A Stuck Foot in the Bog Garden

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One nice thing about gardening is that plants are usually so forgiving.  

~Edward C. Smith  

 

The picture above is what you will see if you go outside the fence and look into the corner of the Bog Garden in early autumn.  It is almost an extenuation of the meadow; pretty wild.  But right now it does not look like this.  It is in its dormant stage; brown, faded, cut back and covered in snow.  Still wild and pretty though like this seedhead of Joe Pye found throughout this garden area. 

This post is a continuation of the review of the backyard left corner garden or what I call, The Bog DSCN8200Garden.  I showed this garden through the seasons in my Garden Journal post a couple of weeks ago.  And I thought it would be nice to see it up close, although there isn’t much to see out there right now.  

We had a thaw right around the New Year so it was easy to see this area in all its wet glory, although it wasn’t nearly as flooded as it can get.  The pictures look like they were taken in the morning, but actually it was around 1pm when the sun shines barely over the trees and through the space between our house and our neighbor’s.  It is bright and glaring, yet still golden with long shadows; a unique winter light.

I am using the Stuck Foot method to review this area in depth.  What is the Stuck Foot method/post?  Lucy@Loose and Leafy created this idea, and as Lucy says:

A stuck foot post is where you plant your foot firmly in a roughly random place and see what you can see without moving. Best is when you plant both feet but sometimes, as in this post, where you are on a slope or some other kind of difficult ground you may need to move the other around for the sake of balance. But you mustn’t move the ‘stuck’ foot. You can bend your body this way and that. You can lean forward and twist at the waist – but you mustn’t swivel that stuck-foot.

 

My last Stuck Foot post was in November where I reviewed the Center Garden between the trees.  I am once again linking in with Lucy for her Stuck Foot meme which happens every other month on the 21st.  

 

 

So here we go……..

 

path collageAs we exit from the back of the house and descend the steps (top left), we can see the left corner of the garden bathed in bright sunlight (bottom left).  Turning left, we move from the brick patio to the grass path (top right) and continue around the patio garden and to the left of the arch (bottom right).  We are headed to the those tree stumps in the center picture.

 

 

 

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And here we are facing the Bog Garden.  Can you see my shadow taking the picture?  I am surrounded by water that floods this area of the garden, but there is a small area where I can stand in the middle of the Bog Garden between the stumps.  So let’s go there.

 

 

 

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And this is where we were just standing beside that puddle.  Can you see my boot prints in the muddy lawn.  The lawn is resilient and will recover.  And you can see the horseshoe-shaped rain garden to the right.  It should help with all this flooding, but it doesn’t. 

So why is there a big puddle here?  Well when the lawn was put in, the area was not graded properly so the water pools here.  We need to raise the left side of the area so the water drains to the Bog Garden and into the rain garden.

The land was originally graded so everything drained to this corner where there was a gully that ran along the fence line and back to the main drainage gully behind the meadow.  When I planned the garden, I didn’t want a gully with a huge open area running under the fence so we filled it in….yikes was that a mistake.

And to make matters worse, when we filled in the area, we put sand on top of the clay and then added compost on top of that.  Anyone who has added sand to clay will tell you that it actually makes the clay area worse and creates a wet area that actually doesn’t drain; in essence a bog.

 

 

 

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This is the rain garden we created to help with the drainage, but the water overflows right into the Bog Garden in the foreground.

The area here is pretty scraggly.  It has lots of Joe Pye, goldenrod or Solidago, daylilies, Rudbeckias and ferns.  The tree that sits on the edge of the rain garden is a native bald cypress or Taxodium distichum.  It loses its needles every fall, and it loves wet areas.  Perfect here, but being bullied by goldenrod and Joe Pye.

 

 

 

near rain garden collage

As you can see in this mucky mess, there are also iris; some native Iris versicolor, and some Japanese iris.  There is also an unnamed evergreen that has not grown much in this wet clay.  I think it needs to be rescued too.

 

 

 

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If we move a little further right we see some of the shrubs.  This is an American Cranberry bush or Viburnum trilobum which loves the wet muck.  Unfortunately, it is swallowed whole by the rudbeckias and Joe Pye not giving it much of a chance to really grow.

 

 

 

bog daff collage

As we move toward the corner, we can see the base of ‘William Baffin’ rose, an ornamental grass, I still need to identify, and a rose obelisk.   Yes I have a climbing rose in this area, but it is drier where it is located.  And yes those are daffodils peaking through at the end of December into January.  They will still be there once the snow melts again ready to grow.  The daffs do not mind being wet, and have not rotted yet as they continue to naturalize here.

