Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2007

Water world

Aquatic gardens a low-maintenance alternative

Employee Chris Rexroad trims up plants in a garden at Water's Edge, 847 Ind. With no weeding, watering, mulching or composting, water gardens take much less time than perennial, vegetable or annual plots. 
Below: Water lilies, with their picturesque blooms and floating foliage, are a staple in any water garden.

Employee Chris Rexroad trims up plants in a garden at Water's Edge, 847 Ind. With no weeding, watering, mulching or composting, water gardens take much less time than perennial, vegetable or annual plots. Below: Water lilies, with their picturesque blooms and floating foliage, are a staple in any water garden.

June 21, 2007


Water gardens

Water plants at Water's Edge, 847 Ind. Enlarge video

Recommended water plants

Here's a list, compiled by the folks at Water's Edge, 847 Ind., explaining which water plants are great and when:Spring¢ Water hawthorne: A lily-like aquatic with strap leaves and a small white spicy edible flower, this cool-season plant will go dormant in the summer and come back to life with gorgeous blooms in the fall.¢ Water iris: Those who hold their leaves up throughout the summer are the Yellow Flag and Virginica (purple) iris.¢ Reeds and rushes: These come up early and vary in height and texture.Summer¢ Pickerel: With their shiny, arrow-shaped leaves and short purple spires of flowers, this is a great summer choice.¢ Water lilies: Hardy ones bloom from May to September; they're a staple in any water garden.¢ Thalia: The leaves of this taller plant often grow up to 6 feet high. Purple stalks of clustered blueberry-looking flowers appear to sway in the breeze.¢ Willow leaf primrose: This tall willowy plant sports pretty yellow flowers.¢ Tropical water lilies: These will not overwinter here but make for a great annual show. They can smell like candy and bloom day and night through October.¢ Water cannas: These bloom all summer with bold leaves and bright flowers.¢ Papyrus and umbrella palms: Airy and grass-like, these plants come in a bevy of heights and textures.¢ Giant lotus: These can grow 3 to 4 feet tall in the sun, with round, veined leaves that reach up to 2 feet in diameter. The blooms rise above the leaves to put a heady scent into the morning air.¢ All-season low growers: Water clover, forget-me-not, aquatic mint and parrot feather cover up pots and trail out to add interest.

There's nothing quite as soothing as the sound of water gurgling and splashing in the landscape.

Sunflower Water Garden Tour 2007

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and noon-4 p.m. SundayWhere: 16 gardens throughout Lawrence; locations provided with paid ticketTickets: $10, available at Water's Edge, 847 Ind.; Sunrise Garden Center, 1501 Learnard Ave.; and Clinton Parkway Nursery, 4900 Clinton Parkway

Whether it be a minimalist bubbler in a private corner, a stream snaking its way through the garden or a completely stocked pond that's teeming with an aquatic ecosystem, the options are endless as to the types and methods of water features you can create. As long as the vessel is free of holes and can hold water, the sky's the limit.

I think some gardeners feel that a water feature is bound to be yet another area that requires excessive amounts of upkeep. In fact, the opposite is true. Water gardening takes much less time than perennial, vegetable or annual gardens. There's no weeding, watering, mulching or composting.

Granted, there are a few tasks required to maintain a water feature. But I find them almost meditative to do - like skimming the pond for fallen leaves and debris or plucking a spent lily bloom after it has faded.

This weekend, the Sunflower Water Garden Society is playing host to its annual tour. A $10 ticket works as an all-access pass to 16 gardens - 16 gardens to steal ideas from, ask questions about and simply admire.

If you've been entertaining the idea of creating a water feature but need a little push - some instruction, maybe some inspiration - the tour should satisfy those desires. In the meantime, here are a few helpful hints to consider when planning a water feature:

¢ Function: Are you seeking water in the garden for the sound? Maybe the aquatic plants and amphibians are fascinating to you. Are you attempting to attract birds and other wildlife?

¢ Placement: Location and size matter. If you're hoping to have a bevy of lotus blooms, you'll need a sunny location. If you're more interested in hearing the water, position it close to the house. If a year-round view is a necessity, explore the garden by looking out your home's windows.

¢ Drainage: If your water garden were to overflow from a massive deluge, it would be a disaster if all that excess water ended up in your finished basement. Make sure your new pond won't block or dam existing drainage.

¢ Power source: Extension cords are a no, no for water gardening, so you may have to provide power by building a trench to lay cable and calling an electrician to install the juice. Keep in mind you'll need enough power for the water pump and possibly lights and a water vacuum. You might even invest in a de-icer for the winter.

¢ Style and materials: This is the biggest head-scratcher. Do you want something formal or natural, simplistic or complicated? Something made of stone or gummite, concrete or brick? A gorgeous urn you bought in a foreign land or a creek that seems to have no beginning or end?

And what about maintaining a water feature? Here are a few steps you'll need to learn to dance the water garden tango:

¢ Inspect the garden: You'll want to do this anyway because you'll find a water feature intensely fascinating, but be sure to notice water running off in an unintended direction. You might have to reposition some rocks. Is it possible there's a leak that's causing the water level to decrease abnormally? Is the flow consistent? If not, the pump could be clogged. Are plants and fish healthy and disease-free?

¢ Top the pond: Water will evaporate when temperatures rise and it hasn't rained. When that happens, you'll need to add some water. Be sure to de-chlorinate in the process, using dechlorination chemicals found at any store that sells pond supplies. Simply follow the instructions per the amount of water in your pond.

¢ Clean the pump: A pump has screens that are easy to remove and rinse off with the hose. This will be a regular chore, performed no less than once a month. You will always want to turn off your pump when cleaning it.

¢ Skim the pond: I actually find this task quite relaxing. Just grab leaves and other debris with a little net to avoid clogging up your pump.

¢ Plants: Plants will need to be cut back to an inch or two and sunk to the lowest depths of the pond in the winter and raised and placed on the upper shelves in the spring. Your pond must be at least 24 inches deep to support plants in the winter.

¢ Turn off flow in the winter: The rocks that make up waterfalls, streams and fountains can crack in the winter, so it's best to have your pump just bubble at the surface so the water does not freeze completely. This will also keep your plants and fish from freezing.

- Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.


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