On the move with TTF: rain garden plants find new home!

Jamilee Hoffman
Jan 18, 2022

Olney rain garden 1

In 2012, TTF installed a rain garden to capture and clean runoff from the Olney Recreation Center roof in partnership with the Philadelphia Water Department. This feature not only managed stormwater, but also created a habitat and a beautiful area of native plants for birds, bees, recreation center attendees, and neighbors to enjoy.

The good news is that the Olney Recreation Center is a Rebuild site, and will be home to a new recreation center in 2023. The bad news is that the new footprint of the facility required that the rain garden be demolished. But there’s more good news to follow! The new recreation center (of course) will incorporate green stormwater infrastructure and…with the support of Power Corps PHL, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and the Rebuild team from the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation, we were able to move and reuse the plants!

Many of the native plants in this rain garden were well established, and we couldn’t bear to waste them. So, we transplanted and took cuttings and seeds from some of the plants in this garden to utilize at other restoration sites. We transplanted an estimated total of $800 worth of plant material. We replanted some of these natives at Stream Smart sites in Montgomery County.

The Stream Smart program is funded through a Delaware River Restoration Fund Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This program offers advice as well as funding for residential property owners to better manage stormwater. 

Blueflag iris (Iris versicolor) is one of the plants that we transplanted from the rain garden. We dug up the plant and rhizome, which is part of the root. We put these in containers and moved them to other sites. 

Three different rain gardens received these plants. Iris makes for a good rain garden plant due to its ability to tolerate being submerged for long periods of time and being shade tolerant. It was nice to be able to add these irises to some of our rain gardens to fill in space and offer a little more color and diversity. 

We also took seeds from a handful of plants —  such as cutleaf coneflower, black-eyed Susan, bee balm, and purple coneflower — to be mixed with seed harvested from other restoration sites. Many of these plants are easy plants to gather seed from in the fall, as they have a large seed head that remains after the plant is done flowering. These seed heads are also a favorite of many seed-eating birds. 

We cut a large number of seed heads from the plants at this site and then dried them. We separated the seed from the seed heads and will spread this seed at some of our restoration sites at the end of winter. 

Lastly, cuttings were taken from a large silky dogwood. Taking cuttings can be a way to transplant a shrub when it’s too large to dig up all of the roots and move. You can take cuttings that are about two to three feet in length and ½”-1 1/2” thick and insert them into streambanks, where they regrow roots and eventually form new shrubs. You can learn more about this process in our blog about live staking

We were able to take about 75 cuttings from shrubs. We installed half of these along the creekbank at a Stream Smart project that was experiencing significant erosion. 


Want to learn more? Contact Ryan@ttfwatershed.org

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