 

 

 

rose corner collage

Here’s the same view but I am looking up seeing rose hips and the swamp rose (bottom right), I forgot I planted here.  

 

 

 

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There are also some hydrangeas back here though they don’t flower except for the one pictured here.  The tag was still with it.  I had no recollection I planted a ‘Limelight’ hydrangea along the fence in this area.

 

 

 

hibiscus seedhead collage

These are the seedheads left by the hardy hibiscus against the fence in this corner.  They look so interesting that I might put them in a vase this winter.

 

 

 

stump collage

As my feet are sandwiched between two white ash stumps, let’s move ourselves clockwise to the drier side of this garden area.  This stump has been giving insects shelter (see the holes) for a few years now.  There’s a huge clump of daffs that have naturalized here too.  And if I focus my camera over the fence, you can see the meadow and one of the compost piles.

 

 

 

stump garden area collage

As I turn now to look behind me, we can see another climbing rose against the pergola.  The gate to the meadow is right under the pergola.  The area around the stumps was a hosta garden when there were three ash trees here.  The hostas are still here, but they get covered up by Rudbeckias and goldenrod as well as some weeds.  There are smaller grasses growing here as well as a small bayberry bush that I uncovered this past fall.  I was so surprised to see it had survived and grown so much…it’s the twig in the photo bottom right.  The new leaves growing in the center are Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Autumn Sun’.  Also growing here are lots of smaller bulbs including dwarf iris and snowdrops.

 

 

 

birdhouse collage

As I look up and out from where I am standing, we can see the gazebo and White Garden and veg garden area.  Keep turning and now you can see the Center Garden, the back of the house and the back end of the birdhouse.

 

 

 

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So what do we plan to do to alleviate the flooding?  We will be digging down to the original gully.  We’ll start at the rain garden and open the end of it extending the rain garden back to the fence.    You can see the water naturally flows in that direction already.  We’ll line the new rain garden with rocks so it keeps the erosion down.  

And I will move the plants that are in its path and relocate them.  In order for this to work we have to have a large opening at the base of the fence between the rose at the corner and the tall grass.  This can pose a problem as it will allow critters to easily get under the fence.  So we will install a screen over the opening.

So there you have it….now I just have to draw the plans for the new rain garden, fill in exactly what is growing there, what is staying, what is moving and what plants we are adding.  I’ll keep you posted once the plans are finalized.

 

 

Have you ever stuck your foot in your garden or any space and looked closely to see what is there?  Give it a try.   

 

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Next up on the blog:  

Monday will be time to profile another favorite native plant for Wildflower Wednesday. 

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her blog, Rambling Woods.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday. 

69 comments

  1. rusty duck says:

    Good luck with reducing the flooding. A large area of my garden, close to a river, is permanently boggy and often has standing water too. I’m not sure we can effectively drain it, not without considerable earth moving and expense, so I will need to look at bog planting. It does extend the range of plants you can grow at least!

    • Donna says:

      Well we can commiserate together on our bog areas. I agree it will be hard, but fortunately not too labor intensive thankfully. I think opening that gully up will help it move the water the way it was intended, but you are correct the water will always pool there so it is important to have plants that love the wet muck.

  2. Lucy Corrander says:

    Once again a lot to see. And you managed not to fall over. In the summer I dived face first into a bush because I lost my balance. I wanted to take a photograph of a hoverfly while keeping my foot stuck. I could easily have moved, then started again – but didn’t think of that soon enough!

    I confess I don’t know the difference between a rain garden and a bog garden. (Incidentally, it’s raining and raining here – the kind of steady rain you might like in a growing season but not when you had planned to walk into town.

    • Donna says:

      I think I was actually almost stuck with the muck in that area….a rain garden is a depression/gully or a way of draining an area that is planted with plants that like the wet…it usually is there to take run-off and will dry out after a bit. Usually a bog garden is a flat piece of land that stays wet but water may not pool on top. When you walk on it the water squishes up around you and you sink a bit….of course these are not dictionary definitions but my own.

      I will be putting in a rain garden to help drain my boggy area a bit and help with the pooling there, but it will likely stay wet in some areas underneath….I am sure that is as clear as mud now Lucy! 🙂

  3. Jane Strong says:

    I like how you left that one solid color section of red-brown in the rose hip collage. It focuses one’s eye on the color of the rose hips. I’ll take some of your water. Can you pipe it over here?

