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How To Make A Bog Or Marsh Garden

Feb 25, 2008
An unusual and beautiful garden can be planted where there is a bog or marsh. A pond is not an essential feature of the bog garden, although its presence is to be desired, for the overflow can be used to feed the marsh. It is essential, however, that the soil of the marsh garden shall be kept in a moist, swampy state through the whole year.


The site of the bog garden must, naturally, be low-lying and where the surface drainage will naturally collect. If the subsoil is of sticky clay, a mere trickle of water will keep the ground in a sufficiently moist condition. Should the subsoil be light and well drained, a certain amount of excavation will be necessary before the bog garden can be made.

Constructing The Bog Garden

Dig out about two feet of the top soil and introduce a little clay to form a basis, over this spread a five-inch bed of rubble or large stones, and then a layer of coarse soil. Now fill the hollow, almost to the level of the surrounding land, with a compost of half loam and half leaf-mould or peat.

Unless a natural flow of water is available, an artificial trickle, just sufficient to keep the bog swampy, must be introduced. Because bog plants should never suffer from drought, the marsh garden should be kept quite moist, but on the other hand must not become stagnant, and it is for this reason that slight bottom drainage is introduced. The bog should never be more than two feet in depth; its extent, of course, will depend on the space available and upon taste.


Paths of rough stones or bricks should be made through the bog, and over these should be placed flat stepping-stones, in order to make every part of the bog accessible.

If these paths are made at varying heights, they may be used to divide the bog into shelving beds, the higher and better-drained of which will accommodate plants not requiring overmuch moisture, while in the lower-lying sites can be grown the real moisture-lovers.

Almost any moisture-loving plant may be used, so may all the subjects that are usually to be found at the margins of streams and ponds, even some of those which at times have six or more inches of water over their crowns; in fact, all plants growing freely in shallow water may also be grown in the bog garden.

Be careful not to overcrowd the plants, rather group together three to five plants of the same kind, leave a space, and again plant a clump of subjects of different colour, type, and height.

This irregularity and variety will please the eye, which would otherwise tend to become surfeited by a mass of the same colour, size, and form.

The actual marsh plants selected will, of course, depend upon the lay-out and size of the garden; the natural surroundings must also be very carefully considered.

If the area is restricted, greater variety and beauty can be obtained by the use of small-growing species; while among extensive surroundings full rein may be given to the freer-growing plants, many of which are invaluable as a background where space permits. It is always necessary, however, to bear in mind the size to which the plants will grow in from two to three years' time, and to arrange them accordingly.

Only a sound knowledge of the habits and rate of growth of the plants introduced and a clear visualization of the picture one is endeavouring to produce can ensure success in this exceedingly difficult matter of planting for future effect.

The novice will certainly find it no easy matter, but he will soon learn by experience. The most usual fault is over-crowding, and he will be wise if he will make up his mind to avoid this at any cost. Let him study the plants in their native haunts, and then, when planting them, endeavour to give them as natural a site as possible.

If he will "follow Nature" as closely as circumstances permit, he will stand a good chance of making a charming and realistic marsh garden.
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