with tour attendees and help explain what a rain garden is and why it’s so great to have.

According to Lillian Dean of the Southeastern Oakland County Water Authority, which has partnered with the city for the last decade, a rain garden is a dish-shaped garden that traps rainwater runoff from the street or rooftops, recycling the rainwater on site and keeping rainwater and pollutants out of storm drains, protecting the Rouge River. 

The native plants enhance biodiversity and also help trap the water, she said. The Lathrup Village Rain Garden Tour features six of more-than 25 rain gardens that have be planted and maintained by homeowners, while attracting butterflies and beneficial insects, and building neighborhood pride, according to Nancy Strodl of the Lathrup Village Rain Garden Tour committee.

Outside the Keenan household, Monarch butterflies have been raised, she and her daughter use ladybugs in learning activities, neighborhood kids come to pick wild strawberries from the garden and native plants like the button bush produce white flowers through the summer, turning to fruit that birds come to eat in the fall.

These are just a few of the things Keenan said she enjoys about the rain garden she established in 2008.

“My rain garden is 100 percent native Michigan plants. They require very little maintenance — no fertilizer and little water — so in that perspective, they are environmentally friendly,” Keenan explained. “They also provide food and nectar for bugs like ladybugs, butterflies, bees and birds.”

Keenan also has swamp milkweed in her garden — a purple, water-loving plant she said serves as food for caterpillars.

“Monarch butterflies require milkweed for it to lay its eggs and for its caterpillars to develop into butterflies. Without milkweed, Monarch butterflies could not survive, and their population is on the decline.”

Keenan’s rain garden, like most established in the city, was made possible in part by a grant to SOCWA from the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project.

Strodl said Lathrup Village is in a unique position to feature rain gardens and have such success with them.

“Lathrup Village has been a leader in encouraging rain gardens in the community.  SOCWA and the city actually dig the gardens for residents and provide the proper mixture of compost and sand to replace the soil,” she said. “It is unusual for a city to be so proactive.”

The partnership helped homeowners by bearing the cost of having the rain garden being dug, and provided them with education on how to create and make their own unique rain gardens.

Keenan added that, in Lathrup Village, older drainage systems allow water to seep into lawns, and the city soil has a lot of clay, which also makes water stand for a long period of time.

“By removing old clay soil and backfilling with compost and sharp sand, we’ve created an area where the water will actually flow down, instead of staying on the top,” she explained. “And native plants have very long roots, penetrating further into the ground and taking water and moisture down with them to help the water clear from the top.”

The Lathrup Village Rain Garden Tour will happen rain or shine.

The tour is free and self-guided; a five-minute tour orientation will start at 6 p.m. at the Lathrup Village Municipal Park, located at 27400 Southfield Road. Maps will be distributed there showing the six rain garden locations that may be visited on foot or by bicycle.

The tour will take at least one hour, and gardens will close at 8:30 p.m.

The event is sponsored by SOCWA, in cooperation with the city. Those interested in attending are asked to register in advance by emailing lfdean2@gmail.com.

For more information on SOCWA and its initiatives, visit www.socwa.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.