Soggy, boggy bliss for plants and flowers

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The other week, maverick designer Diarmuid Gavin advised gardeners that they would have to roll with the weather to ensure their gardens survived and thrived the extremes, writes Hannah Stephenson.

That advice may prove useful to people who are looking out on yet another rainy day and wondering which plantings will withstand consistently soggy conditions and come to life in very wet soil.

Look at the positives of having a boggy site. Damp ground is a valuable wildlife habitat and there are plenty of plants which will thrive happily with wet feet, including bugle (Ajuga reptans), Siberian iris, lobelia, Arum lily and globeflower.

As for trees, native willows and alder are at their happiest in damp conditions if you have plenty of space to plant them a safe distance from your house.

Quite a few perennials and shrubs will thrive, such as hostas (although be vigilant against slugs and snails) and Jerusalem sage (Pulmonaria saccharata), an evergreen with white spotted foliage and red, pink or white flowers that bloom from late winter to late spring, while the foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) is a spreading perennial with spikes of creamy white.

Popular shrubs which will tolerate a lot of water include many viburnums, dogwoods and spiraea. For those with big bog gardens which are wet throughout the winter and damp in summer, go for the enormous Gunnera manicata, which has dark green deciduous leaves spanning up to 2.5m (8ft) and provides a great backdrop for seasonal flowers.

If you haven’t much space, it may be better to plump for smaller specimens such as houttuynia and mimulus, which go well together.

Another plant that boasts impressive foliage is the skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus), which grows 1m (3ft) high by 1.25m (4ft) wide. But try not to plant it too close to nose level, as its big yellow flowers have a striking odour. If you are creating a bog garden, bear in mind that bog plants look best in bold groups. Combine a good clump of foliage with some smaller, more colourful choices.

For those who want more colour, astilbes love wet soil and produce delicate plumes in white, pink, red and crimson in summer.

With a little imagination, you can soon reap the rewards of consistently wet soil.