In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
May, 2014
Regional Report

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What's a pond without a water lily? This beautiful plant flowers from early summer through early fall.

Make a Splash with a Water Garden

Whether it's a tumbling, trickling fountain, a reflecting pool, or a pond fringed with strange and exciting water plants, water is an irresistible garden element. The sound of water draws garden visitors to its source, while a still pool provides a place to pause and reflect on the day's events. The best news about water gardens is they can be created in large gardens, small garden spaces, and even terraces or patios.

Water Features Great and Small
An in-ground water feature can be as large or small as your space allows. A free-form pond 6 feet wide and 3 feet deep is a workable size for many beginning water gardeners. Construct it so the edges slope gradually downward and are hidden by bog plants that help in the transition from barely damp to very moist soil conditions. These marginal plants stabilize the soil while providing color and interest to the water garden.

Within the pond plant a variety of upright and fountain-shaped plants, as well as those that float on the water surface. For a finishing touch add an outcropping of rocks at one end of the pond that can become a waterfall when a recycling pump is turned on.

If you don't have space for an in-ground pond, you can still create an attractive and easily maintained water garden. Start with a half-whiskey barrel or large pot that's at least 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide. This size will easily accommodate one water lily and three or four floating plants, such as water lettuce or water hyacinth. You'll still have room for a cattail, marsh marigold, or double-flowering arrowhead. The goal is to have 50 to 60 percent of the water surface covered with foliage. Shielding the surface this way will keep algae growth to a minimum.

Routine Maintenance
It barely takes a capful of water to attract breeding female mosquitoes, so imagine how irresistible your water garden will appear to these egg-laying critters. One way to control mosquito larvae is by stocking the pond with a few goldfish. They feed on algae, nibble on plant roots, and eliminate mosquito larvae all season long. In addition to being fun to watch, they'll also fertilize your plants.

Alternatively, you can use environmentally safe Mosquito Dunk tablets that contain the microbial insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis, which will not harm people, plants, or fish. You can also fertilize your water plants with Aquatic-Tabs tablets placed directly into the pots.

To winterize the plants in your pond, sink the pots containing water lilies to the bottom (about 3 feet from the surface) and cut the foliage from plants such as marsh marigolds, arrowhead, and cattails. Floating duckweed, water lettuce, and water hyacinths are annual plants so scoop them up and toss them into the compost pile at the end of the season.

In the Pacific Northwest, a 36" deep pond will allow most fish and water lilies to overwinter safely. When spring arrives rake fallen leaves and other debris from the bottom of the pond, set the containers of water lilies on rocks or upturned nursery pots, and add fresh water as needed.


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