For centuries, gardeners in Japan and other parts of Asia have used rain chains to guide runoff from gutters into stone pots or other rain-collecting basins. The water collected was then used in the home for drinking, cooking and washing. Known in Japan as “kusari doi,” traditional rain chains were comprised of linked metal cups with holes in the bottom, which hung vertically from each other so that rain runoff could flow down the chain through each cup. Elaborately designed rain chains even adorned ancient Japanese temples. There is also evidence that rain chains were used for collecting water in ancient South America.
Today, rain chains are used by gardeners worldwide, mainly as decorative alternatives to downspouts. Water from decorative rain chains can be collected in rain barrels, basins, ponds or bird baths. The water collected is normally used for watering the garden. While rain water can simply run down the rain chains directly into the earth below, naturally providing water to landscape beds or plants, erosion can occur so it is recommended that you use stones, pavers or a splash pad beneath instead. You can also build a small drain or dry stream bed with decorative rocks to control the direction of rain chain runoff and prevent soil erosion. Rain chains can also be hung directly above shrubs with high water needs, so the water gets down into the base of the plant.
Rain chains are hung on the gutters, just below the hole where a downspout is usually attached. As rain water rushes through the gutters and then down a rain chain, it not only adds visual appeal, but makes a calming sound of water pinging against the metal. The ultimate design of the rain chain controls how water will run down and the sound or visual effect it will have. Rain chains designed in the traditional cup-style tend to be less splashy and make better sounds than other decorative rain chain designs. They are better for sites near a door, window or enclosed seating area where you can see and hear the water run down the chain.
Happy Gardens is an online retailer of rain chains, garden statues, stakes, spinners and other garden décor. Each of their rain chains are handcrafted by artisans from around the world, so you can find a multitude of designs. The Happy Gardens’ rain chains have traditional cup-style designs, such as flower or watering can shaped cups, as well as whimsical rain chains in various designs that include umbrellas, owls or butterflies. Many of their rain chain designs have matching counterparts for other areas of garden décor, allowing you to collect rain water from the end of a decorative rain chain into a birdbath with the same or similar design, for example.
Rain chains are a decorative, charming way to make use of rain water. Whether the water is harvested below a rain chain or not, these chains still utilize natural rain for visual and audial interest in the garden. When water is collected in barrels or basins from rain chains, they become not just a decorative piece but also a functioning water system that can save you a little money on watering.