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GardenSMART Episode

Show #1/5101. Water Features In A Garden Can Be Transformative

Summary of Show

Water Gardening

In this show we are going to TALK ABOUT WATER GARDENING. It is one of the hottest topics in gardening. Our viewers consistently have questions about water and water gardening. There is tremendous interest in it and for obvious reasons. Water adds so much to a garden whether it's the sound of a waterfall, like the one behind them, the visual aesthetics, the fact that it brings wildlife into the garden or all the natural reflections from water gardens. Water in the garden really is impactful. Jim responds, as you said everyone loves water.

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Reflection In The Water

Eric comments on the importance of REFLECTION IN THE WATER. And, it is often a thing that, perhaps, we don't take enough advantage of in garden design. And perhaps we forget about the fact that water, especially when the conditions are right, becomes a completely new canvas allowing one to basically project images onto the water. That really adds a whole additional layer of depth to a garden. Much of the purpose of this bridge was to capture the reflection.

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Japanese Garden

Eric thinks that the JAPANESE GARDEN at Gibbs garden is far and away the most impressive of all the signature gardens. As one enters you feel almost like time is slowing down. It has a wonderful tranquility to it. Even the water feels like it is moving more slowly in this garden than it does in other places.

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Symbolism Of Elements In Japanese Garden

As we look at the water, there are plants and stones and they ALL REPRESENT SOMETHING THE JAPANESE FIND IMPORTANT. As one looks across this garden every view is different. If one is on the north side the view is totally different than the south. Same with the east and west. So you want to experience the whole garden.

For More Information Click Here

Waterfall

Of all the water features in a garden Eric's favorite is the WATERFALL and for many obvious reasons. When he hears the sound of moving water he finds it so soothing. And that is somewhat common, a lot of people feel there is something really soothing about moving water. A waterfall is a feature that is basically denoting a change in elevation.

For More Information Click Here

Abundance Of Water

Here at Gibbs Garden they have more than twenty-nine ponds and nineteen waterfalls. The reason they have so many is when Jim found this property there was an ABUNDANCE OF WATER, they have springs everywhere. When they dug down with the backhoe just five feet they would uncap a little spring that would be like a geyser and maybe shoot water up twelve inches and never stopped running.

For More Information Click Here

Evaporative Cooling

Another advantage that we don't often times talk about with waterfalls is the natural EVAPORATIVE COOLING as water is either flowing through a membrane or going over a rock and interacting with air. It causes evaporation of that water and it actually not only feels cooler, it is actually lowering the temperature. The water temperature, because of the springs, is sixty-three degrees.

For More Information Click Here

Koi Pond

But most of us don't have abundant underwater springs nor acres and acres to have little ponds that are connected by waterfalls and creeks. But Gibbs Gardens has a KOI POND and it is an excellent example of a very practical feature that a homeowner could install. Even if they didn't have this much space they could install something that was a third this size. The principles are fairly straight forward. Basically we have an elevation change that creates the waterfall. At the top there is a small reservoir and then it falls into a larger reservoir at the bottom.

For More Information Click Here

Pond In A Pot

We have discussed water features, even ones that PEOPLE CAN INSTALL if they had a corner in their backyard. But what if all one had was a brick patio or a very small deck? If you are limited on space but still want to take advantage of this feature there are things as simple as this ridged, black pot, it has no holes in it, of course, so it holds water.

For More Information Click Here

Water Plants

Once we have installed our water feature we should next look at what kind of PLANTS WE CAN INSTALL. And, we have a number of really interesting options. Importantly, we should look at the plants that will grow on the bank, even what kind of trees are going to perform best around our water feature.

For More Information Click Here

Two Kinds Of Water Lilies

There are TWO KINDS OF WATER LILIES. Hearty water lilies, which come back year after year and tropical water lilies, which one must plant when the water temperature reaches seventy degrees and last just one year. They will bloom from planting in typically June until November.

For More Information Click Here

Marginal Plants

Eric had mentioned MARGINAL PLANTS. They too are very important for water lily gardens. One wants to not just have water lilies, that could become boring and monotonous. Around the edges of your ponds you want to begin thinking about planting marginal plants such as pickerel. The purple pickerel has a beautiful flower that attracts butterflies. Dragonflies love pickerel so you get movement around the garden.

