Bog gardens: transform your plot!

Bog gardens: transform your plot!

Make the most of a damp patch with a simple and effective bog garden

If you find yourself with a damp, uninspiring patch of garden that you’re at a loss for what to do with, a bog garden could be the perfect solution. The boggy bits may be the result of uneven terrain, poor drainage or proximity to water; whatever the cause, when faced with a waterlogged piece of land your best bet is to work with nature rather than against it. In doing so you’ll be rewarded with a real natural wonderland complete with fantastic and unusual plant life, as well as numerous bird and insect visitors keen to set up home in the ideal new habitat you’ve created for them!

TV gardener Katie Rushworth

Yes, it’s true. Certain plants and animals actually thrive in and around permanently moist soil – though it’s best to avoid setting up your bog garden in areas where there is standing water, or where the ground is flooded for long periods. Spring is the best time to establish your bog garden, because the climate is usually just right to provide plants with everything they need to thrive in time for summer.

If you don’t have an existing bog garden but you’d like one, the good news is that they can be created fairly easily over a weekend, with a bit of elbow grease and some easily-accessible resources. If this is a project that seems up your street, here are some quick pointers on creating a bog garden on your plot. There are plenty of detailed tutorials online, so feel free to brush up on some extra research on the kind of plants that will work for your area – different bog garden plants prefer different levels of soil acidity etc.

Creating your bog garden
If you’re familiar with the process of building a pond, then you’ll have some idea of the task ahead. First you’ll need to select an area of your garden that is reasonably flat, and exposed to a good amount of sunlight – around five hours daily is ideal. Make sure the spot is away from overhanging trees, then dig a hole around 30-40cm deep. Take care that the hole isn’t too big, or it may become unmanageable. Next take a conventional pond liner, make a few drainage slits, and line the hole with it.

If you’ve dug your hole into grass, take the turf and lay it in on top of the liner grass side down to create a nutrient-rich first layer. Then, you’ll just need to fill the hole with good organic soil, some compost and some organic matter like twigs and leaves, and water the soil thoroughly until it’s thoroughly wet. Rainwater is ideal for this, especially if your soil is acidic – but if tap water is your only option, that’s fine too! Just make sure you leave the soil to settle for a few days before planting.

If you’ve already got an ideal boggy patch in your garden, then lucky you! You can jump straight into the fun bit…

Bog garden tips from Katie Rushworth

Flickr: crabchick

Ideal plants for your bog garden
Now it’s time to start the fun task of selecting some plants and flowers for your bog garden! The kind of plants that thrive in constantly moist soil are really nice and varied – from fluffy ferns and tiny, delicate blooms to super-sized, prehistoric looking giant varieties. A good tip is to look out for the Latin names of plants; palustris and ulignosus mean bog or marsh, so plants with these words in the name are ideal.
Here are some suggestions to look out for:

  • Gunnera manicata has huge, flat leaves that provide a perfect backdrop for more delicate and colourful plants. Place them at the back of your arrangement for variety and structure, as well as welcome shade for visiting animals and insects.
  • Caltha palustris is otherwise known as marsh marigold – it’s all in the name! This is a pretty, low-slung plant that has bright yellow blooms in spring and summer and requires very little maintenance.
  • Try Lythrum salicaria for a splash of drama. These tall, elegant plants are extremely hardy, and the variety purple loosestrife has stunning purple blooms that bees and butterflies can’t resist.
Bog garden tips and tricks from Katie Rushworth

Flickr: mako

Once you’ve selected your favourite plants, there are loads of fun ways to decorate your bog garden. If you’re dealing with a larger plot, you might want to place railway sleepers or stepping stones as a pathway, and if your bog surrounds a body of water, a bridge provides a great vantage point for admiring your work. Pinterest is a favourite resource of mine for checking out some imaginative garden design ideas, so have some fun deciding how your bog garden will develop!