rain gardenThe Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical has been at the forefront of rain garden installation, performance, and aesthetics since the very beginning. Our Horticulture Department worked closely with the Metropolitan Sewage District, Ohio State University Extension of Hamilton County, Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation, CAPGIN, and others to develop soil mixes and methods to achieve the best water infiltration within a beautiful, functioning garden. We were a major contributor to the publication Rain Garden Guidelines for Southwest Ohio, which is now considered one of the very best resources on the subject. This handbook can be obtained from Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District and on their website.

Several rain gardens are now located throughout the zoo, and we believe we have the most beautiful and best functioning rain gardens in the region. Our two most visible rain gardens can be found at the Harold C. Schott Education Center. Both are diverse, lush, and beautiful gardens that offer bloom throughout the growing season. The Education Center rain gardens are certified by the National Wildlife Federation. At first glance they don’t even appear to be rain gardens, yet they capture all the rain of the entire Harold C. Schott Education Center area, including the parking lot and the building’s roof. A 2011 study by OSU Hamilton County Extension found the infiltration rate exceeded 40” of rainfall per hour! Two similar rain gardens can be seen on both the north and south sides of the escalator building in our main parking lot on Vine Street.

We are so encouraged by the results of our rain gardens that we will certainly be adding more in the future. Between rain gardens, pervious pavement, storage tanks, and more, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens intends to be off the storm water grid in the near future.