Heights Living: Water Under the Bridge.

Bayland Ave.  Woodland Heights.
Most streets in the Heights look like the picture above, with a typical sidewalk and curb; but in other parts of the neighborhood there occurs a curious landscaping and infrastructure phenomenon: The Swale or Bioswale.

As restoration and new construction sweeps the community, sidewalks that were once abandoned and neglected are being revitalized in this ecological way.

A Bioswale is a a landscape feature designed to drain water while at the same time remove silt and pollution from surface runoff.  It consists of a channeled course with gently sloping sides and filled with vegetation, compost, or gravel.  The channel will conduct water to a sewage system.

Typical Bioswale and Culvert Bridge.  Houston Heights.
While most of the swales found in the Heights are very simple (a grassy channel with a small culvert bridge to access the house), some neighbors view their swales as an extension of the front yard and as an opportunity to ornament the neighborhood.  Here are some examples:

A Bridge to match the picket fence of this Victorian house.

These two culvert bridges were built and paved with Pennsylvania Stone.
These neighbors built themselves a mini "Grand Canyon" in their swale, to match their gravel drive and pathways.  The bottom of the swale was appropriately left unpaved.

And these neighbors have a whole garden growing in their swale, complete with several species of ground covers and flowers.


Here is a little bridge, and if you look carefully, you'll see that there are garden gnomes hidden among the grass clumps!
More Bridges:

And my favorite, it even has a weather vane:

All images by NPL.



Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Nadia:
What very varied treatments of the swale [a term not known to us as in the UK we think what you show would be called a ditch]. Some of the bridges are most attractive, and quite expensive, we imagine. Do the local council not mind people personalising the swale outside of their property? Clearly not.

And yes, we did see the gnomes!!

Dear Polia said...

Jane & Lance:
The bridges and stone pavers can add up to a pretty penny; but just a simple culvert bridge and well kept grass can be quite attractive.
To answer your question:
Houston receives so much rain every year that the streets flood during a heavy storm, and in bad cases so will the bayous. Therefore the zoning ordinances are very careful to regulate the amount of pervious vs impervious surfaces allowed per neighborhood. The presence of plant life in a swale (drainage ditch) is actually good because the plants not only purify surface runoff, but absorb it (excess water doesn't clog the sewer system). City government charges a lower drainage fee for properties that drain with this system.

Jennifer said...

I always find your posts so interesting and lovely... I like how homeowners take such pride in their homes, and express their creativity and individuality in such a practical/necessary property feature... I saw the gnome. :)

Jamie said...

i didn't know about the drainage & i live in the heights. great post! don't you love our neighborhood?!!

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