A bog garden employs permanently moist (but not waterlogged) soil to create a habitat for plants and creatures which thrive in such conditions. It may exploit existing poor drainage in the garden, or it may be artificially created using pond liners or other materials to trap water in the area. Any such structure must allow a small amount of seepage to prevent the water stagnating. For instance, a pond liner must be pierced a few times. Typically a bog garden consists of a shallow area adjoining a pond or other water feature, but care must be taken to prevent water draining from a higher to a lower level. The minimum sustainable depth is 40–45 cm (16–18 in). Good drainage is provided by gravel placed over the liner, and the bog can be kept watered by using a perforated hose below the surface.
Creating a bog garden in your landscape is an enjoyable project that allows you to experiment with different plant species. So exactly what is a bog garden anyway? Bog gardens exist in nature in low-lying areas, or around ponds, lakes or streams. Bog garden plants love overly moist soil, which is waterlogged, but not standing. These marshy gardens make a lovely attraction in any landscape and can quickly turn an unused, water-logged spot in the yard into a wonderful scenic attraction.
Having a waterlogged or boggy bit of garden is not always inspiring and the immediate impulse may be to install drainage, but by working with nature it is possible to provide another really valuable habitat in your garden.
Do you have a spot in your yard which you despair of because it is poorly-drained and consistently moist? Why not consider turning a liability into an asset by creating an intentional wetland?
Olsynium douglasii (syn. Sisyrinchium douglasii, Sisyrinchium grandiflorum) is a flowering plant, commonly known as grasswidows, in the genus Olsynium, native to western North America from southern British Columbia south to northern California, and east to northwest Utah. It is the only species in the genus Olsynium in North America, the remaining 11 species being from South America. It was formerly treated in the related genus Sisyrinchium.
It is a perennial herbaceous bulbiferous plant growing to 10-40 cm tall. The leaves are slender linear, 10-30 cm long and 1.5-3 mm broad. The flowers are bell-shaped, 15-25 mm long, with six purple tepals.
There are two varieties:
Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii. Coastal western North America. Flower filaments with a narrow base.
Olsynium douglasii var. inflatum. Interior western North America. Flower filaments with an inflated base.
Grass Widow (Olsynium douglassii>) is an early-blooming, perennial plant of open woodlands and rocky meadows that are wet in early spring but later dry up.
The satiny, reddish-purple to pinkish-purple flowers are up to about 1.5 in (4 cm) across and the whole plant is less than 12 in (30 cm) tall.
Hundreds of these purple flowers can cover a meadow, creating a beautiful scene as they shimmer in the breeze.
Other common names for this plant are Satin Flower and Douglas’ Blue-Eyed Grass. It has also had a different genus: Sisyrinchium
The species name douglasii honors David Douglas, a botanist who was an early explorer of the Pacific Northwest. You might have heard of Douglas Fir? Well, that was another plant named after David Douglas.
Grass Widow is in the iris family, Iridaceae, which includes only a handful of species in our region. One that is probably familiar to many northwesterners is Oregon Iris(Iris tenax).
The Iris Family in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon and Washington]
Douglas’ Grasswidow, Grass Widow, Satin-flower
Grass Widows Gallery
Sisyrinchium (Blue-eyed Grasses) is a genus of 70-200 species of annual to perennial plants of the iris family, native to the New World.
Several species in the eastern United States are threatened or endangered.
Common Name: blue-eyed grass
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Native Range: Southeastern United States
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Blue
Sun: Full sun
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Good Cut
Best grown in medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Tolerates light shade. Prefers consistently moist soils that do not dry out, but drainage must be good. Will freely self-seed in optimum growing conditions. Plantings may be sheared back after bloom to avoid any unwanted self-seeding and/or to tidy foliage for remaining part of the growing season. Plants may need to be divided every 2-3 years to keep plantings vigorous.
Though their foliage is grass-like, the blue-eyed grasses belong to the iris family not the grass family. Sisyrinchium angustifolium is noted for its violet-blue flowers and branched flowering stems. It is native to Missouri where it occurs in damp open woods, slopes and along stream banks throughout much of the State. It is a clump-forming perennial that features a tuft of narrow grass-like leaves (to 3/16″ wide) typically growing to 12″ (less frequently to 20″) tall. Clusters of violet-blue flowers (to 1/2″ across), each with 6 pointed tepals and a yellow eye, appear in spring on stalks growing from leaf-like bracts atop usually branched flowering stems which are distinctively flattened. Sisyrinchium campestre, also a Missouri native, features pale blue to white flowers atop unbranched flowering stems. S. angustifolium includes plants formerly classified as S. bermudianum.
No serious insect or disease problems.
