week we visit Randy's Perennials and Water Gardens in Lawrenceville,
Georgia and will talk with owner Randy Kucera about ponds,
fish and plants that work well in wet or bog-like conditions.
a hard day there is nothing more relaxing than the sound
of running water, the sight of fish moving and plants floating.
Last year on the show we built several ponds but maintaining
these ponds causes many problems. Randy feels that a pond
must first be built correctly. All ponds need a filtration
system because bacteria colonizes in the inner portions
of a filter and they consume all the organics. Once organics
are removed from the water then the algae, being a single
celled plant, has no food. With no food the algae ceases
to grow and water will clear. Algae constantly multiplies
and divides as long as it is getting food, when the food
source is removed the algae dies. Food sources for algae
might be excrement from fish, plant material that has died
and fallen to the bottom and the residual food from feeding
fish. People tend to feed their fish too much food, they
only require 2 or 3 feedings each week. The idea is to have
the fish become scavengers along the bottom of the pond,
where they will find bits and pieces of plants that they
will use for food. Plants help keep a pond clean as well.
They take in Carbon Dioxide and give off Oxygen. The Oxygen
is then used by the fish. The food the fish eat becomes
available to the plants. This creates what is known as the
"Nitrogen Cycle." If you remove parts of the cycle
you'll end up with green water.
A filtration system is an essential part of a clean pond.
Randy shows us a trickle down filter. There is a filter
mediate pad that captures sediment falling on the pad. Below
are lava rocks, used because they have a lot of surface
area, the more surface area the more bacteria. The bacteria
colonize over the surface area of the lava rock and remove
the sediment and nutrients from the water. Again, without
nutrients the algae has no food, therefore it dries up and
the water clears. Randy refers to this system as an aquatic
septic tank. Oxygenators are a must for every pond. Anacharis
and Mares Tail take in Carbon Dioxide and give off Oxygen,
which makes for healthier bacteria growth. Bacteria requires
Oxygen to survive. Randy suggests one bunch of plants like
this for every 3 square feet of surface area. These plants
are hardy, survive over winter, and multiply over time.
There is lead on the roots to keep them down where they
will colonize, they could be put in a basket of rocks. They
help keep the water clear and provide a place for the fish
to lay their eggs and for fish to live. Water Hyacinths
and Water Lettuce are good plants for the surface area of
your pond, they shade the surface of the pond. These plants
block the sun. Without sun and without a food source the
algae has no way to survive, therefore the water stays clean.
These plants multiply rapidly so for an area of 100 square
feet use them initially in 2 or 3 square feet. Ideally 60%-70%
of the surface should be covered by some type of floating
vegetation. The roots in the water absorb Nitrogen, help
pull nutrients out of the water and they block the sun.
All important in keeping water clear. We've discussed Oxygenators,
the submerged plants and the floaters (Water Hyacinth, Lettuce,
etc.). As well Azolla and Water Lilies are important. Azolla
Carolinianas, is native, is a surface floater and blocks
the sun in ponds. Azolla is called "Fairy Moss."
It is a single cell plant, it has a tendency to spread,
so use it sparingly. It spreads, but can be removed if it
overwhelms the area, by using a skimmer net. It is healthy
for fish. It is green in the shade but when put in the sun
it turns vivid red. It works in both environments. Water
Lilies are a staple in most ponds. They block the sun by
covering the surface. Hardy Lilies survive the winter in
zone 7. Tropicals only survive in water temperatures above
75 degrees, therefore they are typically put in later in
the season. Tropical Lilies have a dramatic variation in
leaf form. There are leaves that are wavy on top, leaves
that have speckles, leaves that produce smaller plants -
called Viviparous. These produce a small plant nodule coming
off the main plant. Importantly there are color variations.
Tropical Lilies range from what is called "Green Smoke,"
which is a green flower to purple to lavender to white and
some of the finest pinks ever seen. There are night blooming
types that aren't available with Hardy Lilies. Night blooming
Lilies are blooming when you're home to enjoy them and they
have an outstanding fragrance. In the winter they can be
put in a jar with sand and a small amount of water and brought
inside. Once in the pond, submerge medium and larger hardy
and tropical Lilies 18-24 inches. Hivolla is a small yellow
Lily and it grows 15-16 inches below the surface. They're
planted in pots, which controls the growth since they will
grow to the size of the pot. The larger the pot the larger
the plant. Feeding is important. Water Lilies are heavy
feeders and are typically fertilized once every two weeks
with pond tablets. Drive these tablets into the root zone
of the plant. Most everyone is fascinated by fish in ponds.
Randy primarily stocks fish that are hardy, they survive
winters in zone 7. Butterfly Koi are imported from China
and are a mainstay in Koi ponds and water gardens. Koi ponds
are void of plants because Koi are vegetarians, they eat
plant life. Koi need big filtration systems with large bacteria
filtration systems. Goldfish are ideal for water gardens.
Japanese Trapdoor Snails will typically go along the sides
and eat filamentous type algae that grow along the side
of the pond. Alligator Gar will grow to 3-4 feet in a water
pond. They eat the small fish, thereby controlling the population
in the pond. Turtles will eat plants and fish in your pond.
