Bog gardens are wonderful places – a no-man’s-land where the watery world of the pond meets the rest of the garden – and picking the right plants can make all the difference to how everything all comes together. Have a look here is you want learn how to build and make a bog garden.
With so many different suitable varieties available, anyone thinking about planting a bog garden can sometimes be spoilt for choice, so here are some old favourites which are guaranteed to be winners, whether you’re looking for early flowers, a splash of summer colour, or a magnet to attract wildlife.
Good plants for early flowering are…
1. Marsh Marigold
Although strictly speaking it’s a marginal, the native (Caltha palustris) is a long established favourite for the bog garden. In April, its lush dark green foliage and showy yellow flowers, which look like huge, waxy buttercups, bring an unmistakable blast of early colour to the pond edges and kick-starts the water garden’s flowering season.
Cultivated forms include C. palustris ‘Plena’, an attractive variation with prolific double flowers that make it look like a mini yellow pom-pom Chrysanthemum, or the ‘Alba’ variety, which – as the name suggests – has white flowers. A small pond plant in stature – at nine inches (23cm), it is only around half the height of the wild form – ‘Alba’ makes an ideal bog plant for the smaller site, while for larger ponds the giant of the family, C. polypetala, is well worth considering.
2. Monkey Flower
Monkey flower Mimulus, is another group of marginal plants that do well in the bog garden, bringing a display of small, snap dragon-like flowers to the pond during the summer. Yellows again tend to be the favourite colour scheme, with the likes of M. luteus and M. guttatus – which are both to be found in the British countryside – being fairly typical examples, growing to a foot (30 cm) or so in height.
The taller, purple-flowering M. ringens is well worth including for a little variety if space allows; this plant prefers the wetter end of the bog garden, and will happily tolerate year-round submersion, while M. cardinalis and cupreus will not, making them the true bog garden candidates of the Mimulus clan.
Some plants to add more colour…
Often encountered in the herbaceous border, Astilbes are one of the best bog plants of all. Low maintenance perennials, they offer a striking architectural shape, with fern-like foliage supporting dense, feathery plumes of tiny, but prolific flowers in the summer.
There’s an Astilbe to suit just about any planting scheme, with most popular kinds tending to be the colourful varieties of A. arendsii – the likes of the red ‘Fire’ and ‘Fanal’ cultivars, the pink ‘Bressingham Beauty’, liliac-pink ‘Amethyst’ and the white ‘Deutschland’ and ‘White Gloria’.
All of these varieties grow to around two to three feet (60 – 90 cm) tall, and spread to about half as much in width. They look at their absolute best in a mass of waving foliage, but even as a lone example where space is an issue, a well chosen specimen is hard to beat – and there are even some dwarf varieties available, such as the suitably named A. crispa ‘Lilliput’ or A. simplicifolia ‘Sprite’, so no bog garden need be without these showy plants.
2. Day Lily
Day lilies (Hemerocallis) are firm favourites for the moist soil of the bog garden, with a long flowering period, from June or early July through to September. As their common name suggests, each individual bloom only lasts a single day, but since they produce new buds continually throughout the season, the plant is never without a show of trumpet-shaped flowers.
There are many species and thousands of cultivars to choose from, with numerous hybrid forms having been specially bred to give the gardener the widest possible range of colours and sizes, from dwarf forms little more than one-foot (30 cm) high, right up to four foot (1.2 metre) monsters. The original ‘type’ form of this plant typically has dull reddish yellow petals, but now varieties such as ‘Pink Damask’ and ‘Luxury Lace’ (lavender) provide a much wider choice, cementing this useful plant’s place in any list of top candidates for the bog garden.
Planting to attract wildlife…
1. Creeping Jenny
The versatile native Lysimachia nummularia, is a great ground-cover plant around the pond, growing dense two-inch (5 cm) tall mats of sprawling fresh-looking foliage, which sprouts a profusion of yellow, star-shaped flowers from June to August. It’s a particularly useful species to use under taller bog plants, helping to reduce any unwanted growth and slow down evaporation from the soil, while also softening the edges between the bog garden and the pond itself, with its floating leaves. This makes Creeping Jenny a particularly useful addition to the wildlife pond, since its shoots provide plenty of hiding places for amphibians and other small, damp-loving species, as well as forming a good way in and out of the water for them.