Best naturalized in informal garden areas such as cottage gardens, woodland gardens, wild gardens or native plant areas. Also effective in border fronts and rock gardens. Also effective as an edger for paths or walkways.
Blue-Eyed Grass can be a shy, retiring plant at times. They are small perennials, only 10-30 cm (4-12″) tall, with leaves to 3 mm (1/8″) wide. They start opening their eyes in early June and continue to look around all through June. But you have to be a morning person. Sometimes I have gone to photograph those pretty blue eyes in the afternoon only to find that they have already closed their eyes for the day. And just try to find them when their eyes are closed! Their medium green grass-like leaves fade into the background and mingle shyly with all the prairie grasses around them.
Each pretty blue eye sheds a tear when it is finished blooming, in the form of a small round seed capsule filled with tiny black seeds. Perhaps they are tears of happiness or perhaps they are tears of sorrow. We can only speculate. This plant is also known as Star Grass by some people because the flowers are distinctly star shaped. Blue-Eyed Grass is actually not a true grass, but a member of the Iris family, closely related to Blue Flag or Wild Iris (Iris versicolor).
Blue-Eyed Grass is a native perennial that grows across the prairies and parklands in open meadows. I have seen it growing in a field in northwest Winnipeg along with Prairie Crocus and Three Flowered Avens. John Morgan (Prairie Habitats – see Gardening with Native Prairie Plants) also reported seeing a hillside covered with blooming plants in the Carberry Hills of Manitoba.
Narrowleaf blue-eyed grass, Narrow-leaf blue-eyed-grass, Bermuda blue-eyed grass, Blue-eyed grass
Iridaceae (Iris Family)
Synonym(s): Sisyrinchium bermudiana, Sisyrinchium graminoides
USDA Symbol: SIAN3
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
The numerous, narrow, light-green leaves of this perennial form dense, tufted clumps which steadily grow with new foliage during the season. The flattened, leaf-like flowering stems may be up to 18 in. long and bear light-blue, star-shaped flowers a few inches above the leaves. Height is 1-1 1/2 ft. Several delicate, blue or deep blue-violet flowers with yellow centers in 2 broad bracts top a flat stem, generally only 1 flower at a time in bloom; stems taller than the clusters of narrow, sword-shaped leaves near base.
Although the plant is small and has grass-like leaves, the flowers have all the features of the Iris family. The various species are all much alike and separation is based on such characteristics as branching pattern and leaf length. Common Blue-eyed Grass (S. montanum) is also a widespread species, with slightly wider leaves, over 1/4 (6 mm), and unbranched stalks.
Size Notes: 1-1.5 feet.
Size Class: 1-3 ft.
Bloom Color: Blue
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul
Native Habitat: Meadows; damp fields; low, open woods
Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist, poor to average soils
Conditions Comments: This short-lived perennial will decline if allowed to dry out. Heavy mulch causes crown rot and rich, organic soils encourage rank, vegetative growth. Plants need to be divided at least every other year.
Use Medicinal: Amerindians used root tea for diarrhea (in children); plant tea for worms, stomachaches. Several species used as laxatives. (Foster & Duke)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Deer Resistant: No
Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Propagate by seed or division. Several dozen divisions can be expected from a mature, healthy specimen.
Seed Collection: Collect seed capsule when they have darkened to brown and become wrinkled.
Commercially Avail: yes
FIND SEED OR PLANTS
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
What is a Naturalized Garden?
Throughout many regions of the United States there is a growing movement toward creating naturalized gardens. So, what exactly is a naturalized garden?
There are many names for a naturalized garden, from nature-scape, heritage, ecological to native landscaping, but the principal remains the same. A naturalized garden is a landscaping technique that incorporates local native plants into the design and architecture. This creates a feeling of being in the open and wild areas that surround the region of the garden.
Naturalized gardens come in all shapes and sizes, depending on where the garden is located and what approach the landscaper has taken. Most commonly, it will incorporate shrubbery, flowering plants and natives that are of interest to the eye and can be created either with sparse and meticulous lines or with bountiful, flowing plants that seem to lean right up next to each other in a lush landscape.
In either approach, naturalized gardens will always incorporate native plants that thrive in the specific region they are planted in. This garden will be lower maintenance, less invasive to the surrounding areas, and typically bring along the benefits of planting indigenously such as water conservation or wild life ecology. When a naturalized garden is created, the local wild life will be attracted to the area of interest, whether that be hummingbirds or butterflies.
