Synthetic ecosystems such as rain gardens, green roofs, engineered wetlands and urban meadows are becoming increasingly popular for their intrinsic environmental and ecological benefits as well as for their aesthetic value. But, as in many emerging technologies, communication between the academic institutions generating basic and applied science and the design disciplines is not as efficient as it could be, and strengthening this link will improve the performance of these systems. The case study serves to illustrate the process of linking research, design and implementation. Scientific research, performed by the authors and found in the literature, is used to inform design, and design challenges are used to suggest avenues of research. The research itself is briefly outlined where appropriate, but the focus of this paper is the process of linking science and design in a feedback loop.