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Water meadow gardening

Courtneybst

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@killi69
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LondonDragon

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There are some more updates on the Insta feed but we want to see lots of photos :)


Also an update on how it's going! @Courtneybst when we doing a roadtrip to see this?
 

Tim Harrison

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killi69

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Thank you @Yugang @Courtneybst @LondonDragon @NatalieHurrell @Tim Harrison for the interest!

The water garden peaked late summer, around September, but autumn was good also. The picture above was taking in early November. Lots of yellow and golden colours as you can see.

I will try to bring the blog up to date over the next couple of weeks or so, but let's start with the oxygenating plants. Around mid October, I took pictures of some of my favourite ones.
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Probably at least 60% of pond plants are Elodea sp, my least favourite but very useful as a fast growing oxygenator and the main oxygenator I used in large quantities to help get the ponds establised. It also remained evergreen throughout winter.

My favourite genus of oxygenating plants is Potamogeton.

Potamogeton lucens, shining pondweed, is native to UK but only very occasionally available for sale over here. In Holland, it is considered by many to be one of the most important pond plants for its oxygenating and supposed allelopathic properties. It dies back over winter and comes back into action in April. They can be planted quite deep, so in my case at the bottom of my 80cm deep ponds and develop large waxy leaves. The plant is meant to grow quite large. I bought them as young plants from Holland last year and potted them up in June. They grew a bit but did not reach a large size. Hopefully this year, they will really take off.
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Potamogeton perfoliatus, clasping leaved pondweed is next. Like lucens, I hope it will really take off this year.
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Below; P. perfoliatus with P. gayi in the pond near my house.
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Potamogeton gayi - many of you on this forum will know as an aquarium plant. I started them off as cuttings kindly received from @Wookii. It really performed excellent as a pond plant. It stays evergreen during winter. Initially I was worried that blanket weed might become problemetic with this plant as its stems are very fragile and I could foresee the plant diasappearing alongside any blanketweed I may remove from its vacinity. I found, however, that blanket weed did not appear anywhere close to the gayi, which makes me think that maybe it might be allelopathic? Its copper colour and fine leaved texture also make it a very promising plant to work more with.
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Potamogeton crispus, curled pondweed, is native to the UK and quite widely available. It starts to grow very early in the season which is useful. Its browny green leaves are quite attractive. It has done quite well and came back strong this spring in the ponds where I planted them. The pictures below were taken over the last few weeks.
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Among the P. crispus in the pic above, the Chara algae, or Stonewort, can be seen to be doing quite well and has grown in size since my last post about this 'plant' back in October last year. I did occasionally clear away Elodea strays which were growing too close to make sure full light can still reach the Chara, as I had read becoming swamped by plants can lead to their demise. Here is a close-up:
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I took a cutting from the Chara back in October which has grown a little since. I discovered, in another pond, a decent sized clump of Chara which has established itself independently among the Butomus umbellatus over winter/early spring;
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Vallisneria americana (Giant Vallisneria) is another 'aquarium' plant great for in the pond. It also stays evergreen over winter with shortened leaves. In the summer these grow longer and turn a nice reddish brown in full sun (pic taken in Feb).
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Last year, I bought some dwarf sag from @dcurzon . It took a while to become established and seems to have done particularly well in shallow water, like here where it was used as underplanting in baskets containing water lillies.
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Stratiotes aloides, or water soldier, has been another great under water plant - well, over the winter months anyway, when it is submerged.

I will leave you with a few pics of the plants displayed under a thin layer of ice.

More pics can be found on my instagram Login • Instagram but the idea is for this journal to record progress with more detailed descriptions. I will return soon with further updates on the rest of the water garden since the winter.

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Courtneybst

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This is honestly... I'm just so ready. Beautiful photos and thanks for giving us so much useful information too. It's great to get real first hand experiences as opposed to online guides. I'd like to pick your brain on the Elodea as I don't think I've 'planted mine properly'. I'd quite like it to take over!

ALSO! I can't believe you have Chara!!! I've been looking for Chara for so long with no success.
 

Tim Harrison

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Just fantastic. It’s great you’re posting here as well as Instagram. Even though Instagram is great and I love seeing what’s new, it doesn’t quite have the same impact.
 

killi69

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This is honestly... I'm just so ready. Beautiful photos and thanks for giving us so much useful information too. It's great to get real first hand experiences as opposed to online guides. I'd like to pick your brain on the Elodea as I don't think I've 'planted mine properly'. I'd quite like it to take over!
Cheers Courtney!!

I planted my Elodea in baskets with clay topsoil and placed them at the bottom of my ponds (80cm depth). I read the other day in one of my Ada Hofman reference books that in her experience, Elodea does better on a shallow marginal pond shelf and that if it is planted deeper than 20cm, the stems become too long and thin and easily break off, causing the plant to become a nuisance by multiplying too much. I am thinking that this might have happened to me, as I find many of the plants not looking too healthy and it is also exactly those plants which seem to have mbore blanket weed around them.
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I have started removing some of the Elodea baskets from my ponds anyway, as a way of thinning them out. I feel I can afford to do this as I still have enough other pond plants left and perhaps this might even encourage some of the others to grow more.
I will cut back the Elodea in some of the baskets and then place them on the shallow shelves and observe the diference. I will also start grouping the Elodea baskets together more tightly, more away from the other baskets, to prevent them from invading other plants.

