A bog garden is a beautiful way to landscape a garden or even a backyard and displays water plants naturally and beautifully. It is also a good solution for an area in a garden that is low and tends to collect water. The soil in a bog garden needs to be kept moist at all times, so a pond can be useful with an overflow to feed the damp area.
Before beginning to create and plant a bog garden, the type of soil present in the desired area needs to be ascertained. If there is a lot of clay subsoil, then a very small amount of water every day will keep the area sufficiently moist. If the subsoil is light and well-drained, then the area will need to be excavated and different soil added before the bog garden is planted. A bog garden needs full sun for at least five hours a day and should preferably be away from tall trees.
Natural Bog Gardens
Natural bogs have a very low oxygen level which does not allow dead plant matter to decay. The leaves and twigs that fall build up in a thick layer that becomes peat. In natural bogs, the water comes mainly from rainfall which causes the ground to be acidic and have a low mineral content. It is the combination of full sun and constantly moist ground that support the plants specific to bog gardens to grow to optimum beauty.
Building your own bog garden
The best place to create a bog garden is in a place that naturally collects water and has enough sunlight. If a bog garden is desired but a naturally wet spot does not exist, a spot can be created in a place with enough sunlight. A constant natural source of water would be ideal, however, this can be arranged through watering. For the plants to reach their peak, the garden should never experience drought.
First, the basin should be prepared. One to two feet of soil should be removed and the sides of the basin should be straight. If the garden has problems with tunneling rodents, the basin should be lined with a galvanized hardware cloth or screening or weed cloth. Make sure the material is rot or rust-resistant.
On top of the screen, 4 to 6ml plastic sheeting should be put. Make sure it is large enough because the edges can be trimmed after installation. In the base of the plastic liner, cut ten-inch slits every 10 – 12 inches to allow drainage. Most of the moisture needs to be kept in the bog, but it shouldn’t get stagnant, this is why drainage is important. Two to three inches of wet river sand, not beach sand, can be put on top of the plastic liner.
After the initial preparation, the basin can be filled with a well-mixed combination of one part coarse river sand, two parts peat-based compost, and one part loam-based soil. The mixture should be damp and can be tamped in place to reduce settling. The basin should be filled to one inch or so below the existing soil level. The lining can be trimmed to near ground level, then hidden with rocks, garden ornaments, and mulch.
Almost any moisture-loving pond plants will thrive in a bog garden. They can be found near streams and ponds and even growing in the water. Most plants for bog gardens need to be planted in the spring or autumn. Some plants that love marshy areas are Bog Myrtle, Bee Balm, Cranberry, Sundew, Blazing Star, Cardinal Flower, and Pine Hibiscus.
The tall plants should be planted in the back of the bog and the small plants near the front or viewing area. Three or four plants of the same variety should be planted together for a natural effect, and there should be a small space between groups.
If the bog garden is planted near a pond that overflows or a stream it may not be necessary to constantly keep the ground moist. If watering is required, one possibility is a soaker hose buried about three inches in the bog and about two feet apart. One of the beauties of a bog garden is its low maintenance, but if desired, the garden can be hand-watered, usually about every five days.
Learning how to make and plant a bog garden correctly is not difficult and the rewards are many. It will result in a fantastic, diverse display of plants and flowers that are much needed by our native amphibians as natural wildlife habitats are continually being lost. It is also a good source for cut flowers and a wonderful habitat for many other animals and insects like birds, butterflies, newts, and dragonflies.