Documents: Special Interest: Water Gardening:

Bearberry Creek Water Gardens
by Linda Tominson
August 12, 2001

Bearberry Creek Water Gardens is off the beaten track but for anyone with a water garden or planning on developing one; a visit is advised. Besides having the best collection of water plants in Alberta it is also home to two people who understand all aspects of water gardening. More knowledgeable advice would be hard to come by.
Heinjo and Jan Lahring, started Bearberry Creek Water Gardens 20 years ago at a time when there were few water gardens in Alberta. Since then, they have been collecting, growing, breeding, and selling all varieties of water plants. Plants that are sold at the gardens have under gone trials to insure that the plant is hardy to the region. If it survives the winter it must also be able to thrive and increase in size during the short season. Plants that don’t meet these specifications are discarded. 
With these strict standards it is not surprising that more and more native plants are finding their way into the propagating ponds. The increase in native plant material has attracted people wishing to enhance or repair wetland areas. 
For gardeners looking to purchase a smaller number of plants they are available in troughs in front of the greenhouse.
While most people associate water lilies with water gardens there are other plants that make their homes in water. 
Water garden plants are usually divided into four groups. The Marginals are the ones that grow around the edge of the pond. These plants live in soggy soil or up to 2 ft. (.5 m) of water. The roots are in water while the foliage stays dry. Common ones include Water Irises, Cattails, and Rushes. Marginal plants can be planted directly into the pond or kept in pots.
Submerged or oxygenating water plants are used to keep the water clear. They, as their name suggest, live underwater. These plants absorb nutrients through their leaves, making it harder for algae to become established. For small ponds Heinjo recommends one bunch of submerged plants for every 2-3 square feet of surface water. Gardeners have the choice of keeping these plants in pots or sinking the plants bare rooted, allowing them to naturalize in the pool.
Free floating water plants are just that. They float along the top of the pond gathering nutrients from their roots. There are some free floaters that over winter on the bottom of the pool but other more tropical ones, treated as annuals.
Rooted Floating-Leaved water plants includes the popular Water Lilies. These plants have roots at the bottom of the pond while their leaves and flowers are viewed from above. They are usually kept in pots but can be planted in the mud or rocks on the bottom of the pond. 
The Water Lilies available at Bearberry Creek Water Gardens come in different shades and sizes of yellow, pink, red and white. There are also variables that change color as they mature. Each plant has its own characteristics but they generally bloom from July through September depending on the weather.
Tropical water plants are grown in the greenhouse. It is possible to over winter tropical water lilies in the house but other tropicals like water lettuce are treated like annuals. 
In the spring the tropical water plants share the greenhouses with bedding plants and perennials. The crop always includes some unusual plants that suit water gardens.
A display pond is located by the greenhouses showing a number of different ways to finish the pond's edge. A fountain that spews water down a rocky stream is decorative as well as functional. The water gains oxygen as it rumbles over the rocks while the rocks serve as an edge for part of the pond. 
A sandy beach is inviting to sit down, and reflect in the sunshine. For children it is a magnet for play. 
Other areas are planted with marginal plants that are decorative and functional to wildlife. This pond is a nightly watering hole for deer and moose. The center of the pond is home to large red leaves of a water lily. .
Bearberry Creek Water Gardens are located approximately 11 miles (17 k) north west of Sundre. They are open by appointment only during the summer month so phone (403 638 4793) before heading out. In September the water gardens are open Tuesday - Saturday 9 to 6.

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