  4. Pauline says:

    I have found Donna that even a bog garden has to have the water running through it, otherwise it just becomes stagnant. We found that we had inherited an underground stream when we bought this house. The owners then had planted that area with “ordinary” plants which were all dying because they were drowning. We have since planted it with bog plants and everything looks very happy. We now know exactly where the underground stream goes, across the garden, through the gate and down the hill!

    • Donna says:

      I completely agree Pauline. This area will continue to have water running through, but we decided to allow it drain a bit the way nature intended until we interfered….right now because of our interference the water pools and spreads out to a very wide area. I do love bog plants so I am glad the bog area will still be boggy.

      We also have an underground stream running through the edge of our property on the other side and I think that is why that whole side of the garden stays wet a lot of the time especially close to the fence line…not boggy but moist.

  5. Debra says:

    Oh what I wouldn’t give to have so much water! Where there is water there is life. (Though yes I recognize it could be a bit tricky to work with too.)

  6. Christina says:

    Standing water on clay soil is a problem but you are doing the right thing by making a feature of it. Bog planting can be so exciting as the plants often grow very large very quickly so you can create a different feeling altogether in this area. Bog plants will obviously also take up lots of the moisture. I think the difference is that the plants in a rain garden will survive when there is no water whereas bog plants need water almost all the time (again not a text book definition but my understanding of the difference.

    • Donna says:

      You are correct Christina, the rain garden plants can stand periods of being dry. Luckily many of my rain garden plants like the bog conditions too….I will be choosing carefully.

  7. Beth says:

    Very interesting, Donna! I’ve been waiting for this post. Gardening includes trial and error; it sometimes involves starting over; and it’s always changing and challenging. It will all be good with time and effort. You have lovely gardens, Donna. 🙂

  8. Cathy Thompson says:

    Interesting about the daffodils that are thriving in such wet conditions without rotting. I relish the wet areas in my garden (although I haven’t started gardening them yet!) ‘One stuck foot’ in relation to bog gardens made me remember when I was working in a bog garden (job, not for me) and was left on my own in November to plant a lot of primulas (I was also given some manure to ‘incorporate’!!!!). I never saw a soul all week (and the midges every morning between 10 and 11 am, even in winter!) Depressing is an understatement. But I still love bog gardens – I also don’t understand the difference between a rain garden and a bog garden either. Can you explain in a future post?

    • Donna says:

      I was floored at how the daffs were thriving Cathy….I will try to explain in a future post, but really it is about the fact that a rain garden diverts water where it drains and dries eventually. The Bog does not dry out although you wouldn’t know that as sometimes the water is not visible on top of the soil, but is very wet beneath…again not dictionary perfect as to what each is, but how I explain my areas…I’ll try and explain more in an upcoming post.

  9. Cathy says:

    It sounds like it will be a fair amount of hard work, and I wish you luck with that. I hope you are able to relocate all the plants you need to remove, and I shall look forward to seeing the work in progress too Donna!

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Cathy. Any plants we move will have a home as there are many spots I need to redo a bit. I am thinking many we have to move to make way for the gully will still be in the Bog Garden, just in a different spot. I do hate to move plants that are happy though so we may try to go around a few and make a curvy gully instead of a straight one.

  10. Kris P says:

    You have a big project in front of you, Donna, but I’m sure you’ll appreciate the results. It’s nice to be able to grow some of the pretty plants that enjoy wet feet too.

  11. Susie says:

    Oh dear. Drainage issues can be a nightmare. We had to solve some at this current location and still get some standing water (especially in this wet winter we’re having). Good luck resolving it. I love the idea of a rain garden and have tried to get our community to consider one in a problematic area of our common area. Not everyone “gets” them.

  12. Nicole says:

    Looking so forward to seeing your rain garden evolve! That stuck method is fantastic! As are the views into your lovely space!!! Wishing you a wonderful weekend! Nicole xo

  13. Laura Bloomsbury says:

    Hi Donna – a lot of thought has gone into this post – thanks for the virtual tour. Always better to go with the flow rather than force the land to adjust. Besides bog/rain garden is probably one of my ideal spots if I had one – so full of wildlife and easier to manage than a pond. Mostly they are sun lovers, bog plants, and my only query is wooden fence in damp area is likely to deteriorate more quickly. Look forward to more developments here!

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Laura for the support…it will be a labor of love since it is such a great project to go with the flow. As for the fence…our fence is PVC plastic. Knowing I wanted a large picket fence when we designed the garden, I also knew we could not be painting it every year or so given our harsh weather and all the water/snow we get. So we opted for the PVC…no real maintenance although it does get mildew on it but it is outside after all.

