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Shrubs for an area prone to flooding?

We have a brook running across the bottom of our garden -- not as idyllic as it sounds, as it floods at least twice a year! Does anyone know of a reliable medium-size shrub that will grow with its feet in constantly damp soil and survive flooding (to a depth of about 4 feet)? I'd also like it to be wildlife friendly, if possible. For the spot I have in mind, I need something that won't go above 5-6 feet high. Any suggestions, please? Thanks.


  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,225
    Cornus comes to mind - you can coppice it to keep to a reasonable size and make the most of the winter stem colour. I presume the flooding is something that lasts for a couple days or so rather than weeks on end?
  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,404
    Dogwood - Cornus alba. Will happily grow in a bog. Mine do. :)
    They are not evergreen, but all have red stems that give good winter colour.
    In the type plant they are dark red, but C. alba sibirica has bright  scarlet, while C. alba 'Midwinter Fire' has red/orange/yellow. There is also a yellow stemmed version and other cultivars. If you have room for several you could have quite a firework display!
    The colour is brightest on new stems, so they are usually cut to the ground annually, but you don't have to do this if you want  to keep some height. They grow fast and have smallish white  flowers in summer, with plain green leaves. The possible downside is that they do sucker, so you have to watch them and remove unwanted growth, but it is an easy way to get more plants for free. You can also just stick twigs into moist soil and they will grow.
    A quieter relative that also doesn't mind moist soil is Cornus mas. This has fairly dark green leaves and is deciduous, but puts on a good display of tiny greenish-yellow flowers in  early spring. This will get a lot taller, but could probably be kept shorter with regular pruning.
    Providing the flooding is not too prolonged,  the Cornus  should cheer up your winter garden without competing with your summer planting.
  • Thanks, people, I really appreciate it. Our brook is volatile and can go up and down again in the space of half a day (or, as in the recent flooding, it can last for a week). It all depends on what's coming down off the Welsh hills and it can get very fast (lethal, in fact - I wouldn't try to stand in it, even in my enclosed garden). I've tried so many things down there, but never cornus, so I will give it a go. Thanks again.
  • I do like Cornus "Midwinter Fire" (or is it "Winter Flame", and are they identical?). I can look through the window at mine right now - yellow stems at what was the centre of the leafy bush in summer, and shading through orange to red at the tips where the stems saw more light. So the result does have a 'fire' appearance. Once they start to grow leaves again, which won't be long now, it will be time for the annual cutting back. No point cutting off the naked stems while they're still attractive, and they'll grow new shoots out of very old stems if cut back later. It seems to work through a cycle - cut a bit higher for a year or two, then cut back to where we started again. Also aiming for the height I want the next winter - I've even taken to pinching out or trimming long stems during the summer growth, so they branch - restricts the height, and results in yet more coloured stems.
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    I like cornus but I would add willow. There are so many sorts and they can be cut back and kept bushy and short. They don't mind the water and the right variety give all-year interest.
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,225
    Not a shrub but I would also want to grow Darmera peltata in that sort of situation
  • FireFire Posts: 17,116
    curly willow
  • Willows will work pretty well and indeed often inhabit these sorts of conditions in the wild.
  • Not a shrub but Lythrum salicaria spends up to 5 months at least a foot under water and then, when our seasonal pond dries out, they survive very dry conditions. In fact, despite what they have to put up with they have seeded about and there are a number of offspring plants.
  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,404
    I've had Darmera for years.  Perfectly well behaved on the bank of the little pond, leaves not as big as Gunnera but still impressive.
    Moved a chunk to the Dell, a much larger space, shady and very wet except in droughty periods. It loved it, took off and within a couple of years was coming up everywhere!
    Not particularly hard to dig out, with a sharp spade to chop the long rhizomes into chunks, but not the easiest thing to do where it is very boggy and you can barely stand :)
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