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Bog Garden

The Garden Bloggers Design Workshop over at is on water in the garden this month. That made me think about our bog garden, which is so successful that we’ve been taking it for granted. But, it didn’t start out that way.

We have a difficult spot in a very visible place in the backyard. Here, the slope of the berm meets the slope of the lawn, and they both meet the drainage from a downspout. It was just wet enough that nothing would grow there, not even grass.

One day, I decided that the solution was to make it even wetter and create a bog garden. Dan was working around the other side of the house and I was nearly finished pick-axing through the first inch of clay, when I heard him scream, “What are you doing, you’ll kill yourself!” Music to my ears, this sentence usually means Dan will do the rest of the digging.

After we excavated a shallow, irregular shape, we backfilled it with two different sizes of stone, and topped it off with enough soil to plant something that didn’t require too much depth.

To fill it up my friend, Diane, offered some Ligularia and irises. The caveat was that she had no idea what color the irises were, since her own iris garden had become too shady over the years and just grew leaves. But, even the leaves were lovely. We added some primroses at the very front.

The bog planting looked scrawny, but I thought, “It will grow.” Well, those of you who are already hooked can probably guess the rest of the story. After only three years, the iris rhizomes were the size of Idaho potatoes and their number tripled. At this point, I’ve sorted them by color and have begun interspersing them into other borders.

The Ligularia have spread enough that I can start thinning them out to populate other parts of the garden next year. Growing in a bog allows them to tolerate quite a bit more sun ( 8+ hours) than you would expect and they are covered with flowers every August. The bog needs occasional help from a hose during very dry periods, but this year, I don’t think I’ve had to water more than twice.

Because my bog is wet and not soggy, there has been no problem with the water seeping out onto the lawn and no ruts from the lawn mower. So, if you have a spot where nothing wants to grow, check to see whether it’s too wet for what you’ve been planting --- you might just have the makings of a bog garden.


Nan Ondra said...

A great solution to a tough site, Lois. I wouldn't have thought that bearded irises would be happy in the same conditions as ligularias, but they're obviously both thriving.

Jan said...

I have a low area in my garden where I planted Louisiana Irises and on the edge a hydrangea. All of them have done very well. It is amazing how easy working with nature can be instead of trying to fight it.

Always Growing

John said...

Interesting site..You give me all kinds of ideas..

joco said...

We've just built a marginal garden on a very dry site under a huge cherry tree. Also a problem spot, but we are approaching it from the other end of the too wet-too dry scale.

Pond liner and sifted leaf mold mostly. I needed a place for primula bulleyana and bunged about 60 of them in there. Probably takes years before they flower. Hope is a great thing :-)

I was amazed to learn how many marginal plants there are. Some ordinary ones that will be happy in ordinary soil too. Another experiment is to see how fritillaria maleagris will do there, seeing that we do not have a damp meadow.

It is very popular now over here and garden centres sell what looks like discarded baths, complete with plug and masses of different marginal plants; some completely submerged in water.