Water is a welcome addition to a garden, and one of the easiest water features to incorporate is a rain chain. Rain chains are simply lengths of chain that move water from your gutters to the ground. They take the place of downspouts, which can become clogged with leaves or other debris.
Choose an ornamental style with linking cups, pails, or flower shapes, or use ordinary hardware chain to make your own. When the temperatures drop, rain will turn your chain into an ice sculpture.
Most pre-made chains come with stakes and gutter clips, but you’ll need to purchase these separately if you make your own. You can use a gutter strap in place of the clip.
To install a chain, first remove your downspout. Then measure the distance between the bottom of the gutter and the ground to determine how much chain you need.
If you’re using a gutter clip, simply attach it to the chain and hang the chain from the gutter. If you’re using a gutter strap, put the chain on top of the strap, and place the strap in the gutter opening.
Once the chain is hung, attach the stake to the bottom link and hammer the stake into the ground.
Arrange rocks, pebbles, or stones around the stake to help distribute the run-off. If you prefer, put a rain basin (shown at right) below the chain. It will catch small amounts of water, but it’s largely decorative.
Tips for using a rain chain:
Don’t worry if your chain starts to weather. Copper chains take on a handsome patina as they age. Rusted chains have a desirable “antique” look.
To collect water to re-use in your garden, put the end of your rain chain into a rain barrel or other receptacle.
If you have an area that gets a lot of water from your roof, use a double chain, or run a length of wire down the chain vertically to help carry the excess.
To help with ground runoff, plant a rain garden at the end of your chain.
Possibilities for a rain garden include: American holly, serviceberry, beautybush, yaupon, wax myrtle, tickseed, turtlehead, cardinal flower, garden phlox, Rudbeckia, liriope, Indiangrass, red chokeberry, and indigo bush.
Image: Flickr/Sassy Gardener