An Unlikely Friendship, Brought on By Rain





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Elliot (left) and Zena (right) stand in front of their rain garden. Photo by Mary Hall

By Mary Hall   mhall@thesuntimesnews.com

To talk to Zena Ealovega of Saline, Michigan over the phone, one would never know she is 70 years old.  Indeed, she sounds more like someone in their thirties explaining how her rain garden came to be, and how help from a young man named Elliot Ramsey helped make it possible.

Zena was experiencing some real problems with her backyard flooding due to its position between neighbors on both sides. When several landscapers tried and failed to correct the problem, she decided to get educated.  She’d learned of a class given by Washtenaw County’s Water Resource Department, and dove right in.  After completing the Master Rain Gardener Class, she was ready to apply what she’d learned to her own property.  She simply needed help with some of the manual labor.



Enter Elliot Ramsey, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Saline Middle School who was looking for summer work at the time. Zena describes Elliot as “a hard worker, reliable, polite and an all-around good kid.” And while the work started in the summer, it continues, and Elliot finds time between basketball, running for class president, participating in a spelling bee, and being on the swim team to continue to help Zena with the rain garden.

Other than calling Ms. Dig to make sure they weren’t hitting anything they shouldn’t, no special permits were required to redirect the water which is, in essence, how Zena’s rain garden works. She and Elliot put in underground drain pipes from the storm water that was collecting in her backyard, and ran them under the ground the length of her backyard, her house, and approximately ¾ of her front yard where the water drains into her rain garden.

The garden itself is about 350 square feet, and grows perennials.  Featured in Zena’s garden are Batesia, Aster, Obedient Plant, Nodding, and Wild Onions to name a few that make up the 238 plants in the rain garden.  “A rain garden filters rainwater and soaks into the ground quickly and protects rivers and creeks from pollution and reduces flooding,” explained Zena.  “A rain garden also creates beautiful garden-scapes throughout the growing season and recharges the water table and revitalizes our yard.  It provides food and shelter for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects.”

I think it’s fair to say that Zena had good luck in two areas; her rain garden is doing what she intended, and she has found a good friend in Elliot Ramsey. Perhaps that the best bloom of all.

To learn more about creating your own rain garden, go to: https://www.washtenaw.org/675/Master-Rain-Gardener-Class.

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Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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