Tucked in a corner of many garden centres is a section that most of us nod at as we pass, not really understanding what on earth we would do with the bunch of plants on display. It’s the Aquatic Plant section and for those of us with water features, they are not only a beautiful addition, but one that helps maintain the ecological balance of these areas of the garden. These plants help create a habitat for local wildlife like frogs and beneficial insects while keeping the water clean. Based on the way they grow, mostly on the area in an environment that their roots will take hold, aquatic plants are generally categorised as being floating, marginal, shallow, or deep water. When creating an aquatic plant garden, aim for a mix of these types and across species as this will further enhance not only the look but also the ecological balance of your water garden. Not all plants though are suitable for all types of water features. For example, a fast and powerful fountain won’t be right for delicate water lilies and just as soil type will guide your earth-bound plant selections, the depth of the water will also determine water plant choices. Some aquatic plants grow in soil along the margins or water areas while others are happy floating above the surface. Some need to be completely submerged and there are others that like to anchor themselves in the shallows. Here is a selection based on growing areas that may help you determine which aquatic wonders will work for your water feature designing.
Floating Plants. If you have a large pond these can look spectacular but be warned, most floating plants tend to multiply quickly and can take over and as such are considered invasive weeds. These include the pretty but pesky water hyacinth and but if you have fish in your pond then a floating plant like duck weed will be beneficial as it provides a food source for them while keeping the water clean. While water lilies (Nymphaea spp.) may seem like floating plants, they are not. These gorgeous beauties along with their friends the lotus (Nelumbo spp.) are deep-water aquatics because while their foliage and flowers do rest upon the surface, their roots are embedded in the bottom of water ways. Deep water aquatic plants are those that need more than 30cm of water depth to grow successfully as their roots need to be kept cool and protected from the sun. Along with these deep-water plants are what is known as the deep-water oxygenators and this group will generally live submerged under the water, you probably already know them because these are usually as fish aquarium plants. Examples include Milfoils (Myriophyllum spp.) They work as their name suggests, they pump life-giving oxygen into the water. Marginal plants grow along the edges of water areas. Some are known as bog marginals and others are defined as shallow or deep marginals depending on the depth of the water they prefer. Louisiana Iris (Iris spp.) and Pickle Rush (Pontederia cordata).
The veggie gardeners amongst us are not left out either. There are plenty of delicious edible aquatic plants that you can grow including water chestnuts, water spinach, taro, Brahmi, water mint, water celery, water parsley, creeping jenny, and nardoo. All of these are excellent additions to Asian dishes, and they also make rather lovely and interesting teas and salads. If you are after Australian Native water plants then try this bunch: Fairy Lights (Scirpus Cernuus) is a shallow water plant that prefers shade and part sun. Water Ribbions (Triglochin procera) is a shade tolerant leafy plant that can grow fully submerged and has delightful, tufted flowers. Samphire (Tecticornia Pergranulata) is bog loving plant that is also edible. Golden Marshflower (Villarsia Reniformis) with its bright buttercup yellow flowers will grow in full sun to part shade in shallow waters.
To create a water feature there are many prefab shells on the market that make creating the areas for different levels easy but an organically created pond is not difficult. While you still may need to install a soft liner, depending on your area and soil, a pond can be made in just a few simple steps. Most are prepared for planting, after digging the desired shaped and sized hole, by adding layers of soil, sand and then gravel to the bottom. Follow this by tucking in pockets and ridges of soil along the sides. You can’t use potting mix that’s meant for terrestrial plants, instead use top-quality garden soil that is silt and clay free. There are also commercial water pots and baskets available for certain types of aquatic plants that make growing them in your ponds, fish havens and fountains much easier. Pests are generally not a problem for aquatics and feeding can be achieved with a slow-release fertiliser in early spring. This is also the best time for any replanting that you are planning.
Have you got a lovely, interesting, fun, quirky, important, or inspiring garden that I need to see? This is a call out for gardens and gardeners! I have been featuring local community gardens of late here on Down in the Garden, but I am also on the lookout for all sorts of Central Coast Gardens to visit and feature. I’m not looking for the best garden or the most spectacular garden, I’m on the hunt for all sorts of gardens and gardeners from beginners to gurus, from community gardens, commercial gardens, to cosy private pot plant collections. If you do have or know of a garden that you think we all need to know about, then please call me on 0408105864.
PLANT THIS WEEK
(late Spring temperate areas)
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, artichoke suckers, beans, beetroot, blueberry, capsicum, carrot, celery, chicory, chilli, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, potatoes (tubers), pumpkin, radish, raspberry, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, silverbeet, squashes, strawberry, sweet corn, sweet potato (shoots), tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), canna lily, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, everlasting daisy, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, geranium, impatiens, marigold, petunias, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, sunflowers.
Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog: www.florasphere.com Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]