Interview with Gordy & Barb Roberts

Pammel Creek runs through the backyard of the Roberts home.


Gordy & Barb Roberts

W5576 Southdale Drive, La Crosse



Tell me about the process before the landscaping was done. Were you involved with the planning process? What needs, wants and expectations did you have? Did you understand why certain things were being done to prevent runoff?

We were completely new to the process and somewhat new to the concept of rain gardens until we moved to our house on Pammel Creek last year. Suddenly we had waterfront property! We did research on the Internet, Pinterest, and La Crosse Public Library, and found lots of information. Our best resource though was a local, experienced rain garden designer who was recommended by our realtor. He reviewed our site and construction plans. We did a drainage test in the backyard. Based on these factors he calculated the necessary size and specs required to mitigate runoff from our roof and concrete, and provided a plan and “blueprint”. Subsequently, we submitted our plan to the County Zoning, Planning and Land dept. They approved the plan. Next we sought bids from 3 qualified landscape contractors. We chose River City Lawnscape based mainly on designer knowledge and bid price.

What exactly was done on the property? Tell me about the rain gardens, native plants, etc

Since we were adding to our driveway and roof line with a 3rd garage stall, it was determined that this would add significant runoff into Pammel Creek from our lot on Southdale Drive. This was the motivation behind the building of our rain garden. Once we had an approved design (per above), and our contractor arrived as scheduled, the building of the garden began. A skid steer was used to excavate the site to the specified depth, proper bio-fill materials were added, water-friendly plants planted, and the garden was topped with earth-friendly mulch. Plant types were chosen based on the advice of our experienced landscape architect. He knew we liked perennial flowers and grasses. He also took into consideration sun exposure at the site and plant characteristics such as hardiness, deer resistance, water tolerance, easy maintenance, and styling for an aesthetically pleasing, suburban garden. We planted maiden and switch grasses, snakeroot, astilbe, veronica, iris, globe flower and pulmonaria.

Talk to me about your reaction after the landscaping was installed. Overall, what do you think of the landscaping on your property? What are your favorite parts? Is there anything you wish you would have done differently?

We love the garden. First of all it works! We have already had several heavy rainfalls since its completion. It pools up like a pond, and then it drains rapidly through its middle. It is attractive, and fits into our landscape beautifully at the bottom of a slope that was already planted with shrubs and grasses. We have had virtually no weeds so far, but this could change as time goes by, of course. The Veronica plants bloomed all summer, so they are probably our favorites at this point. Also both types of Iris look fantastic, and they will bloom in the spring. The garden was just completed this summer, so we look forward to watching it change over the seasons. I don’t think there is anything we would have done differently. We are glad we did it. We consider it a work in progress, and would like to add more plants to the garden and surrounding areas.

Why is being sustainable important to you personally?

Our house has picture windows looking toward the back yard where Pammel Creek runs by. Watching the creek run fast and rise visibly when a hard rain falls is exciting. Pammel Creek’s water is clear. It supports trout and sucker fish; it is a catch and release body of water. We have seen great blue herons catch fish out our window, as well as wood and mallard ducks swimming together as they seek partners and nesting spots in the spring. Many birds and insects frequent the waters, and of course so do our neighborhood deer. We saw Bambi and his mom playing in the water one hot July afternoon. We know the waters flow into the Mississippi River, that huge natural resource for our country. We have grandchildren, and would like for them to enjoy these beautiful surroundings when they are grown up. These are reasons why sustaining a healthy environment is important to us.

How did you feel when you first found out that you were nominated for The Soak it Up! Project Award?

We are thrilled to be a finalist for The Soak it Up! Project award. Being recognized for our efforts and expenditures provides validation that it was all worth it.

Do you have any hopes for other homeowners in our community when it comes to reducing runoff?

Yes, we do have hopes that rain gardens will be utilized more and more. They could become a common practice for homeowners. Programs like yours increase awareness of and encouragement for sustainable gardening practices in our community.