Rhapsody to a rain pond | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It

Rhapsody to a rain pond 

Though the reservoirs that feed Durham's faucets--Lake Mickie and the Little River Reservoir--are still low, I am happy to report that Lake Hiltner is now filled to the brim, thanks to recent heavy rains.

Located on an upland slope in an old city neighborhood, it receives its waters from a nearby mountain range, better known as my roof. Lake Hiltner is what my next door neighbor calls this new, homemade body of water, but at 8 feet across, terracing down to 2 feet deep, it's somewhere between a pond and a permanent puddle. A pondle, perhaps, or a pund.

It needs a good name, because it's such a satisfying thing to have in a backyard garden. In time, frogs will move in, and hummingbirds will find the hibiscus, cardinal flower and jewelweed that bloom along its shores. Most of all, the mini-pond is responsive to the weather and the seasons, slowly diminishing in drought, rising in the rain. Flowers come and go in succeeding waves; the school of mosquito fish--a native of local creeks related to guppies--swells with each new batch of fry. And then there are the distinguished visitors, which in other backyard mini-ponds have included great blue herons and hawks.

For those who seek larger meanings in backyard projects, a neighborhood dotted with Lake Smiths and Joneses will be better prepared for extremes of weather. Drought and flood teach the same lesson: Find a place for rainwater in the landscape. The current practice of shedding runoff quickly from roofs into streets into urban creeks not only creates destructive flooding, but also leaves the rainwater-deprived landscape more vulnerable to drought.

The most drought-resistant landscapes are those where water is allowed to linger, whether in mini-ponds or in absorbent swales where water will seep in over a few days. Water allowed to seep into the ground creates an underground reservoir of moisture for plants to draw on during drought. This has been clearly demonstrated this summer as larger-scale projects like the stormwater wetland at Hillandale Golf Course and the wetland gardens at Indian Trail Park continue to flourish without watering.

The same philosophy applies to the backyard. The way to reduce weather's extremes is to accept the gifts currently spurned. It involves harvesting the rain that falls on house and yard, in rainbarrels, raingardens, grassy swales, mini-ponds and soil made absorbent by mulch. Even the condensate from air conditioners, most abundant when it's most needed, can be directed to a pond or raingarden rather than left to soak into the foundation.

Though droughts and torrential downpours teach harsh lessons, the response can be a rewarding adventure.

Latest in Front Porch

More by Stephen K. Hiltner


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »

Twitter Activity


'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Most Read

  1. Hair Don't (Peripheral Visions)
  2. The Myth of Gender (Back Talk)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation