In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
May, 2007
Regional Report

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A bog garden can be planted in a container or in the ground -- either way it will enhance your gardening experience!

Bring in the Bog!

I've never had one intentionally, but I want one. In Irish fairy tales they are the places where mist lingers and slithery things lurk. To most of us, bogs are mysterious places that are best circumvented to avoid muddy boots. Bog gardening is gaining in popularity once again because you can grow plants that require a moist and humid environment, such as lady slipper orchids. As an added bonus, even a small bog in your garden will attract birds, wildlife, and perhaps even a froggy or two.

Bogs are not the same as ponds. Whereas ponds have freestanding water that can accommodate aquatic life such as fish and turtles, bogs are actually slow-draining, low-lying areas with very wet soil. Think of shoe-sucking mud and you'll have the proper mental image of the soil in a bog. Why would anybody want one? Because they are interesting and because you can increase the variety of plants you grow by building this entirely new ecosystem.

It's easy to create a bog garden in an old washtub or by digging a hole directly in the ground and lining it with plastic sheeting. Or you can fill in an unused garden pond with sand, gravel, and soil to achieve the same result. Orchids, ferns, and some enchanting carnivorous plants, such as the cobra plant and sundew, like to keep their feet wet.

When planting your bog garden, it's imperative that you select plants that will tolerate and even thrive with damp roots. Lobelia cardinalis, papyrus, five-finger fern (Adiantum aleuticum), and cannas are ideally suited to this type of gardening.

Bog Gardening 1-2-3
Here's how to make a bog garden of your very own:
1. Select a site in full sun. Fill the bottom of a washtub (or other container that holds water) with large river gravel. You can sink the washtub partially in the ground for a more natural look.

2. Select moisture-loving plants and place them, in their containers, directly on top of the gravel. If smaller containers are too low for the plants to be visible above the rim of the washtub, set them up on bricks. Plants that thrive in a bog include rushes (Juncus), mints, Japanese iris, horsetail (Equisetum), and marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) with its lovely yellow flowers. If you have more room, you might try gunnera, taro (Colocasia), or elephant ears (Alocasia). Siberian iris and tradescantia are also colorful additions to a bog garden.

3. Once the containers are set in place, fill the washtub almost to the rim with a combination of gravel, moss, river sand, and organic compost.

4. Fill the washtub to the rim with water.

A bog will add a new dimension to your garden and will certainly be appreciated by dragonflies, birds, and amphibious creatures. One important suggestion: Build the bog garden in its final location since it will be heavy when full of plants, gravel, sand, and water.


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