  14. Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern says:

    Donna, oh it seems like so much work but I’m sure the rewards will be greater. I find myself somewhat relieved to know I am not the only gardener with “smothered” plants. I had to laugh that you hadn’t any recollection of planting that hydrangea. I want to say get ready for a Swamp Rose invasion – mine is really spreading. Also, so impressed by those daffodil! So many, and I find myself longing for spring and my garden. I can just picture all those daffodils and roses blooming in yours. Not too much longer – you sound READY!

    • Donna says:

      Actually the soil is loose here so not as much work as I think it will be Kathy…first the plan..that is the big work…then the plant movement…next dig the ditch…line it…plant it….whew maybe it will be lots of work!

      My one swamp rose is already sending up loads of new plants that I am furiously moving in spring. It seems like a long time, but 2 months will be here and gone when spring shows up here….and I have loads to do still so I am savoring the days right now.

  15. Anna says:

    I do hope that you were wearing wellington boots when you stuck your foot in the ground Donna. Is it just your garden that gets waterlogged or do neighbour’s gardens suffer in the same way? I’m sure that you will have fun finding plants that will be happy in this situation.

    • Donna says:

      I absolutely had my favorite comfy wellies on Anna…my neighbors do have some similar issues as this was a waterlogged woods and swamp before…they just plant grass and wait until it dries up in spring.

  16. Carver says:

    Interesting post and shots. There are so many plants that well in a bog garden but I know it can be an issue if you want to reduce the flooding. I bet in the summer frogs would love it there.

    • Donna says:

      Oh Carver they do love it there and leave the pond for the bog. Actually the Leopard frogs start in the pond, and when the bull frog or green frogs show up in the pond, the leopard frogs leave for the boggy area.

  17. Michelle RamblingWoods says:

    I didn’t know about sand and clay. We have a lot of clay here and we have had flooding problems as you know. You have a really large yard and I am sorry that you have this issue to deal with…but I do like the sound of a bog…the word bog and of course you know what to plant for any situation.. stuck foot…often in my mouth…Michelle

    • Donna says:

      You are too funny Michelle…I love the bog and eventually embraced the wet areas as part of nature and have learned to plant the areas. They are perfect for native plants as I found out. I tried many ornamental plants there only to lose them year after year.

  18. Nadezda says:

    Donna, my garden is boggy too. What do I do with this? I planted the trees and bushes that need more water and they dry the soil; as Salix exigua, Salix sukaczevii, Celastrus scandens, Celastrus orbiculata and Elaeagnus argentea. The last one is silvery leaved small tree, can dry part of bog.
    Celastrus is liana , grows near trellis, Salix grow along the fence.
    In spring I as you can go in boots only but very soon snow melts and the garden is dried.

    • Donna says:

      That is a great idea Nadezda as many trees and shrubs like these will take up lots of the water and dry the area faster. I think the ash trees that were in this area did just that but since they are gone there isn’t much that will suck up the water fast. I hope to add a few more native shrubs here to help manage the water too.

  19. Helene says:

    Oh, the quote you start with is so true, the plants in my garden are VERY forgiving – they have to be to survive what I put them through!
    Good luck with your bog garden, sounds like a lot of elbow grease before it will be performing better – alternatively you could choose plants that will be happy there? I have no experience with gardens that flood, in my garden I have never even experienced squelching boots in mid-winter so I am lucky that way…..although there are times I wish for more water in my garden so I didn’t have to spend time water it myself 🙂

    • Donna says:

      Helene I have realized that I am lucky and am very grateful for all our water…and I have learned to plant only those plants that love water as I lost so many over the years trying to fight nature…now I embrace it and the plants that love wet feet….some plants will stay and some will be moved because of space or height mainly….just a bit of order needed, but all growing there now do love water or like the roses are protected enough from the water.

  20. catmint says:

    Good luck with all your plans, look forward to seeing the progress. Love that photo with the daffs just starting to emerge. And the quote – good thing he includes the word usually. I have found there is a limit to their forgiveness. Some tolerate being moved once or twice, but after that, a few have been saying to me:’You just don’t appreciate me’, and are dying to get into the compost heap to have a rest.

  21. Grace Peterson says:

    Hi Donna. Don’t you love being able to go outside, look around and dream? I have a bunch of ideas for my own garden. Now if spring will just hurry up and get here. Your bulbs are on the right track! Have a great weekend, Donna Dear.

    • Donna says:

      How I wish the weather was not so frigid right now Grace…we are covered with about a foot of snow so everyone is nestled snuggly waiting for spring….for us that won’t start until the end of March unless it is early this year. Enjoy your wonderful garden and I bet spring will be visiting you soon!

