Water gardening has been popular for many years and there are a great number of reasons for that. Not only are these fun and attractive displays to put together but in many cases it opens up a whole new pallet of plants that, in some cases, can later be put in the ground. Or many folks often adapt plants used in the ground for use in the water gardens. Plants such as cannas can be submerged in water. They don't go down deep in the water, just a couple of inches below the surface. They do a lot of tropical planters in the summer time, it's part of the exuberance that they try to have in the garden. The gardeners put together wonderful combinations of containers all over the conservatory and outside. The chance to use a container that is filled with water is special. For example, one can put goldfish in it. For a homeowner it makes life easier because they can go on vacation and come back and the plants aren't wilted, it already has water. They talk a little about the type plants that can be used in a water garden. Parker feels the choices are fairly open. We've discussed cannas, but as well plants with flowers that might get a little leaf scorch often will do better in water. House plants like cyperus does well in water, but does need to be slightly submerged. Plants like fiber optic grass, which are hot items today, work well in this environment, it does well in well watered containers, even in water. A favorite of Parker's is purple leafed rice, Red Dragon. It's actually rice and will bloom on its stalk as well as form rice kernels on the bloom stalk. Parker has some Callas in water, as well as water lettuce and water hyacinth. These plants wouldn't do well in a lake, for example, because they're invasive, but in a controlled environment they work great. The water lettuce will just float on top of the water and does wonderfully in a container. Again, it's invasive, especially in the southern parts of the U.S. so keep it in the container, when done with the plant put in in the trash, don't let it out.
They talk about the container one should use for these applications. The most obvious point is it must not have a hole in the bottom. Sealing the bottom of a container can be tricky but a cork and silicon will work. But it's simpler to just buy a container without a hole or to buy a liner. A whiskey barrel or wine barrel cut in half with a plastic liner works well too.
To set up a water garden one needs to know about the water level plants enjoy. For example, water lilies should be placed approximately 10 inches below the water line. The canna is a marginal plant and it should be placed in water just above the soil line. Remember things float in water, bricks don't, thus bricks are helpful in achieving the perfect level to place pots. Another thing to remember is potting mix often has little pieces of perlite. They float so instead plant water plants in good top soil, plant them in dirt. Water gardens are planted much like a traditional container. It has vertical elements, intermediates and Parker has used water lettuce as a spiller. It will fill in and cover up the entire container, providing shade. The shade helps cut down on evaporation. Goldfish could be added and they will take care of mosquitoes that might lay eggs in the water. Or little mosquito dunks are available as well
By Jolene Hansen, GardenTech
Photographs courtesy of GardenTech
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