2. Purple Loosestrife
This striking native wildflower is excellent for the wildlife bog garden, attracting bees and butterflies with its nectar-rich purple/red flowers, providing a valuable food source for hawk moth caterpillars, and offering an ideal overwintering home for insects amid its dense foliage.
The wild form of Lythrum salicaria can make around six feet (1.8 metres) in height, which means it can be a bit too big for some gardens, but smaller cultivated varieties are now available – such as ‘Beacon’, ‘Firecandle’ or ‘Robert’ which grow no more than half as tall. Alternatively, the related Wand or Rocket Loosestrife (Lythrum virgatum) is even smaller, which may appeal to gardeners with smaller sites to fill, though it has a bit of a reputation for being invasive, so it may need to be kept under control if conditions suit it too well!
There are plenty of other well-known bog garden favourites, of course – from hostas and irises to lobelias and giant rhubarb – so whatever planting scheme or overall ‘look’ appeals you’re sure to find something that fits the bill. After all, it’s your bog garden; enjoy planting whatever you like best yourself.
More blog plants!
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.
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.
A big list of bog plants for your pond:
Upright white flowering plumes (Goats Beard) blooming in June. Suitable for moist to wet soil in a sunny or partially shaded bog garden.
Rounded heads of pink flowers on tall stems before round leaves. Suitable for moist to wet soil in a sunny or partially shaded bog garden.
90cm (36’’ - 3’)
British Native clusters of pink flower heads loved by bees and butterflies. Suitable for moist conditions in a sunny or partially shaded garden.
EUPATORIUM FORTUNEI PINK FROST
Pink flower heads loved by bees and butterflies with striking white variegated foliage. Suitable for moist conditions in a sunny or partially shaded garden.
Clusters of white flowers on this Native Meadowsweet blooming from June to August. Suitable for wet to moist soil in sun or partial shade.
60 – 90cm (24"- 36")
British Native nodding flower heads of brown/peach. Suitable for wet mud or moist soil in a sunny or partially shaded moist or bog garden.
HESPERANTHA (Schizostylis) COCCINEA 'PINK'
Pink flowers open along a stem with spiky foliage (Kaffir Lily) in September to October. Suitable for rich moist soil in sun.
IRIS ROBUSTA DARK AURA
Peach flowers on purple stems on a broad green leaf blooming from May to June. Suitable for wet mud in a sunny stream edge or bog garden.
60 – 75cm (24" - 30")
IRIS SIBIRICA RIGAMAROLE
Double lilac flowers blooming in June-July. Suitable for rich moist soil in a sunny site.
LIGULARIA DENTATA DESDEMONA
Large leaves tinted maroon and orange daisy flowers blooming in July-August. Suitable for moist soil in a partially shaded bog garden.
LYCHNIS FLO-CUCULI (Mixed Colours)
Masses of star-shaped pink and white flowers on branching stems blooming in late spring. Suitable for moist soil in a partially shaded bog garden.
LYCHNIS FLO-CUCULI (Ragged Robin) British Native
Masses of star-shaped pink flowers on branching stems blooming in late spring. Suitable for moist soil in a partially shaded bog garden.
LYCHNIS FLO-CUCULI WHITE ROBIN
Masses of star-shaped white flowers on branching stems blooming from May to July. Suitable for moist soil in a partially shaded bog garden.
PRIMULA BEESIANA (Candelabra Primula)
Purple flowers in 4-6 tiered whorls blooming in June-July. Suitable for moist soil in a partially shaded bog garden.
PRIMULA BULLEYANA (Candelabra Primula)
Orange flowers in 4-6 tiered whorls blooming in June-July. Suitable for moist soil in a partially shaded bog garden.
Flowers in 4-6 tiered whorls, range of colors from white to red
Umbels of yellow bell-shaped fragrant flowers, British native
Slow-growing with violet pincushion-type flowers
Last Modified: March 31, 2023