Attractive plant choices for those water margins

A garden pond is an alluring thing for it fascinates us, so that wherever we are in the garden it constantly draws us back with its everchanging panoply of flora and fauna.

I am always looking to improve our garden ponds and I'm lucky in that I have a choice and can experiment with flowering plants that grow in water.

As I sit writing this, Brendan, who is undertaking some building work for us here, calls me to tell me that he's bringing me a plant as a gift from his mother Beverley.

Would you believe that it is a primula that loves growing in wet soil or even in shallow water, what a coincidence! It is Primula florindae 'Kielgour' hybrid in a warm shade of sunset orange and it has given me an idea for future pond plantings but, what other ideas might we employ?

Earlier this year I acquired some plants of Sarracenia flava from Steve of Predator Plants when he came to our Garden Event in June. These are intriguing plants which flower very attractively but it is their insect-eating pitchers that really attract attention. These are now residing in one of our ponds for the summer but, I shall remove them to a sheltered place outside for the winter with their pots in saucers of soft water. The clue to their cultivation is acid soil and absolutely no nutrients so the best compost is Irish moss peat with some added grit and no tap water, for this contains lime.


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Schizostylis coccinea, otherwise known as the Kaffir lily, comes from South Africa where it resides along damp water meadows and stream sides. From this we can deduce that they will oblige us by growing in shallow water in our gardens.

The most striking is Schizostylis coccinea 'Major' with its flamboyantly large gladiolus-like flowers in a warm soft shade of red but, they come in white and pink shades too.

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Grown thus they will both surprise and amaze your friends but, as these are plants that flower late, it is worth potting some when you have sufficient, growing them in the greenhouse, where they will provide you with enough flowers for cutting until Christmas and beyond.

Also from South Africa come Zantedeschias or Arum lilies, these make ideal plants for growing in water, in fact, they can be hardy provided there is around 15 cms (6 inches) of water over their crowns in winter.

We have the white form called Z.aethiopica 'Crowborough' and its cousin 'Green Goddess' where the spathe is half green and half white, both of these are lovely for cutting and make good garden and pot subjects too.

Although they are not hardy, many varieties of Cannas lend themselves to being grown in shallow water.

They lend an exotic air to any pond but, beware that they will need to be in substantial containers, preferably wider than they are deep to prevent them being blown over during windy spells for their large leaves A garden pond is an alluring thing for it fascinates us, so that wherever we are in the garden it constantly draws us back with its everchanging panoply of flora and fauna.

I am always looking to improve our garden ponds and I'm lucky in that I have a choice and can experiment with flowering plants that grow in water.

As I sit writing this, Brendan, who is undertaking some building work for us here, calls me to tell me that he's bringing me a plant as a gift from his mother Beverley.

Would you believe that it is a primula that loves growing in wet soil or even in shallow water, what a coincidence! It is Primula florindae 'Kielgour' hybrid in a warm shade of sunset orange and it has given me an idea for future pond plantings but, what other ideas might we employ?

Earlier this year I acquired some plants of Sarracenia flava from Steve of Predator Plants when he came to our Garden Event in June. These are intriguing plants which flower very attractively but it is their insect-eating pitchers that really attract attention. These are now residing in one of our ponds for the summer but, I shall remove them to a sheltered place outside for the winter with their pots in saucers of soft water.

The clue to their cultivation is acid soil and absolutely no nutrients so the best compost is Irish moss peat with some added grit and no tap water, for this contains lime.

Schizostylis coccinea, otherwise known as the Kaffir lily, comes from South Africa where it resides along damp water meadows and stream sides. From this we can deduce that they will oblige us by growing in shallow water in our gardens.

The most striking is Schizostylis coccinea 'Major' with its flamboyantly large gladiolus-like flowers in a warm soft shade of red but, they come in white and pink shades too. Grown thus they will both surprise and amaze your friends but, as these are plants that flower late, it is worth potting some when you have sufficient, growing them in the greenhouse, where they will provide you with enough flowers for cutting until Christmas and beyond.

Also from South Africa come Zantedeschias or Arum lilies, these make ideal plants for growing in water, in fact, they can be hardy provided there is around 15 cms (6 inches) of water over their crowns in winter. We have the white form called Z.aethiopica 'Crowborough' and its cousin 'Green Goddess' where the spathe is half green and half white, both of these are lovely for cutting and make good garden and pot subjects too. Although they are not hardy, many varieties of Cannas lend themselves to being grown in shallow water. They lend an exotic air to any pond but, beware that they will need to be in substantial containers, preferably wider than they are deep to prevent them being blown over during windy spells for their large leaves can and do act like the sails on a boat.

Cyperus papyrus is the showiest of a tribe of sedge-like plants but, it is not hardy. However, it is easily raised from seed which if sown early enough will produce plants that are around 1.2 metres (4 feet) tall which is impressive enough for anyone.

Cyperus involucratus is hardy and this, although perhaps not as impressive as C.papyrus, makes a telling statement when grown in water to a height of 75 cms (30 inches). So too does C.eragrostis, the American galingale which is around that same size but, has brighter green foliage that is distinctly cheerful, we have it in the garden here and it seeds itself around gently, I must take the opportunity to reap a free harvest! Our native galingale, Cyperus longus is often seen growing in ponds where it is a favourite of nesting moorhens, if you are lucky enough to have them, it reaches 1.5 metres (4 feet) in height.

We have had Thalia dealbata growing in the pond in our Rose Garden for many years where it is hardy. It is tall, to 2 metres (6 feet 6 inches), but it is only the flowering stems that reach this height, the leaves which are its principal asset at a height of around 60cms (two feet) are paddle-shaped and very glaucous. The flowers are small and insignificant but, they too trap insects and this is yet another alluring plant to pep up your pond.

•This article was first published on August 13, 2011.

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