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John Ayers
John Ayers

Water Gardening

Water garden or aquatic garden, is a term sometimes used for gardens, or parts of gardens, where any type of water feature is a principal or dominant element. The primary focus is on plants, but they will sometimes also house waterfowl, or ornamental fish, in which case it may be called a fish pond. They vary enormously in size and style.

water gardening

Water gardening is gardening that is concerned with growing plants adapted to lakes, rivers and ponds, often specifically to their shallow margins. Although water gardens can be almost any size or depth, they are often small and relatively shallow, perhaps less than twenty inches (50 cm) in depth. This is because most aquatic plants are depth sensitive and require a specific water depth in order to thrive; this can be helped by planting them in baskets raised off the bottom. A water garden may include a bog garden for plants that enjoy a waterlogged soil. Sometimes their primary purpose is to grow a particular species or group of aquatic plants, for example water lilies.

Water gardens, and water features in general, have been a part of public and private gardens since ancient Persian gardens and Chinese gardens. For instance, the (c. 304) Nanfang Caomu Zhuang records cultivating Chinese spinach on floating gardens. Water features have been present and well represented in every era and in every culture that has included gardens in their landscape and architectural environments. Up until the rise of the industrial age, when the modern water pump was introduced, water was not recirculated but was diverted from rivers and springs into the water garden, from which it exited into agricultural fields or natural watercourses. Historically, water features were used to enable plant and fish production both for food purposes and for ornamental aesthetics.

When the aquatic flora and fauna are balanced, an aquatic ecosystem is created that will support sustainable water quality and clarity. Elements such as fountains, statues, artificial waterfalls, boulders, underwater lighting, lining treatments, edging details, watercourses, and in-water and bankside planting can add visual interest and help to integrate the water garden with the local landscape and environment.

In landscape architecture and garden design, a water feature is one or more items from a range of fountains, jeux d'eau, pools, ponds, rills, artificial waterfalls, and streams. Modern water features are typically self-contained, meaning that they do not require water to be plumbed in; rather water is recycled from either a pond or a hidden reservoir, also known as a sump.

In Italy several royal houses constructed large water gardens incorporating mechanical devices in water settings. The best-known is the Villa d'Este at Tivoli, constructed in 1550 AD. A hill cascaded with many fountains and grottoes, some with water-driven figures that moved or spouted water. Popularity spread across Europe with the well-known water garden at Hellbrunn Palace built with many water-powered human and animal performing figures and puppet theaters, and folly fountains that erupted without notice to surprise visitors.[1]

On a constructed stream, placing rocks in the path of the water makes small patterns, rapids and waterfalls. The rocks disrupt the waterflow, causing splashing and bubbles that can make pleasant sounds and micro-habitats for plants, fish, and wildlife. Well-placed rocks can create splashing water that adds oxygen to prevent hypoxia: the more bubbles, the more dissolved oxygen in the water.

Algae are found in almost all ponds. There are hundreds of species of algae that can grow in garden ponds, but they are usually noticed only when they become abundant. Algae often grow in very high densities in ponds because of the high nutrient levels that are typical of garden ponds. Generally, algae attaches itself to the sides of the pond and remains innocuous. Some species of algae, such as "blanket weed", can grow up to a foot a day under ideal conditions and can rapidly clog a garden pond. On the other hand, free floating algae are microscopic and are what cause pond water to appear green. Blanket weed, although unsightly, is actually a sign that the water is clean and well-balanced. Green water (free floating algae) means there are too many nutrients in the water, usually from rotting vegetation or too many fish for the space. Killing the free floating algae with chemicals will often cause it to die, rot, and then make the problem even worse as more nutrients enter the water. Adding more floating or submerged (unpotted) plants can help with the green water, as they can take the nutrients out of the water. There are also filters that can be installed to remove the nutrients and all types of algae from the water. Many ponds naturally go green early in the spring and then clear up.

