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In and around the bog

The part of our garden that we call the bog isn't a bog in the traditional sense of the word - it's not an area with permanently moist, acidic peaty soil. Ours is an integral part of our big pond: water is continuously pumped from a skimmer alongside the main pond area up into the center of a rubber-lined volume of rocks and pebbles. There is a shallow water level above the top layer of pebbles, from which water flows back across a ford into the main pond. I'm not quite sure why the pond installer chose to refer to this feature as a bog, but the term has stuck. The pond was installed in 2006, the picture above was taken in 2009: plenty of time for the plantings to fill out, both in and around the area.

The bog serves as a biological filter: leaves, algae, and other organic matter that arrives from the main pond gets hung up in the pebbly medium. Here, bacteria are hard at work, converting them into nutrients. Completing the job, the plants growing in the bog remove these nutrients from the water and use them to grow. By doing this, they keep the nutrient level in the pond low, which prevents algae from taking over. The gentle trickle across the ford aerates the water, which also improves water quality. And indeed, the difference between the water quality in our big pond and our original puddle pond is striking - near crystal clarity in the big pond, a mucky green soup in the little one. We're still trying to optimize the whole system, since string algae still bloom aplenty, waving in the clear currents.

This is a picture of the bog just after it was built and planted.

The bog is a substantial feature all in itself - about ten foot long and eight foot wide. Because of the way our yard slopes, the bog sits above ground level, its walls constructed from soil excavated from the main pond. This means that not only did we get a new opportunity to grow plants in the bog, we also have a substantial new area of sloping soil around the bog to serve as brand-new plant borders. One edge runs along a narrow strip of lawn between the bog and our established side garden - a very pleasant place to stroll, making this a prime area for well-behaved plants. So far, we've placed a slow-growing Japanese maple a Meyer lilac, and a paperbark maple (all still tiny) in this area, along with various perennials and annuals, and several clumps of blue fescue grass along the length of the border. As happens with most of our garden areas, it didn't stay quite as sedate as intended, so I'll have to plan some editing in the near future.

The other edge available for planting runs along the back of the bog, just short of the chain-link fence dividing our neighbors' and our yards. We're happy to hide that fence from view, so the back of the bog is planted with taller plants - shrubs, ornamental grasses, taller perennials. The tall arborvitae lining the neighbors' yard cast shade on this area for the first half of the day, so we've also tucked in some plants that appreciate partly shady conditions. At this time, we can still walk on the narrow path between the bog and the fence, but as plants grow larger, this will cease to be navigable.

The bog itself was originally planted by the company that installed the pond. Unfortunately, the bog sprang a leak in its first winter, so that the poor plants were exposed to dry freezing conditions - quite a few of them didn't survive. We've added new plants to fill in the gaps. Low plants grow in the front area nearest the ford, taller ones in the back. Just so it lives up to its name a little bit, I planted a couple of pitcher plants (true bog denizens!) along the edge as well. By now, the bog is a near-impenetrable mass of green by mid-summer, supporting the filtration capacity of the pond.

Plants growing in our bog filter

Acorus americanus (sweet flag; belle angélique)
Andromeda polifolia 'Blue Ice' (bog rosemary; marsh holywort)
Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)
Decodon verticillatus (water willow; swamp loosestrife)
Equisetum fluviatile (river horsetail; banded horsetail)
Equisetum scirpoides (bushy horsetail; dwarf scouring rush;)
Eryngium aquaticum (rattlesnake master; swamp eryngo)
Hibiscus coccineus (scarlet rose mallow)
Hibiscus grandiflorus (velvet mallow)
Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag)
Juncus ensifolius (star-head rush; sword-leaf rush)
Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower)
Lysimachia nummularia (creeping Jenny; moneywort)
Myosotis scorpioides (true forget-me-not; water forget-me-not)
Oenanthe javanica (water parsley)
Sagittaria sagittifolia Flore Plena (Chinese arrowhead; swamp potato)
Sarracenia (pitcher plant)
Saururus cernuus (lizard's tail)
Scutellaria galericulata (marsh skullcap; common skullcap)
Spiranthes odorata (fragrant ladies' tresses)
Thalia dealbata (hardy water canna)
Typha latifolia (cattail)
Typha minima (dwarf cattail; bullrush)

