Wet ground.

With the unprecedented amount of water we have seen this winter it brings to mind what plants can cope with wet ground and occasional flooding. Coincidentally I am currently working on a very large garden which is adjacent to a peat bog and the lower part of the garden is very wet. This is a large area which flows into a field giving a very beautiful aspect, however the clients have requested a design to reflect the natural outlook but also to make this large area part of the garden and to give it some form and interest as at the moment it is a vast open expanse with one very large oak tree on the boundary.

With many things to consider in this space including keeping costs reasonable and the need to keep the maintenance levels to a minimum, as the entire garden is huge and managed by the clients, I am going to develop it with planting alone which will create the shapes and height as needed. I therefore need to ensure the plants can cope with the wet conditions whilst providing plenty of seasonal interest.

Having plenty of space to work with we can include a number of trees, listed below are some good options to cope with the conditions, I will be selecting some of these for the design.

Nyssa sylvatica – exceptional autumn colour.
Taxodium distichum – a deciduous conifer with good autumn colour.
Alnus glutinous – our common alder, this can also be used for hedging.
Liquidambar styraciflua – fiery autumn colour.
Crateagus laevigata – white flowered hawthorn which can also be used for hedging. I am going to use a cluster of the variety ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ which has cherry red flowers.
Betula nigra – commonly known as river birch, it has lovely pink/brown peeling bark.
Quercus palustris – this will need acidic soil to thrive.

We also need to include some hedging and there are a few options to consider.

Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ – bright red winter stems for added interest.
Sambucus nigra – good for an informal country hedge.
Crataegus laevigata (see above)
Viburnum opulus – common name is guelder rose and this deciduous shrub has the benefit of white pompom flowers and being able to cope with shade.
Carpinus betulus – hornbeam will provide a more formal hedge and is a useful plant in moist conditions where beech, which is very similar in appearance, would struggle to grow.

To provide some seasonal colour I am going to plant some drifts of perennials in sinuous island beds, here are a few suggestions.

Astilbe
Lythrum
Filipendula
Sanguisorba
Actaea
Astilboides
Geum rivale
Persicaria

And may be some grasses.

Calamagrostis
Deschampsia
Molinia
Carex

Along the boundary, to create a connection with the wild area beyond, I am going to allow the grass to grow and plant some wild flowers amongst this.

Leucanthemum vulgare
Ranunculus acris
Achillea millefolium

Finally, I am going to include some bulbs, these are notoriously unhappy in damp ground but I am going to give some a go that may be more likely to succeed. I will plant a few to assess them and maybe increase the quantities if all goes well.

Camassia
Leucojum aestivum
Fritillaria

Our weather is so unpredictable, we are always being given advice on planting for dry gardens as the concern for low water levels seems to increase, however this winter has proven otherwise. I can be rest assured though that this garden I am working on is reliably wet and won’t be needing a dry gravel garden any time soon!