By using fencing around the perimeter of the turtle area,
leaving walking space along the outside of the pond allowing
the turtles to come out and sunbathe and by feeding them
everyday they then don't look to the fish as a food source.
They will consume plant material but use Hyacinths, which
are fast growers, to address this problem. The Red Eared
Slider is somewhat aggressive, you wouldn't want to put
your finger in front of it. Over time they will identify
with you, realize you are the food source and will come
to the edge of the pond and wait for you. They can be fun
as pets. They are cold blooded, their core body temperature
will go down to about the same temperature as the water.
In winter they go to the bottom of the pond and either burrow
into, underneath or beside the plant. Randy has cinderblocks
coated in rubber, at the deep end of his pond, in about
3 feet of water, and in the winter they live inside those.
A Barley Bale is ideal for keeping a clear pond, one free
from algae. It is placed in the pond, after about 2 weeks
it begins to break down and for whatever reason, it's a
little mysterious, it keeps algae under control.
Different people like different types of fish. The slower,
more graceful fish are the common Fantails. The Aranda has
a large, bulbous, orange cap, on top. It is a very unique
fish, not as hardy in the wintertime as some of the Fantailed.
Sarassa Comets are a type of pond comet, but have been bred
for the difference in colors between red and white. They
come in different forms.
Albino Catfish will eat debris from the bottom. Since most
ponds are black they stand out, particularly on the bottom.
They will eat some of the smaller fry in the pond, but that
is ok because you want to keep the population under control.
They will grow to a fair size and are unique to view.
Calico Shibunkin are a beautiful substitute for Koi. They
grow to 14-16 inches over a three year period and have nice
Goldfish are Koi look alikes, yet don't require the fuss
and bother of Koi. And they aren't vicious eating plants.
Orange and Blacks are a color variation of Calico Shibunkin.
They both are winter hardy.
Koi have been raised for thousands of years in the Orient.
Some have been known to live over one hundred years and
may be passed down from generation to generation. Some Koi
will grow to in excess of 36 inches in length and up to
20 pounds in weight.
Big fish need big filtration systems. It is mistaken notion
that fish will grow to fit their environment. People make
the mistake of putting large fish in a small environment.
Koi in any sized container will grow to its adult size with
proper care and feeding.
It is a good idea to put water garden fish in water gardens
and Koi in Koi ponds.
Dr. Rick and Randy look at plants suitable for a "bog
environment" as opposed to a water garden. One of the
most important places in the garden or pond is where the
water meets the soil. Dr. Rick refers to plants that work
in this environment as Marginals. A Marginal or bog-type
plant is any plant that would thrive in moist soil to 2-3
inches of water. Pickerel Rush is one example. It is a hardy
plant for zone 7, it has beautiful blooms, comes in white
and purple and will bloom throughout the summer. It can
be used in a pond or in a container or a wet spot in the
yard, as long as it stays moist.
To keep the soil moist in an area it may be necessary to
build a bog. The soil depth is approximately 10-15 inches
with gravel on the bottom and a Peat Moss Humus combination
on the top, then run a soaker hose through the middle, to
provide an opportunity to flood it periodically.
Another plant ideal for this environment is Variegated Sweet
Flag, calamus Veriegatus. It is winter hardy and keeps its
foliage in winter. It tends to lighten darker areas. It's
called Sweet Flag because when the foliage is crushed it
releases a sweet scent.
Star Grass, Dichromena Colorata is hardy in zone 7 and 8.
It's self contained, is not an aggressive grass, is beautiful
later in the summer because it develops white top edges.
Another great plant to transition from the water to the
garden is Lysimachia Nummularia, Aurea, Creeping Golden
Jenny. It likes full sun to partial shade and quickly forms
matts of golden foliage.
Colicatious are not winter hardy in a pond but planted in
the ground in zone 7 they will survive. In the water they
will grow to 18-24 inches, in the ground they will grow
to 4-7 feet tall. They require plenty of water and a lot
of fertilizer and thrive in sun to partial shade. Their
black and deep purple color is popular in the garden and
looks great mixed with cooler colors. It provides good foliage
texture and color in a water garden.
Iris are a diverse group of plants and ideal for the water
garden. There are different types, for example German or
Bearded Iris, they are not great plants for a water garden.
Native Iris from Louisiana have been hybridized for the
last 20-25 years, during this time some spectacular varieties
have been developed. Anne Chouning is a fantastic new hybrid.
They range from yellow, such as Pseudacorus Iris, to dark
purple to pink to lavender. In zone 7 it went down to 5
degrees last winter and with a wind chill, well below zero,
it damaged some of the foliage and appears to have caused
damage to the rhizome. Iris Borers have been a problem and
in this case the tubers are not as vigorous as normal and
the plant is more susceptible to disease. Other than that
one shouldn't experience a lot of disease or insect problems
with Iris. Dead head them and you can get a second bloom.
Fertilize water gardens every 2-3 weeks with an aquatic
type fertilizer. It will keep water plants healthy into
late summer. Irises are one of the few plants that stay
green in the winter. If massed they give a soft edge to
the pond. At the same time they provide a vertical element
to the pond. They really catch the eye. They're a great
Ponds are fascinating, yet versatile elements in the garden.
Dr. Rick thanks Randy for his time and for sharing his expertise.
Perennials & Water Gardens
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