Water gardening is still a very worthwhile effort! [III]
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

July 23, 2017

Above, photos of Anacharis, Hornwort and Parrot’s feather, three good oxygenating plants plus a home-made bag of Barley straw. Below, a 2007 shot showing aphids all over one water lily flower; and three general shots of our large pond from different angles. Latter four shots author photos.




Carrying on from where I left off last week, I should tell you that while we have annually made changes and additions to our two ponds, basically they are still much the same as when we installed them 13 years ago. We have changed the ‘head’ on the water geyser in the large pond a couple of times. Originally it was just a short bubbler coming out of a rock mid-pond; then we switched it to a single upright geyser that sent the water up over three metres, and now most recently we changed it again and have a multi-spray type head.

Also of course, all of the permanent plants have grown immensely. Some plants, for example Water Soldier, grow so robustly that we need to thin them out early each summer. And, each year we add something new along with one or two water lilies (hardy) to replace any which died over the winter.

We are experiencing more shade each year and water lilies (most anyway) like full sun. The only solution for this problem would be to have a very large poplar tree totally removed from the extreme south end of the garden which of course provides more and more shade. Unfortunately I would need to have a major tree removal company come in to do that removal and the job would be costly—likely in excess of $1,500.

Periodically my neighbour to the west offers to pay half the removal costs because he gets annoyed at all the leaves that come from the tree in the fall. But I am not one to saddle someone else with my problems and so nothing has happened to the Poplar yet!

Another problem we had from the first year of the ponds is green algae on the ponds surfaces. Now I well know that the oft mentioned solution to this problem is simply to drain the ponds and refill with fresh water. So, we have never done this but we have used various other solutions to the algae problem.

First of all, the best control for algae is plants—especially oxygenating plants strands of which are bundled together and held under water with small weights. Three examples of oxygenators readily available are: Anacharis (Egeria densa), hornwort (Ceratophyllum demursum) and parrot’s feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum).

Also available are various harmless chemicals (to the fish and water plants) and one year I even received a large sample bottle of a German product that worked well but I am unable to obtain more here now. Sera products are generally available across Canada as well as in the USA and they have a large, excellent selection of products from many different kinds of fish food, plant fertilizers and Algae control chemicals.

The latest solutions for Algae control are bags of pure sphagnum peat moss floating in the ponds. They are available from many companies or you can fill your own cheese-cloth bags. Even more recently the use of Barley Straw (also in mesh bags) is being increasingly used. It too is quite generally available, for example in garden centres specializing in water garden materials.

In my over 30 years of water gardening in various size ponds, only once have I seen a problem with aphids on water lilies. That happened here in the late summer of 2007. It as an easy problem to tackle since aphids are easy to control with simple insecticides such as Doktor Doom House and Garden Insecticide Spray.

Though we had a problem with raccoons making a mess of our pond while in Toronto, they have not been a problem here in BC. They can be controlled with small cheesecloth bags filled with human hair clippings!

While I said raccoons have not bothered our ponds here, we have had a problem with one particular river otter. In addition to making a mess of the pond, he loves to eat our fish, particularly the larger koi. The human hair trick, as well as a radio playing on the edge of the pond as well as some other bizarre treatments have worked for us, but not before we lost all of our beautiful koi several years ago. If you email me I can tell you about our bizarre solution!

All in all, the problems needing to be solved with pond gardening are few compared to most other forms of gardening. There are numerous other aspects to water gardening; e.g. water pH testing, water purifiers, pumps etc. but I shall leave those to other authors who have experience with the necessary equipment. I just like a plain and simple pond with lots of plants!


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