For More Information Click Here

Maintenance

A pond like this is very large but still the MAINTENANCE is not that great because with the water lilies you feed them one time a month. Typical they use a tablet. Feed them north, south, east, and west on the edge of the container, then the next month do it again. And that is it. Do a little clean up and water lilies perform beautifully.

For More Information Click Here

Locate Aquatic Plants

Eric wants to know if Jim has any advice for where we might FIND AQUATIC PLANTS because not every garden center carries them. And secondly if we have a smaller pond are there any plants that we should avoid because they would be too aggressive for a small pond? What Jim does now is Google a plant, that will give you the background of what it is and most often where it can be purchased. But, if you see a plant that you like and it says water plant you should first check and see if it is invasive.

For More Information Click Here

LINKS:

Show #1/5101. Water Features In A Garden Can Be Transformative

Transcript of Show

Few things are more peaceful in the garden than the sound of moving water and the many reflections from a pond. In this Episode GardenSMART explores the amazing world of water gardening.

Water has been an essential element of gardens from the beginning of time. Its importance is evident in every garden that we visit. The sense of peacefulness that emanates from its very presence is felt by every visitor. Water reminds us that it is the source of life itself on our small planet. It attracts a host of wildlife and provides us a natural mirror to reflect the beauty of all that surrounds it.

In this episode we visit a garden that was built around a series of natural ponds that are connected by streams, waterfalls, and natural shoals. The water features are the foundation of the garden and there are few corners you can visit without hearing or seeing it.

This garden is the home of Jim Gibbs. Jim has spent the better part of the past 40 years building this paradise in the north Georgia mountains. It has been an incredible endeavor and a true labor of love. Jim shares his experience about how to build and maintain water gardens and how to get the most out of aquatic plants.

Eric, once again, welcomes Jim Gibbs to GardenSMART. Thanks so much for being with us. In this show we are going to TALK ABOUT WATER GARDENING. It is one of the hottest topics in gardening. Our viewers consistently have questions about water and water gardening. There is tremendous interest in it and for obvious reasons. Water adds so much to a garden whether it's the sound of a waterfall, like the one behind them, the visual aesthetics, the fact that it brings wildlife into the garden or all the natural reflections from water gardens. Water in the garden really is impactful. Jim responds, as you said everyone loves water. Jim knew that when he decided to build a world class garden. The first thing, because we had water restrictions in Atlanta in 1973, he began to search for land with an abundance of water. He knew that he wanted to build a lot of ponds. And he has. They have twenty-nine ponds here. He wanted to have bridge crossings, which are fun and exciting, he wanted to make sure that they had waterfalls and moving water. Even if it is a trickle of water people love that. Water evokes all of the senses. For example, one hears the sounds, one smells the fragrance of the water lilies in the water lily gardens, Jim can smell water in a coming rain, he can smell it miles away. Water stimulates the senses.

Everybody gets excited over water. So in this garden Jim wanted to design gardens with water playing a big role. Plants in these gardens, water lilies as an example, provide beautiful reflections in the water. As well, trees, shrubs and so many other ornamental plants are reflected in the water. Water has so much that it can be used for, it's great, it plays a very central role in this garden.

In this episode we are going to focus on a few impressive water features of this garden. And, the guys are off.

Eric comments on the importance of REFLECTION IN THE WATER. And, it is often a thing that, perhaps, we don't take enough advantage of in garden design. And perhaps we forget about the fact that water, especially when the conditions are right, becomes a completely new canvas allowing one to basically project images onto the water. That really adds a whole additional layer of depth to a garden. Much of the purpose of this bridge was to capture the reflection. The bridge is beautiful on its own but also there is something almost magical about the reflection. Jim comments that when he visited Monet's garden the first time he was so impressed with the water lilies, the bridge and the reflections of, not just of the water lilies in the water, but the trees. But then when he read about Monet, who is his favorite impressionistic artist, he learned he painted for light and reflections. The more he read about Monet the more he liked. Monet captured that light down in the water, then painted those reflections deep within the water like the cypress trees growing, it's just a big mirror of what you see as you look out. When he was there Jim was so fascinated he decided that when he built Gibbs Gardens as a world class garden he wanted to go to Monet's garden and actually measure the radius of his bridge. And he did that, so this is an exact replica. He measured the radius from where the post enters the bridge to the middle, then several other measurements and that gave him the arch. Then he rolled the steel for each of the rails, then rolled the steel for the arbor up above. By the time he finished there was no question, this is the most expensive piece of sculpture that Gibbs Gardens has. Also, Monet planted purple and white wisteria. And that is what they have growing on this arbor. He measured the length of the bridge and decided to build an island to support it. That is why they have the island. This means you have the connection of the land with the island. The island provided a great place to put the Japanese maples, the beautiful Chinese fringe trees and of course additional plant material. If one looks around the garden you are dealing with a horizontal plane, that is the water. So you want to try to add some iris and some purple pickerel to provide a vertical element to break that up. Look out there and notice how beautiful the pickerel and the iris reflect in the water and as well the sky reflecting in the water. Notice the clouds as they pass over, they are floating on the water too, which means one gets that wonderful movement. So it was an exciting place to visit and everyone that comes to Gibbs Gardens now says it is so wonderful because now they don't have to make that long trip to Paris and Giverny they can actually see the exact replica bridge here at Gibbs Gardens. Eric concurs, it's amazing, well done.

