Several ponds and a waterfall came with the house when we moved in a couple decades ago. They looked cool and the waterfall continues to provide a nice gurgling noise that helps mask the usual din of a residential neighborhood. Unfortunately, as the years passed, the ponds began to fail or show their shortcomings.
One of them was so tiny it was good for breeding mosquitos and not much else. It got turned into a planter pretty quickly.
The mid-sized pond turned out to be a critter magnet. Rummaging possums and raccoons ate all the fish and regularly upturned any water plants. Two years back it became my first bog garden, and is today filled with carnivorous sundews and pitcher plants. I was concerned about how much water a bog garden would require, but last year I figured it out that it required only about as much water as an equivalent patch of grass.
Maybe five years ago it became apparent that we had a growing leak on the largest pair of ponds and linking waterfall. The concrete that made up the ponds was fine, but plant roots were prying up the decorative rocks that had been mortared on top to make the ponds look like a volcanic grotto. I divided the upper pond in two, leaving the front half to cascade the water into the lower pond. The back half became yet another planter. Nothing seemed to do well there, though, so I decided to try turning it into another bog for my growing pitcher plant collection.
I started by removing several hundred pounds of dirt. Taking away the dirt exposed the reason why nothing seemed to thrive in the bed. The surround plants had sent their roots into the planter and sucked up whatever irrigation I provided to the plants I wanted to thrive there. I did a brutal pruning on all the adventuring roots, but figured that they’d be back when offered moist soil to wander into.
To keep roots out of the bog I decided to containerized the bog plants in plastic storage tubs from Target. I could water the plants in the tubs and leave the surrounding soil dry, reducing the attraction for marauding roots. I used two sixteen by twenty-two inch containers that were a foot deep plus a smaller one on the end.
I packed dirt around the tubs to stabilize them, then filled them up with a 60/40 blend of sphagnum peat moss and washed plaster sand, the sort of acid, low-nutrition soil that most carnivores prefer to grow in. Finally, after several hours of hard labor of the sort the sort that I think my doctor is about to tell me I can’t do anymore, I got to install the plants.
I selected several species of taller-growing pitcher plants to form the main planting, Sarracenia flava, S. alata and S. oreophila. From my research I figured out that these often grow naturally farther from water sources or in areas where the bogs dry out for part of the year. As far as pitcher plants go, these all should prove to be fairly drought tolerant. Still “drought tolerant” is a relative term, and they’ll need to be kept at least damp year-round.
To finish off the planting, and to partially assuage my guilt at not using native plants, I surrounded one of the tubs with divisions of one of my native rushes, Juncus patens, a riparian plant that doesn’t seem to resent drying out. Another bonus of this species is that it looks good throughout the year, something that can’t be said for these pitcher plants, which counter their several months of looking severely cool and amazing with several months of looking dying and pathetic.
I’ll post progress photos as the young new bog plants begin to fill and and show their potential. I’m hoping this won’t turn into another failed pond.