The Urban Rain Garden

A contemporary, elegant and interactive garden designed to give us achievable ideas to harness and re-use rainwater


The Front Garden

The Urban Rain Garden, People's Choice Awards winner in the category for Best Conceptual and Garden for a Changing World, was designed by Rhiannon Williams. It showcased the front and back garden of a typical terraced urban house. Rhiannon reflected the elements most of us look for in our gardens; space for plants, parking, a place to eat and a relaxed seating area in her interactive design, enabling visitors to walk through the middle of the garden and view it from all sides. 

The garden seamlessly and beautifully channelled rainwater, within both gardens, using a series of carefully created features. Harnessing and re-using water is becoming more important as the UK faces periods of drought alongside extremely wet conditions or flash floods. The Urban Rain Garden gave gardeners practical methods to address these concerns wrapped up in a design that has clean lines and is easy to maintain. 

Channelling water around the front garden 

Water running down chain link
Water falling from the rhyl onto pebblesA metal grill with a soakaway underneath to store rainwater

In the front garden, water travels down from the guttering using two simple methods which distribute it into the raised planters, a downpipe on the left and a simple chain on the right. Once the rectangular raised planter on the right is full, water automatically flows down into a channel filled with white pebbles, via a rill. This guides the water droplets into an ingenious silver metal grill, containing a soakaway under the car parking area, which collects and stores water to be gathered and re-used in the gardens. The grill is perfectly positioned to capture any naturally falling rain coming down onto the paving, enabling it to dry quicky.

Stylish raised planters in the back garden

A downpipe dropping water into a raised planter
A rhyl moving water along a stepped series of plantersPlanting to add colour and interest

In the back garden, three raised planters are built at different heights, collecting water with a simple downpipe. The planters are connected together using a rill which drops water from planter to planter as the rainwater increases. Cleverly, water loving aquatic plants are planted close to the house where the water will be deepest and less water loving perennials grow in the final planter that wraps around the seating area.

Innovative grooved paving harnesses water in the back garden 

A cosy seating area
Sandstone steps featuring curved groovesWater travelling along grooves into a thin trough

Rhiannon has added paving, made from ethically sourced Flamed Grey Sawn Sandstone, carved with curved grooves that allow water droplets to travel smoothly along and down steps. All the water pools into long thin troughs filled with contrasting white pebbles, edging the sunken lawn, filtering into the the water collection tanks below the garden. 

The ideal dining and entertaining space

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.