Eric thinks that the JAPANESE GARDEN at Gibbs garden is far and away the most impressive of all the signature gardens. As one enters you feel almost like time is slowing down. It has a wonderful tranquility to it. Even the water feels like it is moving more slowly in this garden than it does in other places. It doesn't have big assertive waterfalls, it seems a place designed for everyone to just take a deep breath and enjoy the scenery. Jim agrees and adds a Japanese garden is a balance of natural and manmade beauty. It is a garden of meditation, it is intended to align all of the senses and it also challenges the soul. For many, when they come, it's a spiritual experience. But the Japanese garden is designed with water to represent the sea or represent larger lakes. They cause one to think back as they travel to different places. One might look at the water and think of a river. Again, water evokes all of the senses. For example, the fragrance of the viscosum azalea is wonderful, very, very fragrant.

As we look at the water, there are plants and stones and they ALL REPRESENT SOMETHING THE JAPANESE FIND IMPORTANT. As one looks across this garden every view is different. If one is on the north side the view is totally different than the south. Same with the east and west. So you want to experience the whole garden. It is a stroll garden so stroll around the ponds. As well, it's a hill and stroll garden, which is a "tsukiyama". We've been through the hill section, now we are strolling around the ponds. Unlike many western gardens it seems that almost every element in a Japanese garden has some kind of significance. Eric comments that they were mentioning the rocks as they were walking through the garden. Jim has a story about the significance of each one of these rocks and Eric would like for Jim to share a few. Well every rock in the garden is symbolic, the Japanese believe that the kagura gods live within the stones. Accordingly, when finding stones for a Japanese garden one should make sure to not disturb the stone, one should not scratch them because you would then disturb the gods that live within the stone. So, all of the stones within this garden had to be wrapped with burlap the backhoe lifted them up, put them on a big truck bed and brought them here. Then Jim and his crew had to place all of the stones. There are books that discuss stones for a Japanese garden, even the shape and the form of the stones. Jim searched for five years, in five counties to find all these stones. They all have a name. Venerable seat rock is one, the rock of never aging, another. Of course everybody likes to touch the rock of never aging. Beside that rock is the rock of the spirit kings, that embodies all three of the forces - vertical forces, horizontal, and diagonal forces. All are within one stone. Another is the seat of the myriad felicity god. So every stone has a meaning. The stones that are floating in the middle of the pond are actually representing the five islands of Japan. So everything in the Japanese garden is symbolic and very, very difficult to design. Without question this is the the most difficult garden Jim has ever designed. Just to do the basic layout was five years in selecting just the stones. Jim started working on this garden in nineteen-eighty, it is thirty-seven years later, it's mature now but don't forget it takes years of maturity and age. Character comes with maturity.

Of all the water features in a garden Eric's favorite is the WATERFALL and for many obvious reasons. When he hears the sound of moving water he finds it so soothing. And that is somewhat common, a lot of people feel there is something really soothing about moving water. A waterfall is a feature that is basically denoting a change in elevation. That is how we create a waterfall and it oftentimes is transitioning into another part of the garden. Not only do waterfalls provide the sound of the water but when the morning light hits a waterfall you get that beautiful sparkle. It almost looks like little diamonds glittering. You have light playing on water, which is beautiful but sound is without a doubt the most important feature of a waterfall. People, from childhood, are excited over waterfalls and when you hear waterfalls the sound pulls you to that space. So if a waterfall is at the end of a garden you will hear it in the distance and you are going to keep moving towards the waterfall because the sound attracts you.

