Transforming A Boggy Muddy Mess into a Beautiful Side Garden

Holly Stickley | The White Pear 

Transformed side garden with dry creek bed. | Photos by Fred Stickley/StickleyCreative

Hello Garden Friends!

Hillside springs eroding the soil – water flowing down the lengthy side garden – a pile of mud on the sidewalk – a boggy muddy mess!  

Homeowners Bruce and Maureen envisioned a beautiful side garden, but first had to fix their boggy muddy mess; my challenge du jour.  To remove the excess surface water, we designed multiple French drains and dry wells, and covered the unsightly drains with decorative rock to simulate a natural creek bed, curving it around 10 existing, highly cherished, adult blueberry bushes.  All was a success, as fall, winter and spring came and went, and the ground never became a bog, nor was there ever a mud pile on the sidewalk below.

This summer, the fun part began with a garden design around the creek bed with new and existing plant material.  The biggest challenge was to safely relocate the blueberry bushes that were bearing fruit at the time.  All was a success, except that days later we were hit by hot 90+ degree weather, so some of the plant material took a bit of a hit, but quickly bounced back with more normal Portland summer temperature (80’s) and some supplemental hand-watering. 

No more boggy muddy mess… in its place, a beautiful garden…yea!  

To build the new planting berms, we used a 4-way garden soil mix, and a dark compost for top dressing, both from Grimms in Tualatin, OR.  To build the dry creek bed, we used a mix of rock sizes from Smith Rock in Portland, OR. 

Check out the before and after photos below…Enjoy!

Love, Holly ~ Your Queen Bee at The White Pear


What we started with. Looking up toward the woods.


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Our first day on the project. Looking down toward the street. Got my measuring wheel out.


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Going over plant care with Bruce and Maureen. I love this part of the design project!




Rocks for building dry creek bed:  

— Smith Rock 6001 SE Johnson Creek Blvd, Portland, OR 503-771-0916

4-way garden soil for building planting 

— Grimms 18850 SW Cipole Road Tulatin, OR  503-636-3623

Dark compost for top dressing: 

— Grimms 18850 SW Cipole Road Tulatin, OR  503-636-3623

New Plant Material: 

Cupressus sempervirens ‘Swane’s Golden’
Ilex crenate ‘Sky Pencil’
Lobelia siphilitica 
Pseudo panic Laetus “Kiwi Gem’
Gunnera chilensis 
Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’
Cornus sericea ‘Kelyseyi’ 
Geranium ‘Rozanne’ 
Actaea racemes ‘Black Negligee’ 
Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’
Hakonechola ‘Naomi’
Euonymus ‘Greenspire’
Andromedia polifolia ‘Blue Ice’ 
Hosta ‘Sum & Substance’
Hosta ‘Cherry Berry’
Agapanthus ‘Baby Pete’
Hellebore Windcliff ‘Double Pink’
Heuchera ‘Rio’
Canna, assorted