It’s easy to give up on a garden that has really damp soil for most of the year, except that is, when it bakes rock-hard in summer and is equally difficult. However, there’s a really simple two step solution.
1. Buy plants that are happy in those conditions.
Sounds obvious I know, but it’s easy to get side-tracked and buy plants that you like the look of, rather than the ones that are right for your garden. The good news is that you can do both, there are lots of lovely plants that grow happily in damp soil.
These are plants that originate from areas that have damp soil so they’re used to these conditions and won’t struggle to thrive, like this striking, purple Aster amellus Violet Queen below.
Shrubs that love these conditions are the Cornus family, with their wonderful coloured stems.
This shrubs below with red/orange stems are Cornus Midwinter Fire, they grow 1.5 high and wide. Cut the stems back to a few inches above ground each year in early spring and you’ll be rewarded with bright, new stems.
Willows also love these conditions, perfect if you want to grow a willow tunnel or a living fences.
Sambucus nigra, the black leaved shrub in the picture below, is a favourite for heavy soil. It can grow up to 3m high x 2 m wide and has lovely clusters of pink flowers in early summer, plant it in sun to keep the leaves dark, in shade the leaves turn green. Doesn’t it look great with the lime green grass in front.
Other plants that enjoy damp, well drained soil are, Hemerocallis (Day lilies)
and the tough but elegant Iris sibirica:
These plants have evolved to grow in damp soil, but won’t put up with being flooded for long periods, only bog plants, the type you seeing growing at rver margins will survive. The second step to success is:
2. Improve the soil.
Simply add lots of compost to open up the soil and let it drain, conversley this also allows the soil to hang onto water in summer. Put a nice thick layer (at least 4in/10cm) over the soil surface every year in spring (mulch), and add plenty to the planting hole. Gradually the soil will improve.
Once you’ve found the right plants:
- you won’t have to spend ages coaxing plants to grow
- choosing the right plants is a sustainable way of gardening, you won’t have to keep replacing plants that die
- plants in the wrong conditions struggle to be healthy and are much more susceptible to pests and diseases
- you’ll save time and money
You can buy plants that tolerate damp areas here
all images: Jill Anderson