Garden Photo of the Day

Sourcing the Rain for Stunning Blooms

By Kim Charles:

Joan Cunnington and her husband, have learned how to collect, store and reuse rainwater to keep their garden thriving in Canada.

"My garden is located on one acre of table land on top of the Niagara Escarpment in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. We have no access to municipal water or sewer, which tends to concentrate the mind powerfully on the careful use of water in the garden. All of our water has to be trucked up an escarpment, so my husband and I developed a system of rainwater collection and storage and the re-use of gray water, to keep his vegetable garden and my flowers thriving. Last summer, the garden was a disaster because we ran out of water. This year, rain was abundant in southern Ontario, and my flowers, many of which I grew from seed, responded magnificently.  I tried a new variety of nasturtium seed, the Phoenix, and I was amazed at its brilliant colors and spread; in fact, it didn't matter what I planted because most of my plants bloomed their heads off and created bright displays everywhere. The garden continues to be beautiful even now in mid-to-late October with the lovely warm weather we've had so far this autumn."

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View Comments


  1. pam_clemmons 10/25/2017

    Oh wow stunning color! Most of us probably can't imagine not having access to municipal water, and sometimes what we do have is taken for granted. Congrats on your creative minds working out this system and creating a show of beauty!

  2. user-7007498 10/25/2017

    What a beautiful garden you have created, Joan. Love the colorful display, and the meadow-like appearance. I love learning new things, and I had never heard of the term, Niagara Escarpment, so I did a little internet searching. Living in an area with abundant water, both naturally and from municipal sources, has made gardening easy for me. It is inspiring how people can rise to the challenge when those resources are not as easy to come by. Thanks for sharing.

  3. frankgreenhalgh 10/25/2017

    Hello Joan - Congratulations on your reuse and conservation of water in your house and garden. It is working well based on your colourful and vibrant garden. Sounds like you live in a very interesting area. What is your annual rainfall and distribution throughout the year? Go to the top of the class for your photography. Cheers from Oz

  4. sithanthialfred 10/25/2017

    The flowers look heavenly,is it because of rain water? Stunning visuals!

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/25/2017

    So good to hear that others try to use rainwater as much as possible. Beautiful colors!

  6. user-4691082 10/25/2017

    Joan, you could teach me a thing or two. I am very impressed with your commitment. My garden is all but defunct, at this point. Yours, so much further north, is thriving. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Chris_N 10/25/2017

    It seems odd to sit so close to Lake Ontario and have water be a limiting factor. You've done a marvelous job and put us water wasters to shame.

  8. fredwiman 10/25/2017

    What a lovely oasis of color! And so late in the season! Congratulations!

  9. User avater
    DawnMT 10/25/2017

    Good morning Joan. My husband and I collect rainwater as well. I do believe it makes a difference with my we save so much water. Do you use rain barrels with your gutters? Your garden is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  10. VikkiVA 10/25/2017

    Beautiful garden Joan. I applaud your efforts to collect and use water wisely.

  11. Maggieat11 10/25/2017

    Your efforts certainly have paid off in a big beautiful way! How wonderful to have such vibrant blooms this late in the season. Congratulations and thank you so much for sharing your photos as well as your commitment to conserving and making good use of water.

  12. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 10/25/2017

    Your water conservation and reuse efforts are inspiring, and they've certainly inspired a brilliantly colorful garden. Good job and glad you received more rain this year.

  13. cheryl_c 10/25/2017

    Hi, Joan, what great flowers you have grown from seed this year - to think that your garden was ruined last year and it has come back like this! We also use rain water as much as we can - we have a 100 gallon rain barrel next to our garage and it will go from empty to full with 1/2 inch of rain, and we don't even try to catch the rain falling on the rear roof of the garage! Rainwater is not alkaline like most well water and some municipal water. It also doesn't have the chlorine and other chemicals that are added to municipal water, so yes, the plants really do thrive with it when you can use it. Rainwater captures nitrogen from the atmosphere as it falls to earth, so it even delivers a little boost of fertilizer. So many benefits - but it can mean a fair amount of extra work as well. Thanks for doing your part to help our fragile earth - our island home.

    1. wittyone 10/25/2017

      It seems amazing that just 1/2 an inch of water translates into 100 gallons! I can see how rainwater as opposed to municipal water with all those chemicals in it would work better for flowers that are expecting just plain H2O.

