A Raindrop‘s Journey

The Exploration Garden is a welcoming destination for the community to interact closely with nature. We will soon add an Instagram-worthy Welcome Gateway into the sprawling wildflower meadow.

Thanks to a grant from Phillips 66, we will create the next major garden feature this fall and winter: The Raindrop’s Journey.

Plants to provide color, interest, and habitat improvements for migrating monarch butterflies and other pollinators and wildlife.

This is an exciting site-wide project that demonstrates the cycle and path of rainwater down through the site’s landscape: roof, rain garden, creek bed with stone riffles, wet meadow, riparian buffers, swales, wetland, stream bank slope stabilization, etc. It includes signs and boulder seating along the path and areas for interpretation and contemplation. The feature demonstrates the water cycle within a watershed, encourages nature-based solutions (green infrastructure) for storing, moving, and absorbing rainwater, and provides aesthetically pleasing examples of plant types for commercial and residential properties.

Specific areas of interest are as follows:

 • Interpretation & Demonstration Stations – Nine demonstration beds are scattered throughout the site. They showcase compact pollinator plants, beneficial native shrubs, sand prairie, rain gardens, native scaping for residential yards, herbs, perennial vegetables, berries, native shrubs, trees, etc. These sites will have interactive interpretive exhibits exploring nature through art, music, games, and STEM curricula.

 • Wet Meadow & Riparian Shore Edge – The soil is more consistently wet in an area near the lake and a lower slope. The plants will be placed to form wet meadows, wetlands, and riparian edges/grasses. Plants here will provide four-season interest given that it is within the view shed of the entire site and help to improve water quality.

  • The Old Snag Tree with Chomps, the Beaver – The Old Snag, a dead tree, plays a vital role in a landscape. It offers a roost for raptors, insects for food for other birds, and a perch for other wildlife. This particular tree has been the favored tooth-sharpening stump for a beaver who resides nearby in the creek. Allowing this existing curiosity to remain will add authenticity, character, and thrill for those who wish to see nature in action. An interpretive sign and a wildlife camera will provide outreach and engagement on and offline.

 • Flat Rock Beach & Water Exploration Station – As a focal point from the top of the site and the pavilion, the stone beach and vegetative shoreline provide a signature landscape with the fountain and the plaza. Large flat limestone slabs provide places to stand, sit, rest, play, and learn along the shoreline. Low-lying plants filter rainwater as it heads into the lake. Fountains (to be installed by the Village of Swansea), while providing a beautiful focal point, will also improve water oxygen levels, decrease water temperatures, and reduce harmful algae blooms in the lake.

A Raindrop’s Journey – Roof to Lake

1 | Roof Gutters to Raingarden – disconnected downspouts, rain barrels, and rain gardens leading the journey to the lake.

2 | Meadows & Plaza Overlook with Mown Paths with accents of various native wildflowers, clusters of perennial natives and paths to wander.

3 | A series of bioswales, wet meadows, swales, stream bank slope stabilization, etc. wandering past the meadow.

4 | Creek bed and areas for exploration and seating.

5 & 6 | Interpretation & Demonstration Stations: Demonstration planting beds with art and interpretative signs.

7 | Wet Meadow & Riparian Shore Edge

8 | Flat Rock Beach & Water Exploration Station

9 | Bald Cypress Knee Contemplation Circle & Fountain