    • Donna says:

      It is amazing how much I learn when I slow down and look, listen, assess….sometimes it becomes a “no-brainer” as they say. We shall see how this plan helps the area.

  22. Indie says:

    Drainage is such an issue. I’ve done multiple things at different houses – detention ponds, French drains, soil filling, etc. We have to dig another drain in our front yard this summer. Your bog garden is so much fun. I have a huge detention pond in my backyard (aways from the house, though) which has a lot of cattails, goldenrod, and other boggy plants and it’s always fun to see what pops up there. I have to cut out the invasive Purple Loosestrife, though. Good luck with tackling your drainage issue!

    • Donna says:

      My drainage area sounds like your detention pond a bit Indie….and I have another on the other side too. They are fun to see what grows….that loosestrife is an issue and I hack it out of the meadow and rain garden/bog areas too.

  23. Pam's English Garden says:

    Planning for the next gardening season — it’s what we do in the winter months. You have found a unique method, Donna. I’m afraid my foot is stuck inside the house as I gaze through windows, and dream. It is a good thing so many plants are forgiving as I’ve made some big mistakes over the years. P. x

    • Donna says:

      I am looking forward to the planning…then the diggin’ in the dirt. You should try a Stuck Foot post…next one is March 21st just in time for spring.

  24. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    What a great project Donna, lots of garde work, but it will be so rewarding to rid yourself of the large seasonal soggy patch and get the rain garden working more effectively. And lots of good plants to save and relocate too. You are going to be busy…

  25. debsgarden says:

    Grading can be a difficult problem! Your Bald Cypress looks small, but don’t these grow to be large trees? The one with the knobby knees? If so, that would solve your bog problem, one of these days. Best wishes for a speedier solution!

    I keep telling my dear hubby not to pour sand into our clay soil. He ignores me and does it behind my back. Long ago he got the idea from his dad that sand solves all soil problems.

    • Donna says:

      Show him the horror of my garden Deb….if I remember the Bald Cypress is a not a straight species so this one will not get as big as the species, but it will get large enough one day.

  26. Island Threads says:

    Donna I am horrified you filled in a drainage ditch (that’s what they are called here) I have spent time since coming to this garden re-digging out ditches that had become over grown, I don’t know if you can get, though I would think you can, drainage pipe, it is a pipe with holes so the water can drain into it and away to, well, wherever your water goes, you dig the trench, lay the pipe, cover with stones and either finish with stones or turfs, alternatively there are ‘french drains’ these are made without pipes but stone slabs, I can understand your not wanting to leave holes so creatures can come under the fence, good luck, Frances

    • Donna says:

      The funny thing was it just was a small indentation on the side of our property…not much of a drainage ditch by the looks of it. And the lucky thing is that there are no pipes in these ditches Frances….just open ditches. All drainage pipes here are buried deep thankfully….When they landscape the areas around houses, the land is graded toward the ditches, the water sits in them but most of it just evaporates or absorbs into the clay and grass. So we just have to re-dig the ditch a bit down through very nice soil and cover with stones to help with drainage and erosion.

      I actually have some french drains around the house and in the basement for help with runoff from the roof. I hope to write a post in the next few months explaining the rain gardens and bog garden and some differences.

  27. Island Threads says:

    I wrote such a long comment just on drainage ditches, I thought another for the garden, in the starkness of winter Donna I can better see the size of your fenced back garden, it is big! I love all the new shoots of promise, I read once long ago that daffodils like moisture and need it in summer when the bulb is growing for the following years flowers, I see your irises and remember you telling me some like damp I must try and get some, I am thinking also from how damp your bog garden is that perhaps where I have tried joe pye weed was too dry (it was years ago before our current wet weather) so I think I must give it another try, the reason I wanted it was because it is said to be so good for wildlife, I’m glad you are having a better winter this year, Frances x

    • Donna says:

      I can’t take credit for the idea of Stuck Foot but I love using the concept. And I know how lucky we are having all this water so no complaints from me….just some solutions to help the garden grow.

  28. Donna says:

    When I moved into our home, we had a bog-like garden, killing the tree the previous owner planted. I had to install drainage to solve it since our property was lower than surrounding properties. It really is an issue which needs addressing one way or another. Good to see you are trying to make the best of what you have.

    • Donna says:

      Oh that is bad especially being in a more urban area Donna and if the trees or plants don’t like standing water. Here we were a damp woods before they developed the land, but it has become a nuisance and one I created that I think we can remedy.

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