IN these climate-changing times, we’re having to cope with extremes of wetter winters, heavier rainfall and storms, as well as warmer, drier temperatures. Mediterranean plants definitely don’t appreciate their roots sitting in soggy soil, so if your garden tends towards the damp and maybe boggy, too, it’s wise to choose plants that will be happy in these conditions.
Damp growing spaces can come in a few different varieties. There are out and-out boggy, riverside or pondside areas that might also be prone to flooding during wetter weather. Or you might have heavy clay soil that gets sticky and boggy in wet winters but can dry out in the summer. Perhaps you have a tricky spot that tends to stay damp and shady, where the soil holds onto moisture and remains cool, similar to the edge of a woodland.
As always, nature provides the solution to all these problems in plants that are perfectly adapted to these conditions. There are shrubs and perennials that span a wide range of interest to give you seasonal colour, texture and structure right through the year and many of them are magnets for pollinators, too.
From the first appearance of primulas and marsh marigolds in spring and irises in early summer, the damp garden is full of colour. You can carry this right through into autumn with successional planting.
There are so many damp-friendly perennials to choose from, right across the colour spectrum. Astilbes come in hundreds of shades from white through pink to deep red, while persicarias will bring more ruby and white tones, rudbeckias and ligularias will add some sunny golden zing with their daisy-like flowers.
Adding foliage plants
Foliage plants also come into their own in damp areas, with giant Gunnera manicata making the biggest statement of all. But if you don’t have room for this monster, the diminutive G. magellanica makes great ground cover. Japanese petasites, which is also edible, puts on a wonderful, lush foliage display, but needs room to spread. For smaller spaces, hostas and ferns will transform shady areas into cool green havens.
Some of the best shrubs to combine with perennials in moisture-retentive soil in a layered planting scheme are salixes and cornus. These look great both in waterside locations, and in mixed borders, where the coloured stems are great for winter effects and the summer foliage makes a good companion for the more brilliant flowering perennials.
6 plants to grow in very damp soil
Astilbe ‘Fanal’ (x arendsii) AGM
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