With much of the country seeing record rainfalls this year (sorry California, we’d send you some if we could!) gardens are practically drowning. This makes those wet boggy areas even worse, with constant ponding a problem for many types of plants. Turf rarely grows well in boggy areas, and you can’t run your mower over them. So what do you do with these areas?
Many people consider growing a bog garden or rain garden in these boggy wet spots, which we also recommend. Choosing plants that thrive in wet spots not only makes the area beautiful, but it also filters the water that runs into these areas before it gets into the groundwater, improving the quality of water throughout local watersheds. Naturalized wet and boggy areas also become havens for wildlife, which is important in areas where much of the natural terrain is now gone, replaced by homes and concrete.
There are more plants that love standing water than many realize. In fact, some really nice garden additions thrive in standing water. Start with a larger shrub or tree, which will make the focal area of your rain or bog garden. We love willows for wet areas, and our French Pussy Willow is a fantastic ornamental choice for wet spots. Joe Pye Weed is another plant that loves wet feet. A native plant of North America, this tall perennial will attract butterflies in droves when it blooms in sweetly scented pink throughout the summer. If you leave the stems and heads to persist through the winter, they offer songbirds a place to seek shelter and eat from what seeds are left. Planted in masses and drifts, Joe Pye Weed becomes a beautiful sea of color and scent.
Another plant that loves wet spots is also an extremely important native plant that has a particularly important job. Swamp Milkweed is easy to find along lakeshores and ponds throughout the United States, but is quickly diminishing as native undisturbed areas are vanishing. The Monarch butterfly needs Swamp Milkweed (and other milkweed species) to lay eggs on. The monarch caterpillars absolutely rely on milkweed as its sole source of food before it pupates into a butterfly. Adding milkweed to your boggy spot will offer food for baby monarchs and help keep the population of Monarch butterflies alive. Plant milkweed among the pussy willow and Joe Pye Weed for a natural haven that butterflies depend on.
After your large background and anchor plants, you’ll want to think about smaller plants that persist in the foreground, or higher areas of your boggy and wet spot. Sedge grasses are generally ideal for wet spots. We love the hardy and tough Pennsylvania Sedge Grass. Another native like Joe Pye Weed, this sedge is naturalized throughout the eastern United States. Plant this sedge along the outside in front of the larger plants where toads and frogs will hide.
Bogs and ponds are excellent spots for growing important, beautiful, and addicting plants that you will love for years to come. Don’t mow through the muck! Add a haven for animals and wildlife while improving ground water and the beauty of your property with a planted rain garden!