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Garden Pools and Ponds


Garden Pools and PondsThose of us who have a limited space for water gardening cannot hope to have a large pond with irregular contour and a slow stream crawling along among the overhanging ornamental grasses or lace-like moisture­loving shrubs.

We must content ourselves with artificial ponds or even sunken tubs of small dimension. But we should not fail to have, when possible and suitable, some type of water garden where the still reflecting surface may mirror the twilight and allow the green shadow spirits of the trees and shrubs to creep into its waters. Nothing can take the place of a water garden, no matter how small, but this touch of water is often spoiled by crowding it with lily pads.

A little of the water should be clear, so as to reflect the blue of the sky or a possible passing cloud. It is a safe estimate to say that about fifteen square feet of water surface should have from eight to ten square feet of leaf surface for the lilies.

The difficulty in handling these small water gardens is not in the matter of arranging or selecting lilies suitable to the limited space, but in the planting about the pool. Even with very limited space for water gardening the planting may be so arranged that part of the pool will give the effect of a miniature jungle of ornamental grasses and semi-aquatic plants.

If a fountain is desired the Waterlilies should not be attempted close to the spray; first, because the lilies never do well where the water is continually disturbed, and second, because the water from an everactive fountain is cold and this retards the growth of aquatics.

The little pool should have a touch of intimacy with the rest of the garden and a friendly acquaintance with the house. It is often located at the base of a slope, but may be placed anywhere on a level bit of land. It is seldom, if ever, that a Waterlily garden is suited to city yards, though a tiny fountain may well be constructed and the planting about it made very attractive. The lily ponds are, therefore, suggested for suburban gardens where the maker may, to a large extent, cooperate with nature in order to realize the best effects.

It is frequently advisable to place this formal type of water mirror at an intersection of the garden and it should always harmonize in planting and tone with the type of garden that surrounds it, and in some measure with the architecture of the house. The natural or rustic type may be constructed in some secluded spot, usually on a low part of the garden.

The little water garden should, therefore, not stand alone but should fit into the smaller landscape with a familiarity that makes one think that it has always been there, and is not an intruder but an indispensable garden friend. Where one is fortunate enough to have a stream of water with little waterfalls and a ,water background in shrubs and trees, he is limited only by environment and personal investment, but in all cases careful thought should be given to the size, shape, and placing of the pool.

A most attractive series of individual water gardens may be constructed by placing three small pools in such a position as to have each pool a little lower than the preceding one. A fountain may sing its bubbling melody of coolness in the upper pool, and the excess water led off among the rocks to form a tiny stream which slowly finds its way to the adjoining pools.

If a half barrel is to be used, the inside of the barrel must be free from grease or oil. The outside of this barrel or tub may be painted with tar. Before sinking it into the soil up to the rim put about six quatics inches of coarse ashes in the bottom of the excavation to act as drainage. All of these suggestions will aid in preserving the barrel for many years.

If a formal pool is to be constructed, excavate to a depth of three feet. A small pool should be not less than six or eight feet in diameter. A wire netting of one-inch mesh or iron rods to reinforce the concrete should be placed six or eight inches from the soil, which is always packed tightly. Put in the excavation, before placing the reinforcement wire or iron rods, six inches of gravel or coarse ashes and proceed to apply from four to six inches of concrete. The best mixture for water gardens is one bag of Portland cement to one and three fourths bushels of sharp sand and three and one half bushels of chipped stone or graded gravel. Mix this material so that it has a watery or a soft pasty texture before filling in the form. The coping about the edge may be from three to five inches above the ground and should slant outward so as to prevent damage by frost. The coping may also just reach the surface and the edge be so planted as to obscure the formal edge. Allow the concrete to harden from four to six days before filling the pool with water, and during this time keep the concrete shaded from the sun by throwing some soil, bags, or straw over it.

The material necessary for the construction of a little pool 10 by 20 feet is 50 bags of cement, 100 cubic feet of sand, 150 cubic feet of stone, 100 linear feet of woven wire fencing 4 feet wide.

One must never overlook the inlet and outlet pipes before building the pool. It will mean much in the fall and the spring if the outlet pipe is fitted in the pool in such a way that it may be constructed with from four to six sections, any part of which may be removed at any time in order to lower the water or clean out the pool.

If a rustic pool is desired, the edge should not only be irregular, but it should be masked with rough stones. About the edge a few hillocks and rough ridges of earth and native stone should be arranged before planting.basin of this pool may be either of concrete or of stiff clay, depending on size and location.

There is no objection to having the pool exposed so that the breeze may ripple the waters, but there is a serious objection to having the lily pond in direct line or path of storms and prevailing winds. If the pool is placed where the winds strike it from the north or west, arrange to plant a windbreak of Poplars or other deciduous trees. Tall evergreens protect the pool both summer and winter and should be used more freely.

It is not necessary to change the water in a lily pond, but one must keep in mind that, owing to evaporation, the pond or pool must be kept full by supplying extra water when necessary. Waterlilies are sun-loving plants and therefore they should be exposed to the open. It is not necessary to have tropical conditions for the culture of Waterlilies and semi-aquatic plants, for we find them indigenous to all parts of the temperate zone.

