Water-Wise Landscape for the Northeast

This Earth-friendly exterior design conserves and recycles rainwater.


This plan can be adapted to a front-door, side-door or rear entrance. (Illustration by Simutis Illustrations)

This plan can be adapted to a front-door, side-door or rear entrance. (Illustration by Simutis Illustrations)

Site Plan

Use this landscape plan to accent your home's entranceway, reduce the amount of ground devoted to turfgrass and make the most of the rain that falls. An artful rain chain and rock-filled basin help slow runoff from the roof and direct water into a dry creek bed. Plants in the stream bed are moisture-tolerant; those outside are drought-tolerant. Here, you'll find it sized to a 27'-wide planting area, and also a 50'-wide site.

This to-do list will help you install this plan's key features:

  • Replace the gutter downspout with a decorative rain chain.
  • Create a depression at the base of rain chain, lined with locally available rocks or decorative gravel to slow water and encourage infiltration on site.
  • Using flagstone or pavers allows more rain to enter the soil beneath than would a concrete walkway; seek out porous pavement options if a more uniform surface is desired.
  • Choose plants well adapted to site, soil and moisture levels (drought-tolerant on higher ground, moisture-tolerant in dry creek bed.
  • Mulch with a generous layer of locally available organic mulch (shredded bark instead of gravel) to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Other ways to conserve water:



Use this plan for a space measuring about 28 feet wide. Below is a site plan adapted to a 50-foot-wide area. Landscape plan by Leah Gardner. (Illustration by Simutis Illustrations)

Use this plan for a space measuring about 28 feet wide. Below is a site plan adapted to a 50-foot-wide area. Landscape plan by Leah Gardner. (Illustration by Simutis Illustrations)

  • Install rain barrels at inconspicuous gutter downspouts to catch roof runoff and use the water to irrigate your garden, container plants and lawn.
  • Reduce the amount of lawn by adding native plants adapted to your climate and site conditions.
  • Plant deciduous trees for shade.
  • Plant windbreaks to reduce evapotranspiration.
  • Water plants early in the morning to promote deep root growth. Water thoroughly when you water; don't simply wet the surface.
  • If you're planning to install your driveway -- or repave an existing one -- use edged gravel, pavers on sand, or porous pavement.
  • Wash your car on the grass instead of the driveway.

    Plant List

    A. New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus)
    Alternative: Shrubby St. John's wort (Hypericum prolificum), bushy St. John's wort (Hypericum densiflorum) or other medium shrub 3 to 5 feet tall

    B. Adam's needle (Yucca filamentosa)
    Alternative: Other evergreen, drought-tolerant accent shrub

    C. Palm sedge (Carex muskingumensis)
    Alternative: Other ornamental grass or grass-like plant, 1 to 2 feet tall

    D. Rose tickseed (Coreopsis rosea)
    Alternative: Other flowering herbaceous plant, 2 to 3 feet tall

    E. Downy phlox (Phlox pilosa)
    Alternative: Other flowering herbaceous plant, 1 to 2 feet tall

    F. Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
    Alternative: Rose verbena (Verbena canadensis) or other flowering groundcover, 6 to 12 inches tall

    G. Blue flag iris (Iris versicolor)
    Alternative: Virginia iris (Iris virginica) or other tough, small groundcover, 2 to 4 inches tall

    H. Green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)
    Alternative: Field pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) or other moisture-tolerant herbaceous plant


    1. Stepping stone
    2. Porch/landing
    3. Rain chain
    4. Dry-stream bed
    5. Rock/small boulder
    6. Rock-lined basin or depression

    Landscape plan by Leah Gardner
    Illustrations by Simutis Illustrations

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