Naturalized gardens tend to have harmonious plants, less maintenance and water consumption, a greater life cycle and a more active ecology than their counterpart gardens. Of course, part of the real beauty of a naturalized garden is that no two will ever be alike. Depending on the region in which your garden will exist, you can have lush, thick bushes and flowering native plants that will attract the eye whimsically, or you can have linear, architectural lines that create interest in a modern and uncomplicated way. Because of the nature of the plants involved in indigenous gardens, your wallet may also thank you. The plants that are incorporated into this garden have evolved to thrive and will live a longer, healthier and more vibrant life than counterparts that are not natives. This in turn, will give your naturalized garden a life cycle that can go on for years and years without the need to replant. If that isn’t enough, the savings on your water bill may also come in to play, depending on the plants that thrive in your environment.
Naturalized gardens create a feeling of relaxed plantings and flowers that seem to work harmoniously, and effortlessly in their native environment. They work with the local ecology and water supply to conserve and thrive in all types of environments while creating a balanced and inclusive feel to any landscape.
Native gardening 101
Protect native biodiversity by greening your garden
By introducing native plants and some strategic design features to your garden, you can provide patches of natural habitat for many species. A well-designed backyard can offer birds and pollinators like butterflies, more living space, feeding opportunities and the safety of cover from predators.
By enhancing and restoring natural elements in your garden, you’ll make the urban landscape more wildlife-friendly.
Where to begin?
Before you start, find out what kind of soils and natural plant communities used to exist in your area. This will give you a better idea of the groupings of native plant species that should thrive in your garden. A number of good websites exist that will help you identify plants that are native to your area.
Think too about the desired long-term look and feel of your backyard. Are you more drawn towards an open, sunny space that could be filled with a meadow or prairie garden, or is a shaded woodland garden more to your liking?
If you’re planting trees, consider their mature size and whether they will still be suitable for the space in 20, 40 or even 60 years. Consider especially their position relative to overhead wires and nearby buildings. In addition to the plants, plan for other features such as a small pond with trickling water to attract birds and perhaps even a few frogs, or a small brush pile to provide cover for small birds such as winter wrens as they migrate through neigbourhoods in spring and fall.
Consider what season you most enjoy spending time in your garden. For example, if you spend time away in July and August at a summer cottage, you may want to avoid planting species that flower while you are away, leaving you with little colour to enjoy on your return. On the other hand, if you entertain in your backyard all summer long, summer flowering plants may be a good choice. Although a naturalized garden may need less work than a more traditional garden, until it is well established you’ll need to give it some maintenance, including careful watering in times of drought.
Once you’ve considered these questions, you’re ready to begin sourcing your plants.
Start by asking garden centre staff about where their plants are grown. Many nurseries import plants from hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away. While they may carry the species you are looking for, the selection (if imported) may not be hardy to your backyard conditions. It’s best to find a nursery that can guarantee that its plants have been grown locally so that they are more likely to be hardy to the conditions in your yard.
Once you have found a garden centre that sells native plants, you should also ask the garden centre whether the plants you have selected were propagated under cultivation, and not dug out of the wild.
Maintaining your garden
Although a naturalized garden may be less formal than a manicured garden, they’re not necessarily maintenance-free. If done well, a naturalized garden may require less watering and be able to survive periods of drought more easily. Native plants are also often better adapted to the local climate and exhibit a higher tolerance to pests than many garden ornamentals. As a result, naturalized gardens can often thrive without the use of pesticides. In fact, a naturalized garden might even attract “beneficial” bugs that are predators of other pest species.
But if invasive weeds are not removed on a regular basis, they will compete with the native plants in your garden and can spread to nearby natural areas. You may even need to manage some of the more aggressive native species or else they can take over the garden. Although nature may thrive without human intervention, your yard exists on a much smaller scale and isn’t operating entirely as it would in nature. Not unlike the work of NCC’s stewardship staff on properties across Canada, you may need to carefully manage your garden to ensure that its diversity is restored and maintained over time.
You therefore need to assist some of the conditions for naturalized plants to thrive in, especially through weeding and watering. Urban neighbourhoods often have significantly lower water tables than in natural landscapes, so it’s important to water plants in extended dry spells.
Reaping the rewards
A naturalized garden will almost certainly increase the number of wildlife sightings in your backyard. Plants with a high nectar content attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and some native plants that produce berries in late summer or early fall will attract forest songbirds on their southward migration. A well-placed small pond feature with trickling water may attract both birds (who will key in to woodland stream sounds) and amphibians such as green frogs (which disperse across the landscape in summer).
A naturalized backyard can also be fun for kids, who naturally seem to love exploring wetlands and creeks, getting muddy and dirty and discovering new bugs and plants right in their own backyard.
These gardens and the wildlife that visits them can relly help get kids excited about nature.
Get your lawn off grass
Turn Your Yard Into a Haven for Wildlife!
How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden