Water Works

from Country Gardens
See how a wide range of vessels can become containers for water gardens and get some useful tips on water gardening.

Try these simple projects to invite ripples of soothing ambience into your garden.

Water takes on a magical quality when tucked away into the garden landscape. A dish of H2O beckons flocks of winged visitors. Even the most petite pools reflect flower-filled images of nearby blossoms. And don’t forget sound — the trickling of a small fountain beside a patio or set in a flowerbed guarantees a moment of tranquility.

Contributing garden designer James Cramer relishes the chance to slip water
features into his landscape. He relies on these elements as kinetic focal points and reflective accents that entice visitors to seek respite. Cramer’s recipe for an enchanting water feature is simple: He calls on a watertight vessel picked from his garden shed to use as a basin. He then adds a water-loving plant and finds the perfect nook for the newfound fountain, basin, or pool.

Replenishing the water in the vessel every few days and occasional plant pruning are all that is needed to maintain a water wonder. Add water magic to your garden with some of Cramer’s tips and tricks.

Collecting Water
Once used to harvest rainwater, a small cistern is now the perfect home for a clump of hardy waterlilies. Besides decorating the cistern with eye-catching flowers, waterlilies keep algae at bay by shading the water surface. If you don’t have a cistern on hand, convert an old sink, washtub, or livestock trough into a water garden.

Sweet-Sounding Sphere
Water gurgles out of the top of a faux-stone orb and quietly trickles down the sides into a pillar that acts as a receptacle for the water. Create this lightweight, easy-to-move fountain with a pump sold at garden centers that’s powered by electricity. Plant it in a border or bed near your favorite seating area that’s near an outlet and listen to it bubble the time away.

For the Birds
Birdbaths are water gardens for our feathered friends and make excellent places for birds to dip their feet. Cramer placed a stone birdbath top in his shade garden and gave it instant patina by enveloping it in low-growing plants. He scattered polished river stones in the bottom of the basin for interest and set a potted yellow-blooming primrose creeper (Ludwigia repens) in the center.

Water Gardening Made Easy
Growing plants in water is similar to growing them in soil. Sunlight, nutrients, and water are vital to plant health no matter where they put down roots. Grow a happy and healthy water garden with these simple tips:

  • Choose a site that receives at least six hours of sun a day.
  • Situate water-tolerant plants at their desired depth. Some plants grow best when their crown, or growing point, is submerged several inches while others like to have their crown just below the water surface. Read plant tags to determine the optimal growing conditions for your plant.
  • Weight pots to hold them in place or use a special aquatic planting mix to keep plants from floating around the water garden.
  • Fertilize plants regularly by poking pond tablets into the soil surrounding water plants’ roots.
  • Top off the water garden every few days as water evaporates.
  • Remove yellowed foliage and deadhead spent blooms to keep the container looking fresh and to maintain water quality.
  • Treat most flowering aquatic plants as annuals. Many can be successfully grown inside over the winter in a sunny, warm place.

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