Plants which grow in or with part of their main body in water are called hydrophytes. These plants are adapted to survive in water logged conditions and it is selecting these plants which will be the key to success.
There are true aquatics which grow actually in water. These plants have little supportive structure, thin xylem, and often specialized tissue (aerenchyma) to help support them. They may have large floating leaves too. Plants which can have their roots in water or grow in damp, boggy areas are called hygrophytes and they have adaptations too including large, hairy leaves, thin cuticles and are often deep green (as they live in shade so absorb slightly different light wave lengths than lighter green plants).
When choosing plants for wet areas, it is important to choose plants for the different places. There are plants suited to deep water like Nymphae species (water lilies), there are plants for shallow areas (myosotis, mentha) and those for damp shade (viola, primula species).
It is best to refer to a garden reference book. But plan the area carefully and choose plants which provide interest all year, starting with early flowering ones like palustris and go right through to the later ones like hottonia. This way you can plan your wet area to be vibrant, lively and well stocked all year round.
A good idea is to plan a planting chart so you can see which plants to plant and when they will flower. Not all plants for wet areas are dull. Some are but many have colourful and vibrant flowers. Those of the myphae species (water lilies) can be white, pink, red, yellow or orange. The ginger lily if orange, the water chestnut purple and there are many shades of blue. King cups will give wonderful golden yellow flowers and may flower twice a year.
Forget-me-nots are blue and the mentha species come in a range of blues and purples. You can also choose some plants for architectural interest. Gunnera manicata (Gunnera) is a good choice and its huge, palm like leaves are inspirational. There is also the smaller gunera brasilica which offers a smaller alternative.
Don’t forget to divide clumps of irises, primulas and others to spread them and avoid them competing too much with each other.
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