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Plants for the Bog Garden

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 10 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
Bog Garden Plants Hostas Iris Primulas

A well constructed bog garden adds a lot to the pond, helping to make it appear as a natural feature of the landscape by blurring the otherwise sharp transition between water and land and opening up the opportunity to enjoy a whole new range of plants.

Although their flowering season is quite short, bog plants more than make up for it in other ways.

Offering an unrivalled range of foliage shapes and colours – and growing from a few inches tall to over 6ft (1.8m) – whatever look you’re trying to achieve, you shouldn’t have a problem finding something to suit.

Old Favourites

It’s impossible to discuss moisture-loving plants without mentioning Hostas. Readily available from garden centres, online or by mail order, Hostas come in an wide range of colours – from blue through emerald green to yellow – and often with attractively variegated leaves.

Depending on the variety, they grow to between 18 inches and 3 feet (45 – 90cm) tall and throw up flowering spikes of bell-shaped blooms in July and August.

Unfortunately, they do seem to be a magnet for slugs – so be warned!

Irises are another well established favourite in the bog garden, whether you opt for the native Yellow Flag ( Iris pseudacorus) to plant beside a wildlife pond, or some of the cultivated versions such as the striking white and gold flowered I. orchroleuca. Other irises to consider include the likes of I. ensata (Purple Glory) and I. sibirica (Perry’s) – which also comes in pygmy varieties, making it ideal for the smaller garden.

The showy flowering heads of the Lobelias guarantee these tall plants with their typically pink or red flowers a strong following amongst pond keepers.

'Queen Victoria' – one of the largest varieties – makes one of the most striking candidates for the bog garden, with tall upright beetroot-coloured foliage and bright red flowers, though unfortunately like most Lobelia, it’s not a particularly hardy plant and needs winter protection in areas prone to frosts. Lobelia cardinalis, L. fulgens and a hybrid form, L. geradii, are also good varieites to plant.

The Exotic Look

While using these well known bog plants will lend a very traditional feel to the pond surroundings, if you’re looking for something a little different in your garden design, there are one or two kinds which will give your landscape a distinctly exotic look.

In no time at all, the likes of the Ostrich-Feather Fern (Matteuccia), Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera) and Ornamental Rhubarb (Rheum) can transform the appearance of your garden – but you will need a fair bit of space to accommodate them.

The Ostrich-Feather Fern looks very delicate and adds an almost tropical look to the bog garden, with its feathery fronds and a tall but narrow growth habit – some 3ft tall (90cm), but with a spread of less than half that – making for a very upright plant.

Despite its rather fragile appearance, this fern is hardy and surprisingly resilient.

Gunnera manicata is one of those 'once seen, never forgotten' plants, with its massive, rhubarb-like leaves stretching perhaps 5ft (1.5m) across and growing to a towering 8ft (2.4m) or more. A plant this big needs a lot of space, so it’s definitely not one for the average suburban garden!

However, there are smaller varieties to try if the exotic look appeals, including G. scabra which grows to a height of around 6ft (1.8m) and the tiny 2 inch tall (5cm) G. magellanica.

As a slightly easier to grow alternative to Gunnera, Ornamental Rhubarb (Rheum) is well worth considering, since it is less fussy about its growing environment, tolerating shade and slightly drier conditions.

It’s still a tall plant, reaching 6 feet (1.8m) or more, but its summer plumes of small flowers and the attractive foliage colours of some of the varieties available make it an excellent specimen plant to include, where space allows. For smaller gardens, the variety R. palmatum 'Ace of Hearts' is ideal, only growing to around 2ft (60cm) in height, but offering the same striking flowers in May or June.

Others to Consider

Other plants worth considering for the bog garden include:

  • 'Candelabra primulas', especially Primula pulverulenta.
  • Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), a sprawler, ideal for ground-cover.
  • Dotted Loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata) an upright plant with star-shaped flowers.
  • Polygonum (Knotweed), especially the non-invasive P. milletii.
  • Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) a wildflower, now with cultivated varieties.
  • Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), another native British species.

Bog gardens are often seen as bringing the finishing touch to the pond, helping to integrate it into the rest of the garden landscape, but with a little imaginative planting – and some well-chosen plants – you can also make yours into a striking feature in its own right.

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