Documents: Special Interest: Water Gardening:

Water Gardening
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

October 29, 2000

1pt.gif (86 bytes)Water gardens are becoming popular. Do you have one yet? They are surprisingly easy to do ... incorrectly. They can also be done quite nicely. The first step is planning and the first part of that is research.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)All good planning starts with the simplest of questions- why? Why do you want a water garden? Did you read about it in a gardening magazine? Did the Joneses install one and you feel compelled to keep up? If you are doing this because it is "in," stop reading. Just take your cheque book or credit card to the nearest all-in-one-we'll-install-it-tomorrow-pop-up-water garden experts. You'll buy, they'll sell, narcissistic capitalism rules and you have caught up with your neighbours. You will also have a hole in the ground with water in it.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)However, did you do a wee bit of research? Whether you are new to growing plants or are a seasoned gardener, did you get a tad excited about the many new plants that you can nurture in a liquid medium? Then maybe this venture is for you.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)In the last few years, many changes have brought this new medium into the realm of the average person. The first is technology. Liners, pre-moulded "ponds" and a variety of pumps to suit every need are now affordable. A second is the selection of plants offered; it has multiplied astonishingly as propagators develop hardier cultivars. A third is the trend of homeowners, and even balcony-owners, to look outside the house for new rooms. With a garden, we can decorate in any colour, texture and dimension we choose. We decide upon an ambience and then "grow" it. Skillful planning subtly alters moods. Do you want a quiet area? Perhaps a shady spot with a reflecting pool will suit. Do you need to mask urban noise? Let the water splash noisily in a random pattern or experiment with different heights and striking surfaces to create just the right tone. You can find many good references on "sounding stones" in a library. If the sound is the most important aspect, you may want to look at fountains.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)I apologise for the asperity displayed in the opening paragraphs. I sort of wanted the easily led to say, "What's he on about?" and toss the paper aside. You and I know that these interlopers are not gardeners. When we introduce a water garden to our home, we will have completed our research, visited various outlets [including our favourite professional], sketched out the location, including water supply and electrics. There will also be a preferred plant list. Selecting plants, by the way, is the same for this venture as for any type of horticulture: what do you like, what can you afford, will it grow in your garden? A caution: beware of invasive plants such as cattails.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Um ... here's the down side. Does your yard support a water garden? Would a pond in the middle of suburbia look contrived? Perhaps a more formal "bed" such as a rectangle can give you the medium in which to try new and exotic plants without looking like something the nouveau riche would do. The "natural" kidney shaped pond won't always look rustic plunked down in the middle of a row-housing block.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Perhaps, the term "water feature" is a better one to have in mind. There is no set shape: the feature can be two-tiered, collected run off from a brook, or an old whiskey barrel with a heavy plastic liner. It can be just about anything with one proviso: it must be a part of your environment. If it isn't, this "thing" will clamour "LOOK AT ME!" to the exclusion of all else. Preferably, guests will stroll into your yard and this new point of interest will gently beckon them. They will discover all the nuances, all the clever little bits, and they will enjoy listening as you tell them about the plant materials. Well, the considerate guest will appreciate your discourse. Remember: research, plan, implement and enjoy.

Diploma in Agriculture, University of Guelph, 1979 and Diploma in Horticulture, University of Guelph, Kemptville Campus, 1999. In between, and a little bit on the other, been a soldier, an orchardist [10 yrs manager of a large commercial orchard] and a social worker [ten years as interpreter, advocate and linguistic analyst focussing on deafness]. Currently employed at a large garden centre/ nursery as the wholesaler.

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