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Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Container Gardening & Ponds

The Water Garden (page 3 of 4)

by Robert Smaus

Stocking the Water Garden

Fish control algae and mosquito larvae. Ordinary goldfish control both, though tiny, guppylike mosquito fish eliminate mosquitoes completely. (Mosquito-control agencies often give these fish away.) My first goldfish came from an elementary-school carnival where my kids won them by tossing little white balls into cups filled with the hapless fish. Pet stores sell them, often as "feeder fish" for snakes and other reptiles (imagine your fishes' delight when they find themselves in a water garden instead!). If you like aquatic plants, don't keep koi in the same pond. They'll eat everything (though lilies usually survive).

Pest Note: If your neighborhood includes raccoons, they're likely to climb into the pond, dig things up, and try to eat the goldfish. In this case, the less attractive mosquito fish are better bets than goldfish. To keep raccoons out, you must install a single-wire electric fence, which greatly detracts from the pond's beauty. However, not much else deters them.

Aquatic Snails. Water snails don't eat living plants, just decaying vegetation and algae. Many garden rules are reversed when you start water gardening: You don't want good drainage; instead, you use crummy soil, and you actually encourage snails.

Keep about 75 percent of the water's surface covered with vegetation in the summer to inhibit algae growth. Algae are a natural part of pond life, and some forms always coat the pond lining. Some shade minimizes algae. They cover my pool's sides, but the water stays clear. Annually, after I repot the aquatic plants, the pool briefly turns green as the algae eat stirred-up nutrients. That's why you must never change the water. If you do, the pond must achieve its natural bal all over again.

Some Favorite Aquatic Plants

In my garden, water lilies (Nymphaea) start blooming when the weather warms and last long into the fall. Their starlike flowers are bright and magical as they float serenely on the water's surface. I grow tropical and hardy water lilies.

Tropical Water Lilies

Most flowers are lavender, purple, or fluorescent pink. Some bloom at night. Most tropical lilies spread widely. Small ones are available; my favorite is 'Edward D. Uber', with purple flowers. In my garden, this variety stays in the pool all year. I repot them only every few years because they don't spread like the hardy lilies, though they bloom just as profusely. Where winters are cold, treat tropicals as annuals.

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