Showy goldenrod. Oxeye Sunflower. Blue False Indigo. When spring arrives, it’s impossible to miss the colorful ensemble of flowers and shrubs outside the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent in Brentwood, New York.
But it’s about something deeper than an eye full of natural beauty. The sisters’ rain gardens, as their plantations are known in environmental circles, soak up rainwater that would otherwise collect in depressions around the monastery’s 212 acres. The rain gardens not only solve disruptive flooding, but also improve water quality thanks to an underground filtration system. They also feed the insect population, become havens for bees and butterflies, and in turn attract and feed birds.
Rain gardens, which have deeper roots than grass, “not only soak up rainwater, but they filter a little bit of the contaminants it contains, preventing them from getting into drinking water,” said Amanda Furcall, a landscape ecologist who has helped the Sisters Expand their green infrastructure.
Just as people think of roads and roofs as completely impervious, Furcall says, they think of lawns as permeable. “But long grass has really shallow roots, just a few inches deep. And usually when it rains, they can only absorb about half an inch of rain,” she said.
Two years ago, just 2,000 square feet of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s estate was dedicated to a single large rain garden. Today, the Brentwood campus has six main rain gardens and several smaller ones.
Rain gardens are now commonly planted along city sidewalks for flood control and often to prevent drains from overflowing during heavy rains. But in recent years, places of worship and other religious communities like the Sisters of St. Joseph have embraced rain gardens as easy-to-build, low-maintenance ways to dedicate their sometimes expansive properties to the fight against climate change.
The rain gardens also fulfill a common theological thread that runs through many faiths: a commitment to cherish the earth created by God.
Read the article from the Religion News Service.