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Happy when it’s wet

21 June 2021
Astilbes are ferny-leaved plants with plumes of flowers that love moisture

Do you have a bog garden, a damp garden area or a streamside in need of planting? Read on for inspiration.

Words Veronica Armstrong

Bog primulas
An awful name for such lovely flowers, the many species and hybrids that go by this common name boast tiered whorls of flowers, all the way up their stems, held above a basal rosette of leaves. The colourful flowers range from cream through to yellow, orange, red, pink and purple. They love moisture so grow well in damp areas and alongside streams. They self-sow freely, but clumps can also be divided after flowering. They look best planted in drifts, where they can make a splash of colour. A good partner for irises, which combine to create a naturalistic effect.

There are many species of Iris, named so after the Greek goddess of the rainbow. They like different growing conditions and several like moist conditions, so they’re ideal for pond or streamside plantings. The water-loving irises originated from species in Europe, Asia and North America, and cultivars include Japanese, Louisiana and Siberian irises.

Iris ensata, the Japanese iris, is a semi-aquatic or bog plant that does well in damp soil alongside a pond or stream, where it may naturalise. It also likes slightly acidic soil and plenty of sun. The leaves are upright and sword-shaped, and a variegated form (I. ensata ‘Variegata’) is also an option. In spring, rich blue, purple, mauve or white flowers appear.

I. ensata is similar to I. laevigata, another Japanese native, and will grow with its rhizome crown under water. They may be fed with a general-purpose aquatic fertiliser to give a flowering boost.

Louisiana irises are hardy, vigorous and quite tall-growing. They will grow in a garden bed as well as in and alongside water. They bloom from mid to late spring then go summer dormant and start actively growing again in autumn. The flowers come in a wider range of colours, from white through to yellow, red, pink and purple. In late summer the rhizomes can be dug up, and those with green tips can be replanted and will form the new season’s growing shoots.

I. sibirica, the Siberian iris, is very similar. This clump-forming perennial likes full sun or partial shade and consistently moist soils. It blooms in velvety lilac, purple and blue through to yellow, white and raspberry, from late spring, which is earlier than the Japanese irises.

gypsy princess jap (4)
Iris ensata ‘Gypsy Princess’ ticks the boxes for those looking for a hardy bog garden plant.

Read more in our July issue

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