Here at Gibbs Garden they have more than twenty-nine ponds and nineteen waterfalls. The reason they have so many is when Jim found this property there was an ABUNDANCE OF WATER, they have springs everywhere. When they dug down with the backhoe just five feet they would uncap a little spring that would be like a geyser and maybe shoot water up twelve inches and never stopped running. So they are blessed with water and with ponds with waterfalls and streams. And that is because they are on top of a huge aquifer, meaning the streams in this valley are all spring fed, every pond is fed by three to five to seven springs and waterfalls are everywhere.

Another advantage that we don't often times talk about with waterfalls is the natural EVAPORATIVE COOLING as water is either flowing through a membrane or going over a rock and interacting with air. It causes evaporation of that water and it actually not only feels cooler, it is actually lowering the temperature. The water temperature, because of the springs, is sixty-three degrees. All night these waterfalls have flowing water, which brings the temperature down. The water cools the air which flows through the valley. The cool air settles in the valley at night which means the waterfalls all night are air conditioning the valley. People come here in the mornings in the summer, July, August, and will start out early in the day with long sleeve shirts because it is like sixty-six, sixty-seven, sixty-eight degrees. Again, this is in July and August when it is hot. So it does have the cooling effect mentioned. Waterfalls are fun, exciting and cooling.

Eric comments to Jim that we have taken a look at a number of large-scale water features. But most of us don't have abundant underwater springs nor acres and acres to have little ponds that are connected by waterfalls and creeks. But Gibbs Gardens has a KOI POND and it is an excellent example of a very practical feature that a homeowner could install. Even if they didn't have this much space they could install something that was a third this size. The principles are fairly straight forward. Basically we have an elevation change that creates the waterfall. At the top there is a small reservoir and then it falls into a larger reservoir at the bottom. There is a pump that is going to recirculate the water from the lower reservoir up to the top. It is just a continuous loop. All we have to think about is what kind of stone to use for the ornamentation and then are we going to use a polly liner, concrete or gunite that is sealed in some way. That can be fairly easily put together and the principles behind how we actually make this operate are pretty simple. People come here and think - I could put this in my backyard. It serves its purpose well, add a few fish to get a little movement. From experience Jim knows it's important to make sure that you let the stones be cantilevered over the sides, make sure the walls are vertical so the raccoons don't get in the pond and to the fish. If the raccoons put their paw in there and they can't feel a slope they will then move to another place. They had problems with raccoons in the koi pond in the big Japanese garden but have had no problems here because these are cantilevered.

This waterfall is a wonderful example, you hear the water, you hear the sounds of it, you can see the sunlight on it when it changes during the day. People love it. To Jim it is an easy, low-maintenance pool.

We have discussed water features, even ones that PEOPLE CAN INSTALL if they had a corner in their backyard. But what if all one had was a brick patio or a very small deck? If you are limited on space but still want to take advantage of this feature there are things as simple as this ridged, black pot, it has no holes in it, of course, so it holds water. Basically we would fill this up about two thirds with water. It has a submergible pump that has some lights on this particular model and a little fountain. One can adjust the fitting on the end and it makes a little cone. You can adjust it and it will make a more gurgling type flow of water. It fits in there, plug it in and you've got a water feature in about fifteen minutes.

Alternatively you can use the same type of pump mechanism but instead use something like a little fountain or spitter, as some people call them. Instead of a hose this plugs into the back and goes to your pump. It could sit on the outside of the water feature and it is going to leave a little trickle or stream of water. It recirculates inside the basin.

So inside of a very small amount of time, with almost no money one can add a water feature to a very small space. They work great and on a very hot day a little trickle of water makes it feel much cooler.

We have looked at a number of ponds or pond effects that can be relatively easily installed, even in a very small space whether we have a patio or a decent sized yard. They show us the different kinds of things that we can do with water. But the one thing we need to add to the conversation is how we round all of this out with aquatic plants. Compared to what we typically have in the ground this is a whole new vein of horticulture.

