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News & Stories: 2009-10

New rain garden at the SFC preserves, protectsAugust 7, 2009

"So, as you can see, we created a little river here,” said Matt Hoekzema, the administrative assistant for Calvin physical plant, standing next to a narrow channel sloping downhill to a drain. Iris are growing on one bank and pink phlox and Black-eyed Susans on another. Elsewhere in the rain garden on the south side of the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex, Joe Pye Weed grows in the sun and hosta, round-leafed Butterburrs and purple Cimicifuga (Bugbane) grow in the shade. Red oak and red maple, white pine and white spruce grow throughout.

Channeling the rainwater

Butterburrs in the new rain garden by the Spoelhof Fieldhouse ComplexThe central feature of the bed is the channel. “The whole idea behind the rain garden is to slow down runoff when it’s entering the sewer system,” Hoekzema said, “rather than having it run across parking lots in concrete pipes, draining into the north ponds.” The benefits to this kind of landscaping, he said, are many: The bed filters and recharges groundwater. It prevents storm water flooding and pollution.

And rain gardens also attract native pollinators. “I know biology was happy,” said Hoekzema. “We kept talking about the birds and the butterflies.” The biology department collaborated with physical plant and Everett’s Landscape Management, Inc. on the project, and the landscaping company designed the bed with generous input from Calvin biology professor Dave Warners.

"We know Dave Warners likes to get his hands in the landscape and use his plants he rescued from the wrecking ball,” Hoekzema said. In fact, the plants Warners salvaged are planted alongside one of the Calvin residence halls, but the native plants he grows—Joe Pyes included—are in the rain garden.

Hoekzema, who formerly worked with a landscape supplier, insisted that the placement of plants in a rain garden is crucial to its longevity: “You’ve got all these iris here. They like wet feet. You’ve got plants that like a little drier feet up higher … You want to optimize the survivability of a plant.”

Saving the trees

Everett finished installing the rain garden this past spring. “We had this done in time for graduation,” Hoekzema said. He is especially gratified about one feature of the garden. “I like the fact that we were able to save these mature trees,” he said of the spruce, oak and maple that were native to the site. It was a lot of work because this was a construction site … The engineers get involved.”

Bob Speelman, Calvin landscape operations supervisor, believes the rain garden demonstrates Calvin’s commitment to sustainable landscaping. “This is a great addition to campus,” Speelman said. “This is a great big mass planting of perennials, in my mind.”

"It’s a monster,” echoed Hoekzema. He said he’s looking forward to seeing the garden mature and fill in.

"Looks good so far,” he said.

"Yeah,” Speelman said. “Midsummer—It’s pretty good.”

~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing

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