blog post - plants for bog gardens
A few years ago when I worked in the south of France, dry gardens were ‘haute couture’ and for
those with lusher, greener dreams, irrigation systems were a must. In the west of Scotland, we
don’t have that problem. Lack of water? Ha! But with increasingly common spells of almost
constant drizzle and exceptionally heavy rainfall becoming less, well, exceptional, we have a
problem at the other end of the scale - poor drainage.
There can be a whole bunch of reasons why your garden or a particular area in it doesn't drain
well. And there are a number of solutions ranging from the addition of organic matter to improve
soil structure to the more radical and costly installation of drainage systems. But what if we
stopped looking at poor drainage as a problem and started looking at it as an opportunity. Very
boggy, wet areas in the garden aren't a total write off for planting. There are many species that
thrive with wet feet. Here are just a few to try in your own garden.
I’m a massive fan of the dark cherry red, fluffy flowers produced by Astilbe ‘Fanal’. This false
goatsbeard is happy in soggy conditions and clay soil in full sun or partial shade. The dark green
foliage is a gorgeous contrast for the striking flowers.
Iris psuedoacorus has stiff, sword shaped leaves and bright yellow flowers appearing in May. For
something a little less in your face try Iris siberica ‘White Swirl’. The white falls (incorrectly
referred to as petals) are marked with a yellow blotch at their base. This cultivar looks great
planted in generous swathes in a bog garden or beside a pond.
Persicaria bistorta ‘Superba’ loves wet soil. This vigorous perennial makes a dense carpet of semi
evergreen leaves above which tower dense spikes of baby pink flowers from July to October.
I’m sure many will groan at the mention of this next plant but personally, I love it. Gunnera
manicata is a superb architectural plant with a hint of the tropical about it. Only plant it if you've
got plenty of space though because its a biggy! When the leaves die down in the autumn, fold
them over the crown of the plant in winter for some added protection.
Rodgersia pinnata can take a while to establish but is very happy in areas with poor drainage.
The leaves look like those of a horse chestnut and the flowers are light pink and delicate. I
particularly love the cultivar ‘Chocolate Wings’. The name says it all.
Primula pulverulenta is a moisture loving candelabra primula that produces tiers of dark reddish
purple flowers in late spring and early summer. A woodland plant, they perform best in partial
Lastly, we see them most often as houseplants but Zantedeschia aethiopica is great in a bog
garden. And like Gunnera, its adds a little tropical with a touch of class. Its semi evergreen so will
need cutting back in winter as the leaves turn brown and mushy. Its sure to brighten up any dark,
wet spot in the garden and you can cut the flowers for the house too!