Best plants for moist conditions
Do you have a patch in your garden that’s constantly moist? You could dig it up and install drainage, or you could simply plant to the conditions. Moisture-loving plants abound. A boggy patch can actually be transformed into a blooming oasis.
‘‘Meadowsweet’’, Filipendula ulmaria, which has fragrant white summer blooms, does best in moist soils, growing naturally in damp meadows and bogs, or near streams and rivers throughout Europe and Asia. It will thrive here if you plant it in moist, compost-enriched soil.
There’s a pink-flowered variety as well – Filipendula palmata ‘‘Rubra’’ – which grows 1.2-1.5m high. For a shorter version, also with pink flowers, try Filipendula palmata ‘‘Nana’’, which reaches only 40cm high.
Filipendulas are hardy perennials, dying back in winter and re-emerging in spring. In the past the scented flowers, which smell like a mix of honey and almonds, were used for strewing on floors to perfume rooms.
Iris laevigata, also known as Japanese iris, is a rhizomatous perennial with rich lavender-blue flowers on 60-70cm high stems. It’s a true aquatic plant, growing in moist to wet soil, and thriving in shallow water or at the margins of ponds. It does best in a humus-rich acid soil, flowering in midsummer and dying down in winter. Like most aquatics, it should be grown in full sun.
There is a variegated form too, whose sword-like leaves are striped with creamy-white.
Ligularia dentata has large, showy rounded leaves. It grows best in rich, humusy, moist to wet soils in part shade. It can be grown in sun but some shelter from midday sun is best in sunbaked areas, and moisture must be constant. Plants die down over winter.
Rodgersias are star plants in the boggy garden. These herbaceous perennials have large crinkly leaves and the plumy flowers reach 1.2m high. The plumes are similar in appearance to astilbes, either white, cream, pink or reddyorange, and appear from early to midsummer. They grow well sun or part shade.
The cardinal flower ( Lobelia cardinalis) is a lovely cottage garden perennial with bright red blooms on 60 to 120cm high stems. The flowers open from the bottom up, and appear for several weeks in summer and autumn. The flower stems are like flaming red wands in the garden – a definite stand-out. These plants like a moist to wet soil in sun or part shade. Primula japonica, aka ‘‘Japanese primula’’, is a spring-flowering herbaceous perennial that likes rich, moist or wet soils. Flowers are held on tall, erect stems in whorls, which categorises them as candelabra primulas. Flowers may be pink, magenta, red or white and will grow in sun (providing soils remain constantly moist) or part shade.
There are many other moistureloving plants. Try the cheery yellow marsh marigold ( Caltha palustris), the hardy hibiscus, aka ‘‘swamp rose mallow’’ ( Hibiscus moscheutos), the kaffir lily ( Schizostylis coccinea), or obedient plant ( Physostegia virginiana).
In bloom: Japanese iris.