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What's the thirstiest plant you know?

(10 Posts)
HonniBee Mon 06-Feb-17 08:26:40

Hi, I'm absolutely clueless about gardening, so could do with some suggestions, please.

Our back garden is a swamp. We've only been here just over a year, so we're still getting used to the seasons in our garden. When we moved in the area was raised beds with a path between them. There a huge crab apple tree which had completely taken over the garden, and a lilac bush as tall as the tree. We took those out and laid a lawn in the summer, but now the rain has come out back yard is a swamp. The dog needs wellies to go outside!

So I'm thinking we should add some thirsty plants around the edges to help us suck up all the excess water?

Lilies have been suggested, but will they be effective at this time of year?

Is there a thirsty evergreen shrub you can suggest?

Thanks for your help.

shovetheholly Mon 06-Feb-17 08:54:10

A few questions:

- How bad is it? Is there standing water in your garden? Do you splash when you walk on the grass? Or is it just that you have heavy clay and your lawn takes a beating over the winter?
- What's your soil like? I'm guessing you're on clay?
- What way does your garden face?
- Is there any reason why this might be happening, e.g. a new build house where the soil has been recently compacted by heavy machinery/lots of hardcore dumped underneath?

I always think it's wise to plant things that suit the conditions that you have! There are lots and lots of absolutely lovely bog plants that will enjoy sitting in water all the year round (note: it really does need to be all year round). However, while plants will take water out of the ground, they won't necessarily solve a really stubborn drainage issue. If we are talking an actual swamp, it may be that what you need is a belt and braces approach to sorting out your drainage!

HonniBee Mon 06-Feb-17 13:20:37

Thanks for your reply shove

I'll try to answer all your questions!

There's no standing water, just very very muddy. The soil is full of clay, but we have put some topsoil on top, then the turf. The lawn doesn't seem to be fairing very well at all.

The back yard is south facing.

There is apparently a spring at the very bottom which used to flood the access path running behind our property. The council installed drainage to deal with this, but I don't think there's anything actually on our property. I really hope we can improve it with clever planting!

What do you suggest?

shovetheholly Mon 06-Feb-17 13:33:05

You say you've been there a year - can you remember how it was last summer? Many, many lawns are a right state this time of year - grass stops growing almost completely over the winter, so they can be easily damaged. Mine is looking awful too! With a little bit of basic maintenance (check out reseeding videos on Youtube) once the weather warms up, it should start looking a lot better. New turf is especially liable to damage, which is why it's best not to walk on it until you're certain it's growing and can take the punishment of heavy feet!

Adding trees, shrubs and perennials can help with drainage. However, before I suggest lots of bog plants, there is again the question of what it's like in July. Heavy clay soils are water retentive - but this doesn't mean they will be wet and soggy come summer next year! Bog plants need it wet ALL year round, they really are specialised water-edge growers. It may well be that what you're noticing is just seasonal fluctuation in soil moisture, and that come the summer your ground is drier. The fact that you had a flourishing lilac and crab apple suggests to me that this might be the case? If I'm right, then planting with standard things that suit your climate and aspect (south-facing should be warm in summer) will be better than using specialist water-loving plants, which may wither and die when it gets warm.

A path, or stepping stones, over turf in high-traffic areas can REALLY help.

HonniBee Mon 06-Feb-17 18:48:38

No, it isn't wet in the summer, just right now.

We've got stepping stones but the dog doesn't really pay attention to them!

Thanks for taking so much time to write such informative replies!

shovetheholly Tue 07-Feb-17 07:37:58

In that case, I would plant it with things that suit a clay soil and a south-facing garden and your climate. You don't want extra-thirsty bog plants, they will die in summer. Having more things in the ground will remove some moisture (and provide a bit more drainage). You might just have to reseed the lawn in the growing season each year, though, with loads of sand to improve drainage! The good news is, if you replant it, it will come back and be lovely in no time.

HonniBee Tue 07-Feb-17 20:30:27

Great! Thanks for your help.

I've just been passing on your advice to DH and we're wondering whether it might be worth getting some proper drainage put in. Who would do that? And how do they do it?

traviata Tue 07-Feb-17 22:22:27

It occurs to me that you might be discovering the reason why the previous owners put raised beds in...

Google landscape gardeners to find someone to talk about drainage.

Incidentally my lawn is very squelchy at the moment, because there's been a lot of rain and the soil is clay, so it retains it. After a couple of months I know it will be fine again. I just try not to go on the lawn too much in the winter.

HonniBee Wed 08-Feb-17 15:48:35

Thanks traviata,

Yes, I think you might be right about the previous owners choosing to go with raised beds!

MrsBertBibby Mon 13-Feb-17 10:19:34

Don't put in lilies, they are absolutely lethal to cats. One brush of pollen, and their kidneys are toast.

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