How to Design a Bog Garden

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A complete departure from the typical manicured and mulched flower garden is the bog garden. Many plants that love moisture, as well as the birds, amphibians and insects that love them, thrive in these pocket-sized wetlands. Follow the guidelines below to stimulate your imagination and design a colorful bog garden that will serve as a micro-habitat for wildlife.

Materials and Tools You Will Need

  • 50 feet of garden hose, stakes and string to plot the layout
  • Large newsprint pad (18 by 30 inches) for sketching the design
  • Books and magazine articles about bog gardening to evoke ideas
  • Soil samples from your selected site

Step 1 - Choose the Location

Decide if you want to grow sun- or shade-loving plants. Then choose the site of your bog. Keep it above the lowest elevation of your property to prevent flooding. For a shady bog, pick an area of your yard near tall pines or other conifers, on the east or southeast side of your yard. For a sunny bog, consider an area on the south or west side of your property, not shaded by any trees. Take a soil sample from the area to determine the soil composition; dig down at least 3 feet. A loamy soil with a high clay percentage is best suited to a bog garden.

Step 2 - Sketch the Shape of Your Bog and Outline It on the Ground

On the newsprint pad, sketch an outline of your bog. A randomly curved shape will be most interesting. The bog bed can be terraced, so plants which prefer the driest conditions will be at the top and those that like the dampest conditions at the bottom.  Include paths through your bog garden to make weeding, deadheading and thinning easier. You can use stepping stones to mark paths in the finished garden. Use the garden hose, stakes and string to outline your bog in its proposed location.

Step 3 - Select the Bog Garden Plants You Want to Use

Plot generally on your large sketch where you will place your bog plants. Ensure that the tall and large plants (like irises) will not cast shade on low plants. Choose perennial plants that will flower and mature at different times in order to maintain a range of color on display all season. Keep in mind how large the plants will grow in 2 to 5 years. Allow adequate space for them to spread.

Typical bog plants include carnivores, like the Venus flytrap and the pitcher plant, and flowers, like bog buttons, lobelia, marsh marigold and bog orchids. Plants with ulignosa ("bog" in Latin) in their name are also ideal for a marsh or bog environment. You may add Japanese and golden-banded iris to your bog garden. Any hemerocallis lilies will suit a bog garden, as will heliotrope with its deep purple color. You may also like loosestrife, with flowers from purple to yellow.

Add plants that will appeal to the wildlife you want in your bog garden. Frogs and toads will enjoy your bog garden if it has a bit of open water with lily pads. Dragonflies and moths like large flowers with wide open heads and a light scent.


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