The RainWise program, which previously had cost an average of $4,600 in upfront costs, has become less of a financial burden for homeowners.

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In the Garden

According to some experts, runoff from rooftops, driveways and other hard surfaces is Puget Sound’s greatest source of pollution. That’s why King County and the City of Seattle created RainWise, a program that offers rebates to pay most or all of the costs to install a rain garden or cistern at eligible Seattle residences.

Rain gardens are bowl-shaped gardens that work like native forests. They help prevent pollution by naturally collecting, cleaning and controlling stormwater. They also create habitat for birds and butterflies, prevent flooding inside and outside of homes, recharge groundwater supplies and prevent erosion in creeks and streams.

Cisterns are large rain barrels that collect runoff from rooftops, which homeowners can use for watering gardens.

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

Plant Nerd Night, presented by Northwest Horticulture:

5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday, July 23. Plant sale, auction, food, wine, music and more. The Mountaineers Program Center, 7700 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle. Tickets are $45.

Heronswood Summer Plant Sale and Garden Open:

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 25. Plant sale and lectures by Dan Hinkley and Nita-Jo Rountree (free) and self-guided garden tours ($10 donation). 7530 N.E. 288th St., Kingston.

Snohomish Garden Club 31st Annual Garden Tour:

Noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, July 26. This is always a great tour. Tickets are $12, free age 13 and under (available online, at retail locations or on the day of the tour at 506 4th St. in Snohomish).

Since the RainWise program started in 2010 it has helped pay for more than 600 green stormwater projects in Seattle neighborhoods. Unfortunately, some eligible homeowners couldn’t afford to take advantage of the program because they had to pay an average cost of up to $4,600 for the work upfront, then wait up to two months for reimbursement. Now the program has solved that problem by paying the contractor half up front, and the other half at completion, freeing the homeowner from the financial burden.

RainWise funding is available only in neighborhoods with an overflow problem, which includes most of north Seattle, properties near Lake Union, along the western shores of Lake Washington, in patches of West Seattle and near the Duwamish River. For information about the RainWise program, or to find out how to apply, visit the King County website.

Add a touch of Tropicana to your garden

Pineapple lilies (Eucomis) are unique bulbous perennials that can add a beautiful, exotic touch to your garden. These lily relatives hail from South Africa. They’re called pineapple lilies because the stout flower stalks crammed with colorful, star-shaped blossoms are crowned with a tuft of leaves creating an appearance similar to the tropical fruit.

The bloom stalks appear in mid- to late-summer, and last about six weeks. They make long-lasting cut flowers and remain beautiful additions in bouquets for two or three weeks, as long as you change the water every few days.

The colorful foliage that emerges in spiky rosettes in mid- to late-spring can be every bit as showy as the flowers.

One with exceptionally colorful leaves is Eucomis comosa ‘Oakhurst’, sporting 2-foot-tall dark-red spiky leaves that fade to reddish-green only when the stunningly attractive burgundy spotted flowers appear in late summer. Another is Eucomis ‘Dark Star’, a dwarf selection that grows to only about 10 inches. It features narrow, dark reddish-purple leaves, creating a striking contrast with its 10-inch-tall spike of sparkling burgundy-pink blooms.

Another must-have dwarf is Eucomis ‘Freckles’. This gem features dark-green leaves, heavily spotted in purple, crowned by dark-purple flowers. On the other side of the size spectrum is Eucomis pole evansii. With succulent, bright-green leaves that can exceed 3 feet tall, and an equally tall flower spike packed with green and white blossoms, this monster can top out at over 6 feet tall.

To add to the excitement, an even more spectacular selection, Eucomis pole evansii ‘Purpurea’ recently became available online, featuring leaves flushed dark purple, and a burgundy flower spike highlighted with gorgeous pink-purple flowers.

Eucomis are easy to grow, as long as they have well-drained soil and a sunny location. Most are hardy to about zero degrees, but mulch heavily with fern fronds after they die back in the fall to prevent the bulbs from rotting in cold, wet winters. Be aware that some types of Eucomis can emerge late, especially in cold springs, so mark where the bulb is buried. I can tell you from experience: It’s a real bummer to stick your digging spade in the soil and realize you just cut your prized Eucomis bulb in half!