Origin of the Capital Clean Up Funded Bog Garden.
When Penge Green Gym first began working in Winsford Gardens in 2011 we discovered a ruined pond system hidden in the undergrowth at the back of the neglected garden. While we worked to improve the other areas of the gardens, adding colour to the flower beds, creating two wildflower meadows, a hedgerow, an urban orchard, new seating, compost bins, a greenhouse, raised vegetable beds and a children’s playground, we never quite knew what to do with the overgrown and disused pond area.
Winsford Gardens are named after Winsford House. The house was built around 1936 by a Mr. Stephen G. Gee, a local Penge property developer and philanthropist. The gardens were once the ornamental gardens of the house and include a number of exotic trees and shrubs, as well as a stunning rose garden. When he died Stephen Gee gave the house and gardens to the council. Plans of the house and garden showed the ponds were once a very elaborate display. The cascading decorative ponds had been fed with piped water from the house and the final large pond had featured a pump-driven fountain in the centre. The concrete base of this pond was now cracked and it no longer held water. We considered repairing it and bringing it back into use, but health and safety considerations made it a difficult proposition as it would be very deep. Neither did we want to leave it as a large hole in the ground that someone might fall into in the dark.
We have been very keen to add different habitats into Winsford Gardens. This was why we created our bird nest boxes, the hedgerows and the wildflower meadows. We think that Winsford Gardens should be for wildlife as much as for the local residents. So, we hit upon the idea of turning the large pond into a Bog Garden.
Why a Bog Garden?
Having a boggy or permanently moist piece of garden provides another really valuable habitat within a wildlife garden. Permanently damp, it creates an area where moisture-loving plants thrive, but it is a safer option than an uncovered pond. Just like a pond it will attract frogs and toads, sometimes even grass snakes. Dragonflies and damselflies will perch on the taller grasses and other moisture-loving plants will attract different varieties of bees and butterflies. It is the perfect use for a redundant or leaky pond.
We needed some funding though, as pond liner, sand, gravel, top soil and plants are expensive items to purchase. We were therefore grateful that Capital Clean Up decided that our project was worthy of the award of a grant. After that it was just a case of some careful planning.
Making the Bog Garden.
We already had our hole so no need for digging or excavating. We placed a layer of sand in the base of the pond first. Next we covered that with butyl pond liner and placed bricks and stones along the edges to stop it shifting as we walked on it. We pierced the liner at 1m intervals with a garden fork to allow a small amount of seepage to prevent the water stagnating. Good drainage was provided by a layer of gravel placed over the liner. Next, we covered the gravel with top soil. Unlike pond plants, bog plants thrive in soil with high nutrient levels which contain lots of organic matter. We let the soil settle to a natural level and the bog garden was ready for planting.
We bought a range of bog plants with plenty of upright foliage in the centre, some bold broad leaved plants placed more strategically, mixing yellow and purple flowers, with grasses and pond marginal around the edges. All the plants were grown for us at the TCV Meantime Nursery in North Greenwich.
Open Garden Squares Day and Planting Out.
The annual Open Garden Squares Weekend is a magical event, where community gardens and private squares throughout London welcome visitors from around the world. We thought that to combine our open day on Saturday 20 June 2014 with the planting out of the Bog Garden plants would be a great idea to involve the local community as well as our weekly volunteers, and to get the maximum number of people involved in helping to plant out the new garden. The event was a great success, the sun shone, and the completed Bog Garden looked stunning.
This once wasted space in the gardens had been brought back to life. During the rest of the summer the plants continued to grow and to spread. An interpretation board was designed and constructed using waste materials to explain the reasons behind the project.
We completed the project by adding some stepping logs to allow access for maintenance, and we laid white granite stones around the sides to disguise the edges of the liner and creating an attractive beach effect. We continue to work on this area of the park and have further plans to improve the other two ponds and the rockery that lies behind them.