Documents: Special Interest: Water Gardening:

Build A Zen Retreat In The Backyard
by Mark Cullen
by Mark Cullen


Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is the host of his own gardening show on CFRB radio, a Home Hardware spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

May 29, 2005

Water gardens, big or small, can lend a relaxing and tranquil feeling to our busy everyday lives. There is nothing more relaxing than the sound of water trickling and splashing in the background to complete a beautiful garden where you can take a few moments to pause and contemplate, or reflect on the day’s events. With a little knowledge of what plants are available and how to use them you too can create such a paradise in your own garden or balcony. I suggest you start with some hardy submergible water plants (those with their roots at the bottom of the pond). The two main and most popular varieties in this group being water lilies and water lotus.

Nymphaea (Water Lilies)

The hardy water lily, the most popular aquatic plant, often referred to as the "water rose", is ideal for the Northern water garden and provides outstanding blooms of many colours and form. These plants grow readily with plenty of sunlight, rich soil, warmth and shallow water and are exceptionally hardy.

When you arrive home with your purchase carefully remove the water lilies from the container, including any roots that are growing through the drainage holes. Gently tease apart the roots and place the plant in the centre of a planting basket. Complete the planting by filling in with an aquatic soil or a rich clay loam, carefully firming it around the plant to within a couple of inches from the top of the container. Ensure that the crown of the water lily, from which the leaves grow, is even with, or slightly above, the surface of the soil. Special aquatic soil is recommended, as this will not contain large quantities of sand, peat or compost as these materials will float to the surface of the pond. Make a hole in the soil for the fertilizer, which should be an organic granular variety, and then position a large pebble over the hole for future fertilization. Use pea gravel to cover the remainder of the soil ensuring that there is no soil or gravel on the crown. Gravel is used to keep the soil from being stirred up and discolouring the water and if you decide later to add fish to your pond, this will prevent them from uprooting your plants.

Before you place your water lily in the pond , "pre dunk " it in a bucket of water to release the trapped air in the soil as well as any loose debris. Look for Nymphaea ‘Alba’ (white); ‘Attraction’ (Red); Chromatella (yellow) and ‘Fabiola’ (pink). Each plant will spread covering 1.2-1.5 sq.m. (4-5 sq.ft.) of surface area giving bloom throughout June to September. Use vertical accents for companian plants such as water lotus, as well as complementing colours.

Of all the garden flowers, water lilies not only provide great beauty but certainly give more satisfaction for the minimum amount of time and effort required. Although water lilies are hardy in Zones 4-9 their roots must not be allowed to freeze or they will die. Move them to the deepest part of the pond during the winter, which should be at least 3ft. deep, or overwinter them inside at a temperature of approximately 5 deg. C (40 deg. F.) once they become dormant around October.

Nelumbo (Lotus)

The lotus, although nowadays is regularly Imported from China, was originally introduced into Egypt around 525 BC. It has a long history in legend and symbolism and is regarded sacred by Hindus. Although lotus are hardy to Zone 6 they require many weeks of warm sunny weather to produce their finest blooms. However, they will spread rapidly if they are planted deep enough to prevent the tuber from freezing during the winter months.

Lotus enjoy the sun, however, they will still bloom in partial shade conditions provided the water temperature is sufficient. They are day bloomers that open early in the morning and close by mid afternoon for three successive days. Lotus are often referred to as ‘changeable’ and this refers to the fact that over the three-day period of bloom the colour gradually changes. Development and bloom of the Lotus occurs far later in the season than the Water Lily. Take care not to damage the rhizomes on the lotus, they are notoriously fragile. Look for these delightful romantic blooms in pink, white and red.

The delicate-looking Bowl Lotus is an ideal candidate for a small pond or half barrel and grows to a height of 0.9m. (2-3 ft.), blooming July-August, Ideal companions would be Aquatic Mint, Parrots Feather and Primrose Willow.

photo courtesy Mark Cullen

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