GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2005 show16
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Show #16

Today we're in Burlington Vermont, visiting several of our viewers homes and discussing water gardens. Water gardens are one of the hottest trends in gardening. Over the past 10 years thousands of people have installed water gardens in their backyards and many have questions about maintaining them. Today we'll learn about using garden art to design around your water garden, which plants to grow, how to maintain water quality and how to raise fish in your pond.

Bob McEwing is director of planning and development at the Burlington Airport. Burlington is a city known for its' water, it is located on Lake Champlain. Burlington started as a sea port, boats were the primary means of transportation and were used for getting lumber and other materials up and down the lake. To handle the lake traffic, trails, then roads were built. Today, Burlington also has one of the best airports in the world. In Burlington, they believe that an airport should be representative of the area. Because of this the airport has lots of plants and gardens outside and native wood inside the building. It is an attractive building and something the people of Burlington are proud of. The airport has been growing by leaps and bounds, during the past 4 years passenger growth has increased about 40% which is pretty good for a small community. Even though it's a small airport, one is able to leave around 7 AM and still be having lunch in San Diego at noon, for example. There aren't many airports with the frequency of flights and multiple destinations that are available in Burlington. They're proud of that. Bob welcomes Garden Smart to Burlington.

We first meet with Sherry, an interior decorator. Sherry used to have a pottery store that specialized in garden art, some of it ended up in Sherry's yard. Sherry tells us what she is thinking when designing an outdoor room. She likes the feel of a cottage garden, she likes a garden to be overwhelmed with color, for the plants to run into each other. Sherry likes a garden to be abundant with plants, color and texture. She also likes art pieces intermingled with the plants. She has placed copper balls around for good chi. Dangling mirrors are used to reflect the energy in the garden. One doesn't expect to see a garden like this when rounding the corner of her condominium, it has arches, flowers and artwork. It's beautiful, Sherry calls it her Shangri-La. Only if you're invited can you come in and see it. Charlie asks how do you know when you've put too much in a garden. Sherry says if you place objects, then look at them and it doesn't feel right, if it doesn't play on the eye right, remove it, then look again. You'll know when it's right, it will feel pleasing to the eye. We view a statue, one of Sherry's garden friends, it is made of dense concrete and was imported from Portugal. Although Sherry likes statues she doesn't want too many, if too many are used it could look like a museum. Sherry didn't want that, she likes a friendly comfortable feel. Sherry has favorite plants as well. We look at some Lilies called Strawberries and Cream, they're the most magnificent shade of pale pink going into cream. The back yard looks like a backyard living room. Even though she lives in Vermont Sherry still likes to spend as much time as possible outdoors, thus tries to bring the inside out allowing her to spend a lot of time outside. Sherry has some beautiful Italian pottery. When placing this outside Sherry is again bringing the indoors out, she likes the color element, likes mixing pottery with plants. She likes the textures of the smooth pottery mixed in with the texture of the leaves. Sometimes she leaves pottery by itself because it is a beautiful design element all on its own. Other times she may throw in some cuttings to give it a little pop of color or to provide some background so it doesn't get lost in the foliage. That's a good tip, when you have a beautiful piece of artwork, like pottery, don't feel you must fill it up with plants just because you're in a garden, it can stand by itself and become a focal point in your yard. Not all art is elaborate, Sherry has used some simple things as well. Sherry thinks that's the grandchild influence. She has added little shoes as a fun element. There are faces everywhere. They're only one of the many design elements that Sherry loves to put in the garden. They're unexpected, put the unexpected where people will see them. She also has chandeliers hanging in several locations. They too are another unexpected element in a garden, something you wouldn't expect to see in a garden. These have been in her garden for 8 to 10 years and are outside year round. They have weathered beautifully and look fabulous. Some urns are magnificent and filled with annual flowers. Sherry has annuals on the patio area, for example she put Calla Lilies in a large urn and in pots because it is easier to locate the bulbs at seasons end, then dig them up and over-winter them. These may be perennials in the South but here they must be dug up and stored. In many containers Sherry has utilized pastel colors. In the seating area she has chosen pink, blues and greens because it is more pleasing to the eye. This is an area where one might read or just think, these colors are conducive to that. This is opposite of the reds and riot of color witnessed when first coming in.

Speaking of quiet, Charlie hears the gurgle of water in the distance. There is a water garden out back but first we must go under branches into an area that initially looks overgrown. This is really a private garden. This area used to be even more overgrown, in fact in the 1800's it was used a a horse barn on a farm. They've dug up horseshoes when planting around the waterfall. This is the 4th summer for this waterfall. Many plants are submersed in their pots, making it easy move them around, if they need more sunlight they can be moved to that area, etc. A rock can be used to hide the pot, but most time that isn't needed. They take an Umbrella Palm and place the pot and all into the water. The tendrils could be pulled over the top of the plant to hide the container. Even if the pot falls over the leaves will find their way up towards the sun. In the winter, pull them up, pot and all, and put them in a pan of water, put it in the basement and they over-winter very well. This is a shady area which means there are a lot of leaves that come down in the Fall. At that point they place a net over the whole pond and the net catches the bulk of the leaves. Take off the netting and the bulk of the leaves are removed as well. It helps keep the pond clean. Again there is a chandelier and mirrors in this area. Sherry likes something glittering. There are chairs and benches, birdhouses, a little bit of everything in this oasis. There are also a lot of Ferns and trees. The ferns have shallow root systems enabling them to be planted in pots and they come back the next Spring

Sherry actually has 2 gardens, a peaceful water garden in the forest and a living room garden with a riot of color with garden art and pottery. It's beautiful how there are 2 little places in 1 backyard. Sherry thank you for showing us how to use garden art tastefully, how to create a garden oasis and a water garden and how to create a beautiful landscape in a condominium backyard.

