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A bog garden can be a lot of fun, actually, and you don't need a big space for one, either, as this project demonstrates. P & K, I'll call them, really wanted a nice garden with a lot of plants, they wanted a place to sit, near a water feature - a small pond, actually, and they wanted the pond to have a bog garden. No problem, I told them. Their space was about fourteen feet wide and twenty feet long. Well, a bit of a problem. To cut costs the owners wanted to do a lot of the work themselves, under my guidance.

 the beginning of a pond garden with a bog

 P & K prepping the site


The Enlarging Effect of Water

There is sometimes a tendency to think that a small space is too small for a water feature - that too much space is lost that could otherwise be planted or used for a table or chairs. In fact, water gardens add space by adding interest. Any element which draws the attention of any of our senses has the effect of expanding and prolonging our experience of the garden ‑ thereby enlarging it for us. Water gardens are excellent for this. The delightful sound of cascading water, reflections on a placid pool, the colors and motion of swimming fish, day and night blooming water lilies - few other elements offers so much in so little space. In addition, a water garden can support as many plants as the same area of soil. And of course, the same can be said of bogs.




Site Design:

To maintain a living area large enough for a small table and a few chairs it was necessary to put the water feature in a corner. The sun=s path dictated the far left, which would also save it from being the depository of foliage and spent flowers from the thriving Hydrangea Petiolaris (climbing Hydrangea) on the right. Here it could be enjoyed from all areas of the garden without being in the way


 The author digging the pond

The Virtue of Corners

In homes and in gardens corners often go unused - we just don=t want to put ourselves into a corner. For this reason they make excellent locations for placing elements of interest. Putting a water garden in a corner of the property puts that area to maximum use. We don=t need to go into the corner to enjoy the myriad pleasures a water garden can provide. In a very small space, the corner then becomes a focal point from everywhere within the garden.


A rectilinear layout of the garden was certainly an option and would have worked well, especially given the retaining bench across the rear which the owners wanted to keep. But both owners lived and worked in a city and wanted, as is so often the case, reprieve from straight lines and hard angles. They wanted a more natural garden in an easy, free-flow design.




P & K, digging out for the step

For this reason the patio was given an undulant line and made of irregular shaped pieces of stone between which moss was later lovingly planted. The patio was made just large enough for use (the garden seats six reasonably comfortably, if intimately) and as many planting areas as could be managed were created in irregular fashion along the sides.


Water Feature Design:

In keeping with the free-form style of the garden the water and bog garden were likewise made as irregular as possible within the constraints of very limited space. A small waterfall was placed for maximum exposure at the far end. It flows gently down a series of rocks and falls several inches into the water. During its construction, planting pockets were built in to allow ferns and other trailing plants to soften and mellow the stone work.

 The Waterfall


On the right the water garden comes right up to the patio stones, (see below) following the irregular edge. On the left the liner extends to the wood fence, but an additional wall was built within the pond portion to retain soil. Small spaces were left in the wall, allowing the water to seep into the soil and that became the bog garden. Filled with soil, this area remains moist, providing the perfect habitat for bog plants - those which cannot be grown in water but must be in constantly moist soil.



The original planting consisted primarily of an Acer palmatum, various Hosta, the climbing Hydrangea and an eclectic mix of perennials. There was also an Enkianthus campanulatus (Redvein), and a dwarf spruce (Picea >R.H. Montgomery=). To these were added numerous bog and water garden plants, such as water mint (Mentha aquatica), water canna (Canna hybrid) water lilies, giant arrowheads (Sagittaria montevidensis).

A few additional plants which can take wet soils are Andrdomeda polifolia,  Astilbe, Hemerocallis, Hosta, Phalaris and Salix species.



An unpromising site was transformed into an intimate patio garden with a pond and bog garden. The layout was freeform and informal, to induce a sense of the natural, and the water feature was designed accordingly, within the constraints of a very narrow area. The end result is a very densely planted garden, inviting to people and wildlife alike.


 pond with a bog garden pond with bog garden

 The bog garden is on the left, along the pond.

Seen from above. The pond and bog garden are in th upper left.

 pussy enjoying pond

 The cat was especially pleased with the results

 pond with bog garden

 pond with bog garden (click for a larger pic)