Having a waterlogged or boggy bit of garden is not always inspiring and the immediate impulse may be to install drainage, but by working with nature it is possible to provide another really valuable habitat in your garden.
As well as adapting an existing soggy area, a bog garden can be created from scratch, either at the edge of a pond or as a standalone feature. Permanently damp, it creates an area where moisture-loving plants thrive, but these will be different from those suited to the standing water of a pond.
A bog garden may be a better option than a pond for families with young children. Like a pond it should also attract frogs and toads, possibly even grass snakes. Dragonflies and damselflies will perch on the taller grasses and other plants will attract bees and butterflies.
In your garden
- Work out the size of your proposed bog garden – laying out a length of rope or hose helps. Beware of making it very large as it will be harder to maintain and stepping stones may be required!
- Unlike pond plants, bog plants thrive in soil with high nutrient levels which contain lots of organic matter.
- There is a huge range of exciting bog plants from striking gunneras to tiny water forget-me-nots; there are grasses and ferns, lilies and brightly painted wildflowers. A little research will reveal their partialities, for instance whether they are sun- or shade-loving, the degree of damp and acidity preferred, and the amount space they require, as well as whether they have any bad habits (like running riot).
- Making an artificial bog is very like making a pond. Pick a spot on level ground away from overhanging trees.
- Then it’s just a matter of digging a hole about 30cm (12in) deep, laying a butyl liner, making a few drainage slits and returning the excavated soil mixed with some organic material to the hole. More detailed information about this can be found in the links below.
- Water the soil thoroughly. Try to use rainwater, especially if the soil is acid. If tap water is the only means of filling, let it stand for a few days to allow any additives break down. Leave the soil to settle for about a week before planting up.
- If you’re digging your bog garden into turf, place the sods grass-side down around its edge for an instant, nutrient-rich planting medium.
- If a bog garden’s not possible, a miniature version can be created in a container, and planted up. This will probably tend to dry out more quickly so will need topping up with water more frequently.
- Palustris and ulignosus mean bog or marsh in Latin, so look out for these words in the names of plants, eg. Caltha palustris. It indicates they are totally appropriate for this environment.