Water gardens are great but Mosquitoes like them too. To help control Mosquitoes a safe and effective remedy is Mosquito dunks. When placed in the water they are attractive to Mosquitoes, but they contain a bacteria. The Mosquitoes feed on it, it gets into their gut and kills them. The dunk is safe for pets, for fish that might be in the water, for wildlife and for humans. Just leave the dunks in the water, they will last about 30 days in a pond this size. Normally use 1 in 100 square feet or they could be broken up for use in birdbaths or pottery, anywhere there might be standing water where Mosquitoes will be breeding. It's a safe and effective way to enjoy a water garden without pesky Mosquitoes.

We next visit Dave, the science guy, to learn about the science of water gardening. Dave has a PHD. in environmental engineering with a speciality in water quality systems and is an avid water gardener. Several years ago this area was a circular pool. They tired of paying the water bills and putting in all the chemicals. At that point, in 1999, they decided to try a water garden. This was probably the hardest way to approach water gardening because they had to bring in 70 cubic yards of fill just to fill in where the pool was and to bring it up so it wasn't too deep. Plus they brought in all the boulders to give it a more natural setting. Dave walks us through some of the plants. The Water Lilies are Dave's favorites. Every year he adds Hornwort (Ceratophyllum) and occasionally adds some Elodia canadensis (Anacharis). Some say these plants are oxygenators, Dave thinks of them more along the lines as plants that will take up Phosphorus, Nitrates and other things the fish produce. They are important to keep Algae down. From there you get into what are called Marginals. That would be Arrowhead (Sagittaria sagittifolia), Bog Rosemary (Andromeda Polifolia) and Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus) as well as the Water Lilies. Dave has 5 different Water Lilies. The bright pink that's starting to fold up is Perry's Fire Opal, the white one is Gonnere, the red one is Aflame and in addition there is Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) growing in the background. There is a bog area and a group of Water Hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes) are floating around. The little yellow flowers are Water Poppy (Hydrocleys nymphoides) and they are very invasive. In fact, many plants that go into a pond are invasive so you must think of ways to contain them so they don't take over the pond. This pond would be totally covered with foliage by the end of summer if not managed. Dave grows Water Hyacinths and when he feels he has too many he gives them away to friends or composts them. You want to have open spaces in your pond, you don't want it totally covered. You do want to have some natural cover if you have fish so they can hide from predators. Also cover helps to keep down Algae and it provides a more natural look.

Dave shows us how to feed Water Lilies and how to trim them. To feed them buy a fertilizer pellet. They come in a variety of sizes. Dave uses a PVC pipe that fits a pellet. He drilled the piece of plastic and added a piece of wood, which is important because that's what shoves the pellet into the mud. Dave feeds the Blue Tropical Water Lily. There are some stones in the way so he wiggles the tool around, pushes it to the bottom, activates the wooden rod, leaving the fertilizer tablet at the bottom of the pot. He then pulls it out, shoves a little dirt around the top and is done. It may stir up a little dirt, but not much, it doesn't discolor the water very much but gets the fertilizer to the root area where it needs to be. Normally you put one tablet per gallon of mix in the pot. These pots hold five to seven gallons so he adds 5 tablets for each Lily. He does this every month or so. Dave has another tool that is a trimmer. As the handle is moved back and forth it activates a little finger that grabs hold of the stem and trims it.

Dave, to get in the water, uses waders. Waders are important if you have a big pond or a pond you can't reach in with your hands and take care of everything. In the Spring you'll want to get in and move water Lilies which have been at the bottom of the pond, up to the level where they grow- which is about 6 to 8 inches from the surface. Some varieties, such as Joey Thomocik like to be about 12 to 18 inches below the surface and Aflame likes it even deeper. Dave keeps these plants in a little shallower water and closer to the side because he wants to be able, in the Summer, to trim and feed these plants and doesn't want to put on the waders. In the Fall or Winter you'll want to move them back down.

Fish are also a consideration. He has several different kinds- 3 kinds of Koi, including a Butterfly Koi (the little yellow one) a lot of Comets (Comets are single-tailed Goldfish), Shubunkins and several Sarasa. Fish don't need a lot to survive in this environment. In small numbers they don't even need to be fed, some people let them live naturally-eat bugs and things that fall in the water. Others like to feed them because they can be trained to eat out of your hand. Others want the fish to have maximum growth so they feed them. If growth is your goal you'll want to add up to 2 percent of the body weight of the fish every day. Some fish in this pond are several pounds so that would mean Dave would be adding a pound to a pound and a half per day of food for all the Comets and the big Koi. Dave doesn't go to this length. In the winter these fish stay right where they are. The ice here will get about 18 inches thick, they live below that. Dave installs a little air pump and a Styrofoam house, he pumps air into the aerator bar that's about 10-12 inches below the surface and underneath a teepee and it bubbles air, keeping water welling up, allowing all the bad gasses, mainly Ammonia and CO2 build up to be brought out of the water. If you're not going to do this or if in an environment colder than Vermont bring the fish in during winter. Some then put the fish in a wading pool in the basement with an aerator and they over-winter that way.

Thanks for explaining the science side of water gardening Dave. You've explained about raising fish and what plants to grow. This has been most informative. We appreciate the science lesson.


The Inn at Essex

Barley straw for algae control

Algae in ponds

Do-it-yourself pond filters

If your fish are sick

Maintaining water lilies

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