Often the reason for having a pond in a garden is to keep fish, often koi, though many people keep goldfish. Both are hardy, colorful fish which require no special heating, provided the pond is located in an area which does not have extremes of temperature that would affect the fish. If fish are kept, pumps and filtration devices are usually needed in order to keep enough oxygen in the water to support them. In winter, a small heater may need to be used in cold climates to keep the water from freezing solid. Examples of common pond fish include:

A water garden opens up a new world of planting and landscaping possibilities. You can start small, with a hollowed-out stone that catches rainwater, a watertight, patio-sized container or jump right in with an in-ground pond with water lilies, fish and a fountain.

Before building your water garden, do a little homework to decide what size and design is best for you. Unlike regular gardening, where you can blunder your way through almost any experiment and start fresh the following year, a pond often involves a greater investment of time and money. A smaller water garden in a container may be a better fit for your lifestyle and wallet that doesn't sacrifice the soothing beauty and color of water plants.

A natural-looking water garden should have sloped sides with planting terraces that step down toward the deepest area of the pond. This allows you to plant a diversity of plant material and create different habitats. In northern areas, a depth of 24 to 36 inches is usually necessary to ensure that the pond will not freeze solid during the winter.

For something on a smaller, more manageable scale, consider a patio water garden. Many water plants can be grown in a tub of water on your deck, and you can even add fish or a fountain. Use an ordinary whiskey barrel lined with plastic, or purchase a plastic tub that is specially designed for a water garden. Miniature water lilies, lotus and many other water plants grow beautifully in as little as 20 to 30 gallons of water.. Place your container where it will receive at least 6 hours of sun a day for best plant growth and flowering. In hot climates, containers do best with afternoon shade.

Water gardens should include floating plants, submerged plants and edge plants. Some water plants are invasive, however, and should only be grown in containers. Reputable garden centers and on-line sources will sell only approved plants in your State. Check with your State's Natural Resources Agency for a list of banned water plants, if you have questions. At the end of the growing season, discard water plants in your compost and never place them in lakes, rivers or streams. Floating plants shade the water and absorb dissolved nutrients. By doing so, they help to suppress algae and keep the pond clean. A few of the many examples of floating plants include duckweed, American frogbit, water hyacinth, water lettuce and water lilies.

Hardy water lilies are available in an array of colors from white through yellow, pink and red. Many bloom from late spring until frost and will survive the winter in deep ponds as far north as USDA zone 4, as long as their roots don't freeze solid. Plant them in sturdy containers that can be submerged 10 to 18 inches deep. Otherwise, remove the pots from the water in late fall, place in a bucket of water, and store in a protected, non-freezing area over the winter. For container water gardens, choose a miniature variety that will spread only two to four square feet.

Tropical water lilies look similar to the hardy varieties, but the blooms are larger and held several inches above the water. Many are also fragrant. Tropicals are hardy only to Zones 9-10, and can bloom year-round in warm climates. They will not flower, however, unless they are grown in full sun and have water temperatures above 70 degrees F. Some are day-bloomers and some are night-bloomers. Night-bloomers are best for viewing during the evening and early morning when most people are at home. Miniature varieties are available for patio tubs, too.

Lotuses are another beautiful choice, though they are not true floating plants as they usually hold their leaves and flowers 1 to 8 feet above the water surface, depending on the variety. Each lotus blossom can be as much as 10 to 12 inches across, although miniature varieties are much smaller. After blooming, lotus flowers leave behind a large and distinctive seedpod. They are generally hardy to USDA zone 4 or 5, if their roots are not allowed to freeze. Plant them in wide, sturdy containers without holes that can be submerged 10 to 18 inches deep. Otherwise, remove the pots from the water in late fall and store in buckets in a protected area over the winter. Take care in handling, as their growing tips are very delicate and can be damaged easily.

To bloom abundantly, water lilies and lotus grown in pots must be fertilized throughout the growing season. Insert water plant fertilizer tablets into the soil near the roots once a month, following the package instructions. Plants grown directly in the mud at the bottom of ponds do not need fertilizer. 041b061a72


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