Plants growing alongside our bog filter

Acer griseum (paperbark maple)
Acer palmatum 'Murasaki Kiyohime' (Japanese maple)
Agastache aurantiaca 'Kiowa Sunset' (hummingbird mint)
Ajuga reptans (bugleweed)
Allium senescens (broadleaf chives)
Allium vineale 'Hair'
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata var. elegans (porcelain vine)
Anemone x hybrida 'Andrea Atkinson' and 'Honorine Jobert' (Japanese windflower (white forms))
Artemisia lactiflora 'Guizhou' (white mugwort)
Arundo donax (giant reed)
Asphodelus cerasiferus
Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'
Baptisia 'Solar Flare Prairieblues'
Calamagrostis brachytricha (Korean feather grass)
Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii (Bodinier's beautyberry)
Callicarpa japonica (Japanese beautyberry)
Campanula latifolia subsp. latifolia (bellflower)
Campanula rapunculoides (creeping bellflower; rampion bellflower)
Carex grayi (Gray's sedge)
Ceratotheca triloba (African foxglove)
Clematis recta var. purpurea (ground clematis)
Codonopsis pilosula (poor man's ginseng)
Corydalis shimienensis 'Blackberry Wine'
Dicentra spectabilis (bleeding heart)
Digitalis laevigata 'Gracea' (foxglove)
Digitalis mariana (foxglove)
Dracocephalum argunense (dragonhead)
Echinacea tennesseensis (Tennessee coneflower)
Festuca glauca (blue fesque grass)
Gentiana tibetica (Tibetan gentian)
Geranium phaeum (mourning widow geranium)
Geum ponticum (avens)
Helleborus orientalis ssp. guttatus (lenten rose)
Helleborus x hybridus (lenten rose)
Hemerocallis middendorffii (Amur daylily)
Hemerocallis thunbergii (late yellow daylily)
Heptacodium miconioides (seven son flower)
Heuchera hybrids (alum root)
Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride' (hairy alum root)
Hypericum androsaemum 'Albury Purple' (purple St John's wort)
Hypericum latisepalum
Ipomoea lacunosa (whitestar; pitted morning glory)
Iris (tall bearded hybrids) (bearded iris)
Iris pallida 'Argenteo-Variegata' (Dalmatian iris)
Iris sibirica (Siberian iris)
Knautia macedonica (burgundy pincushion)
Ligularia sibirica
Lilium henryi (trumpet lily)
Limonium gerberi (sea lavender)
Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning light' (maiden grass; Chinese silver grass)
Monarda bradburiana (eastern beebalm)
Myrrhis odorata (sweet cicely)
Nepeta subsessilis 'Sweet Dreams' (catmint)
Papaver orientale (oriental poppy)
Penstemon canescens (gray beard-tongue)
Penstemon tenuis (Gulf Coast penstemon)
Penstemon utahensis
Persicaria polymorpha (giant fleeceflower; white dragon)
Phalaris arundinacea 'Strawberries&Cream' (ribbon grass)
Phlox maculata 'Natascha' (meadow phlox; wild sweet William)
Pulsatilla vulgaris (pasque flower)
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (slender mountain mint)
Salvia dumetorum (Siberian sage)
Scutellaria tournefortii (skullcap)
Stachys densiflora 'Hummelo' (alpine betony)
Stachys sylvatica (hedge woundwort)
Syringa meyeri 'Palibin' (Meyer lilac; Korean lilac)
Teucrium halacsyanum
Thalictrum lucidum (shining meadow rue)
Thermopsis villosa (Carolina lupine, Aaron's rod)
Tommasinia verticillaris (hog's fennel; milk parsley)
Tricyrtis 'Shirohotogisu' (toad lily)
Verbascum densiflorum (woolly mullein)
Verbascum dumulosum
Vernonia glauca (upland ironweed)
Vernonia lettermannii (ironweed)
Veronicastrum virginicum (culver's root)
Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Pink Beauty' (double-file viburnum)
Xerochrysum bracteatum (strawflower)

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