Once we have installed our water feature we should next look at what kind of PLANTS WE CAN INSTALL. And, we have a number of really interesting options. Importantly, we should look at the plants that will grow on the bank, even what kind of trees are going to perform best around our water feature. Jim tells us - here at Gibbs Gardens they have one of the largest water lily gardens in the nation. They have over one hundred and forty-seven varieties. They are all planted in containers that are submerged in the water. That way they can't be invasive. If one plants water lilies in the ground of a pond they will start spreading and you cannot get rid of them. Everyone should know that if you want water lilies always plant them in a container. It's just a black twenty-four inch or thirty-inch diameter container. Put your soil in, plant your plants in the container. That way they are restricted to the growth in the container. Fertilize the containers once a month, it's easy maintenance and you clean them up once a month.

Water lilies became very popular in the victorian era, and in London they found that water lilies, if you cut the flowers would last for seven to nine days in a vase. Not only that, they found that most of the tropical water lilies are very, very fragrant. So at that time it was all the rage to go out and buy water lilies, cut them and bring them into your apartments in London or wherever. Excitement has grown and more and more people love water lilies. It is so popular and all because of Monet. He loved to paint water lilies because of the light and the reflections.

There are TWO KINDS OF WATER LILIES. Hearty water lilies, which come back year after year and tropical water lilies, which one must plant when the water temperature reaches seventy degrees and last just one year. They will bloom from planting in typically June until November.

Another thing that is important to consider is the colors blue, lavender, and purple. They are cool colors. Normally a pond is in a sunny and hot location. These colors have a cooling effect. The hearty water lilies have never been able to be hybridized to have blue, lavender, or purple. But with the tropicals you can have all the colors with them. So blue, lavender, and purple are very popular colors and again they are fragrant. Also the tropical water lilies have taller stems which means when they grow up, they will reflect in the water better than the flat pads of the hearty lilies with the flat flower on the pads. So that is the biggest difference with hearty and tropical water lilies.

Eric had mentioned MARGINAL PLANTS. They too are very important for water lily gardens. One wants to not just have water lilies, that could become boring and monotonous. Around the edges of your ponds you want to begin thinking about planting marginal plants such as pickerel. The purple pickerel has a beautiful flower that attracts butterflies. Dragonflies love pickerel so you get movement around the garden. Now not only do you have water iris, Japanese water iris grows taller so with the pickerel and with the iris you get a vertical element that then reflects in the water and breaks up the horizontal flow of the water lilies that are all flat and mimic the horizontal plain. If one goes around the garden there are all kinds of interesting materials. Things like the acorus, which likes a damp area, astilbe like to be damp and they flower during the summer months, you've got sweet spire, the Japanese maple can be planted because it is a maple and has roots that will grow around it. So there are a lot of trees and plants. The arrowhead is a great marginal plant. Everybody is fascinated with these plants that look like big arrowheads. Put an arrowhead next to an iris and you have a combination of horizontal and vertical. With the big bowl look of the leaf in a water garden it creates a lot of interest.

A pond like this is very large but still the MAINTENANCE is not that great because with the water lilies you feed them one time a month. Typical they use a tablet. Feed them north, south, east, and west on the edge of the container, then the next month do it again. And that is it. Do a little clean up and water lilies perform beautifully.

Eric wants to know if Jim has any advice for where we might FIND AQUATIC PLANTS because not every garden center carries them. And secondly if we have a smaller pond are there any plants that we should avoid because they would be too aggressive for a small pond? What Jim does now is Google a plant, that will give you the background of what it is and most often where it can be purchased. But, if you see a plant that you like and it says water plant you should first check and see if it is invasive. If it says it is invasive do not plant it, believe the warning because, for example, equisetum, horsetails, is a plant that is very invasive, it will take over. It's neat, it's interesting, if you plant it by a pond it looks great, people love it but before they know it they are saying how in the world can I get rid of this plant? It is taking over. So if you were to Google equisetum you are going to find out - horsetail, do not plant it because it is invasive. So Jim cautions everybody, there are so many plants that you are going to see on the market that they are trying to sell. Check them out first.

Today we have viewed an amazing garden and seen how transformative water features are. We've also discussed aquatic plants as well as some simple ways that you can introduce water into your garden at home. Eric thanks Jim for spending the day with us. As always we learned so much. We really appreciate this opportunity to visit Gibbs Gardens. Jim returns the compliment, it has been his pleasure.

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