Soggy yard? Try drainage, and some suitable plants
Q: We have a corner portion of our yard that is not graded properly. When it rains heavily it floods to the point of standing water. In addition to the grading problem, the neighbor behind me built berms behind the fence that only increase the collection of water. We would like to do something with this corner but cannot seem to find the kind of plants that can thrive in a very rainy summer and also do well during the dry winter. We do have a crape myrtle that is thriving in the midst of this 10- by 12-foot area. And weeds. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Gene Kornbluh, Lutz
A: You may first want to consider tackling the drainage problem. A French drain-type system would route the water away. Typically, a trench 10 to 12 inches deep is dug, then lined with gravel, and laid over that is perforated pipe or geotextile tube. Then more gravel is used to cover and backfilled with soil. The DIY Network has a short video demonstration at bit.ly/frenchdrain.
To answer your question about what plants will tolerate soggy conditions, here are some suggestions:
Wax myrtle, Myrica cerifera, and Walter viburnum, Viburnum obovatum, are good choices for shrubs, from 3 to 10 feet, with some pruning.
Wild coffee, Psychotria nervosa, which produces small white flowers followed by reddish-purple berries that cardinals, catbirds and mockingbirds adore, can be maintained at 3 to 4 feet in height.
For a striking accent, try scarlet hibiscus, Hibiscus coccineus. It grows to about 5 to 8 feet, and dies to the ground each winter, but from spring through fall it bursts with gorgeous scarlet flowers, one of Florida's prize natives.
All suggested plants are native, and therefore used to wet — and dry — conditions.