      1. cheryl_c 10/25/2017

        Yes, it amazed me the first time it happened as well! And it is a single garage, turned into a shop, so it is only collecting from about a 10x15 foot space. If we had a double garage, we'd need two rain barrels!

  14. User avater
    meander_michaele 10/25/2017

    Your color palette is certainly warm and wonderful, Joan. Is the last picture a generous clump of the nasturtium, The Phoenix, that you mentioned by name? Looks like a real winner esp. if it is still happily blooming so late in the season. I'm very impressed with your industrious efforts to compensate for your sometimes water shortage. It's always greatly appreciated when Mother Nature lends a helping hand with sufficient amounts of rain.

  15. marygardener 10/25/2017

    Wonderful to see your beautiful garden Joan. Congratulations on all your hard work. Your efforts have certainly paid off.

  16. janeeliz 10/25/2017

    How delightful to see such an abundance of color! All your plants look very healthy and happy...a joyful garden!

  17. Sunshine111 10/25/2017

    Bravo! You have Created a garden of Eden by sheer will and strength!

  18. btucker9675 10/25/2017

    Your garden is a delightful rainbow of color! I used a rainwater barrel to catch water from a gutter when I had my NJ garden - worked like a charm until the year I didn't get it drained before our first heavy freeze and we ended up with a giant ice cube that actually split the heavy plastic barrel! Taught me a good lesson on the perils of procrastination... : )

  19. wittyone 10/25/2017

    You must be a optimist to grow such large areas of flowers with the ever present possibility of not enough rainwater to work with. Either that or you just can't help yourself---gotta have 'em! Beautiful blooms.

    What variety of gaillardia is that in the third picture? I just love the reflexed petals, it makes them look like they are wearing frilly little skirts.

  20. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 10/25/2017

    Good morning, Joan. I would love to know what you do for water collection since we are on a well and all of our 22” of rainfall is in the winter months. A rain barrel or two wouldn’t begin to get us through the summer. This fellow hose dragged appreciates your efforts and results.

    1. frankgreenhalgh 10/25/2017

      Hey Linda - Gee your rainfall is much lower than I thought. Makes gardening a bit more challenging. Throw in deer, and you and Dan deserve a medal. Is it predicted to become drier in your area with climate change? The selection and breeding of drought tolerant plants will become increasingly important in many areas of the globe. Cheers from a dry continent

  21. user-7008735 10/25/2017

    Your flowers look so bright and cheerful, Joan. You've done a great job of choosing drought-tolerant plants like Cosmos, Nasturtiums, and Gaillardia to suit your situation. I try to abide by the "Right plant, right place" principle, but I can't always resist every fussy beauty. Thanks for sharing your abundant blooms!

  22. mhebb 10/25/2017

    Hi, Joan! All your plants look so happy and lush! I love your color combinations. Last year was a terrible year for us here in Central New York (not far from you folks) because we had so little rain. I felt like I had a watering wand glued to my hand so it's understandable that last year you ran out of water. So glad you had a banner year like this to follow. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos.

  23. Coveside 10/25/2017

    Would love to see more about your water collection system. I think this is, inevitably, a key concern for all gardeners.

  24. Coveside 10/25/2017

    Love the bright color extending the season!

  25. anabowers 10/25/2017

    So glad your efforts were rewarded magnificently!!! What gardeners will do to have successful gardens. Congrats! Just beautiful!

  26. [email protected] 10/25/2017

    Love the Hibiscus (I think) in the first photo. Not sure why I haven't tried one yet, but now I think I will for sure. Would also like to hear more about your rainwater collection. Thanks for sharing!

  27. grannieannie1 10/25/2017

    Love all your color, Joan, and everything bursting with health late in the season. Could you tell me please what the orange flower is with the green trellis beside it? It looks like is might be a great ground cover.

  28. greengenes 10/26/2017

    I am a little late viewing your beautiful flowers. What a labor of love to have what you have! Your flowers are so beautiful! I especially love the blue fall asters with the burgandy cosmos! What a team they are! Thanks for brightening up our day!

  29. user-6536305 10/26/2017

    This is totally impressive garden on rain water and everything is so lush. Thanks for sharing Joan!

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