If the soil about the Waterlily garden is rich and loamy it is not necessary to spend money on refilling the area to be used for semi-aquatic plants. If the soil is made up mostly of sand, secure one part well-rotted manure, one part muck or peat soil, and two parts of the sandy soil. Leaf mould may to some degree take the place of muck or peat. Never remove the sod, but chop it up fine and mix it into the soil. A compost soil made up of decayed manure, sod and garden loam with a little bone meal mixed in is very satisfactory.

The soil for Waterlilies is composed of one part rotted manure and three parts soil and decayed sod. Fresh manure should never be used because of fermentation, which is detrimental to the growth of Waterlilies. If cow manure is not available, one quart of sheep manure may be added to one bushel of soil. One quart of bone meal to one bushel of soil makes a satisfactory mixture.

Where small pools are constructed, the soil may be placed in the bottom of the pools. If boxes are to be used, the hardy Waterlilies may be successfully planted in boxes two feet square and a foot deep. These varieties require from four to six cubic feet of soil in which to develop a normal root system per plant. The tender varieties require more soil space and a box two and a half by three feet, a foot deep.

Before planting the roots or rhizomes of your Waterlilies, cover the surface of the soil with about one inch of sand in order to keep the water clear. The roots of the small hardy varieties should be planted horizontally and pressed into the mud to a depth of about two or two and one half inches.

It is advisable to fill up the tub or pool to a depth of six inches of water above the surface of the soil and allow it to stand for three or four days to warm a little before planting. After planting, gradually fill the pool until there is about twelve inches of water over the surface soil. A few varieties will grow in two or three feet of water, but this condition is usually found in natural ponds.

Some of the Nymphaeas require from three to four square feet of water surface for development of leaves per plant, whereas some of the moderate-growing sorts will accommodate themselves to a smaller space. The tender types require from twenty-five to seventy-five square feet of surface room, and even more.

The hardy Nymphaeas and Nelumbiums may be successfully planted during May and June; the tender Waterlilies should never be planted until June or July or after the warm settled weather is assured.

It will be necessary to replace the soil every second or third year for plants grown in boxes or tubs. Remove the Waterlilies without disturbing the root system and replace carefully. When the plants begin to crowd, it will be advisable to separate the roots.

Waterlilies need food, and this may be supplied by sprinkling a little bone meal over the surface of the box, tub, or even over the surface of the water. Apply enough bone meal to make the surface of the soil or water white, and feed the plants every two weeks during the growing season. Bone meal will quickly sink into the soil and decompose gradually, furnishing the necessary food. Group planting is most effective. In a small pond, plant from three to five feet each way. If from six to ten plants of the same variety are assembled and similar groups of different varieties are set out from twenty to thirty feet apart on large ponds, the effect is very beautiful. If any area of the water surface is to be closely covered with foliage and bloom, set out the plants about twenty­four inches each way.

Some persons are afraid to attempt the water garden near the house on account of mosquitoes. This pest is easily kept under control by having a few goldfish in the pool during the spring and summer. Goldfish cannot stand extreme changes of water temperature any more than can the aquatic plants. (Approximately twelve goldfish to a pool fifteen feet square will keep the mosquitoes under control.) Both the green and black aphides are pests that attack the leaf. One of the practical ways of controlling these insects is to wash them off by a force of water. Pest solutions are sometimes used to check these pests.

The green scum which sometimes forms in the spring and covers the surface of the water is best controlled by flooding the pond and washing the scum off. Copper solutions are often destructive to the fish and detrimental to the plants because of careless handling.

It is necessary with practically all artificial water gardens in the North to give them some winter protection. The Nymphaea pygmaea is one of the hardiest of our Waterlily varieties and will often stand frost, but it is never advisable to leave even this variety unprotected during winter.

The tender lilies may be classed as annuals unless they are lifted in the fall and moved under glass. If one decides to hold the lily over, lift the plant, cut the leaves back, and also some of the roots, replant, cover with water, and keep in a temperature of from 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It is cheaper and less trouble to buy new, plants each spring.

The tubs or boxes containing the hardy Nymphaeas or Nelumbiums may be buried in a trench below the frost line out of doors and covered with sand or soil, or removed to a root cellar. Be sure that the soil in the tubs, especially if stored in cellars, is kept moist. The roots should never be exposed to the air and allowed to shrivel.

In a number of cases, and especially with the hardy varieties of aquatic plants, the artificial pool is covered with boards and a litter or covering of salt hay, straw, fresh horse manure, (where the animals have been bedded in straw) or leaves is placed over the boards to a depth of from two to five feet, or deep enough to keep the roots of the lilies from freezing.
It is not practical for the owner of a small garden to consider the Victorian types of Waterlilies, and we are limited to but a few varieties of the Nelumbiums, which in most cases, like the Nelumbo lutea (American Lotus) or the N. nucifera (speciosa) (Hindu Lotus), are suited only to large ponds.

The hardy hybrid Nymphaeas bloom all season from May until October, while most of the tender varieties of Waterlilies bloom from June to September.

Dissatisfaction has been expressed at the short season of Waterlily bloom, but the complaints are due to the poor selection of varieties. Some of the most inexpensive sorts are the native Pond Lilies, Nymphaea gigantea and N. tuberosa, which stop blooming in July because they set seed at that time. It is always advisable to get in touch with a practical Waterlily grower before making a selection of varieties.