I'm glad that such an ambitious project has paid off for you.
Thank you Natalie. I had the idea in my mind for a long time before I actually started the garden. I remember people telling me my plans were ambitious when I started (and probably they thought I was a bit mad or had bitten off a bit more than I could chew). There is still so much to do. But despite this project still demanding so much of my energy and time, I find it as exciting and engaging as ever, and super rewarding.

Just fantastic. It’s great you’re posting here as well as Instagram. Even though Instagram is great and I love seeing what’s new, it doesn’t quite have the same impact.
Thanks Tim. Maybe Insta's reach is bigger but the depth of information exchange and sharing of learning is of better quality here for sure.

Brilliant....how have the fish done over winter, particulary as the ponds had ice over them, what depth are the ponds fish are in ?
Cheers Tim! I don't think ice is problem for fish in ponds, especially if the pond is healthy and there are not a lot of rotting materials present in the water. The fish are showing themselves again and it is always reassuring to see them appear again in spring. About half the surface area of the ponds have a depth of 80cm.

It's so impressive how the garden looks beautiful all year round
Thank you Rosie!!!

Do you add any fertilizer for the plants, or they just survive on what gets generated naturally?
I fertilised most plants when I planted them but this year I wont be adding tabs to all the existing plants. To start with, I have hundreds of baskets, so that would be quite a task anyway. I will focus firstly on those plants which are supposed to be heavy feeders. To keep track of which ones I have / have not fertilised, I am doing this one species at the time. So far I have added tabs to Botomus umbellatus, most of the water lillies and the Potamogetons. Vallisneria, Iris, Aponogeton, Hesperantha, Scirpus and Equisetum will be next. I look at reference books to help me identify which plants might need some feeding and plants which already spread themselves around (a bit too) vigorously will not get any.
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killi69

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To bring this blog up to date, in this post I will share a few pics to show how the wetland garden progressed through both the autumn and the winter months.

Throughout autumn, Sanguisorba 'Blackthorn' was a great addition to the water garden. Its flowers and seedheads provided interest until late in the season. A number of Sanguisorba (burnet) species are associated with wetland environments and this garden variety in particular really helped provide a colourful and vibrant wetland feel to the scape at this time of the year. Because they are so tall, they give a similar feeling as walking through a wetland as you pass through them at either side. For this reason, I hope to expand these this year and create wide stretches of them, cutting across the 'wetland'.
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Hesperantha coccinea was the last plant in the garden to flower.
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It forms part of the 'low bog' planting scheme which connects the first three ponds from the house. Here, Hesperantha coccinea, Juncus inflexus, and Acorus 'Ogon' remained in leaf throughout winter.
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Hesperantha kept on flowering right through into December.
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This is one of the few plants which can grow both in the water as on land. My soil is clay and a bit heavy in places. Like many other South African plants, they can cope with our winters (if not too cold) but they prefer well drained soil. I noticed last month that the leaves of a number of Hesperantha plants in garden soil had rotted at the base. I hope that these plants might still grow back later this season, we will see. In my ponds, they grow with their crowns submerged and possibly partly due to the very mild winter, these came through the winter healthier than their land based counterparts (picture from last week);
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I was surprised by this as I had expected this to be the other way round - I was more worried about those left in pond.

Acorus 'Ogon' did do better on land as it did in the water. Juncus inflexus seems to have done equally well in both environments.

As winter approached, more and more plants died back but I left all the stems and seedheads.
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Then, in early March, I cut back all the dead growth and used it to mulch the soil.
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Thank you for watching. I will soon update with my plans for the next phase in the development of the garden.
 

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mort

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It's amazing, hard to believe it's so young.

I've grown hesperantha in the margins for years and the only time they have suffered was from the blackbirds pulling them up. I even just had a flush of flowers from our red one which I don't remember flowering at this time of year before.

Do you grow pesicaria bistorta? I was up in the lake district last autumn and it was happily still flowering then and it's pink might compliment your sanguisorba. There was also lots of aster tripolium growing on the edges of the lakes which might extend your flowering period.
 

killi69

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Thanks @mort 🙋🏽‍♂️
I've grown hesperantha in the margins for years and the only time they have suffered was from the blackbirds pulling them up. I even just had a flush of flowers from our red one which I don't remember flowering at this time of year before.
That's good to hear (aside from the blackbirds!).

Do you grow pesicaria bistorta? I was up in the lake district last autumn and it was happily still flowering then and it's pink might compliment your sanguisorba. There was also lots of aster tripolium growing on the edges of the lakes which might extend your flowering period.
That sounds realy great! it is so inspiring to look at planting communities in the wild.

I did consider Persicaria bisorta and agree with you that it would look great and match existing planting. In the end, I went for Persicaria affinis 'Superba', which looks very similar. I was/ I am trying to bring together Persicaria amphibia growing in the water with a Persicaria which looks very similar on land, to create the illusion that the same plant is streching across both environments as they would do in a real water-marsh type situation. It did not work well last year as P. amphibia did not flower. Possibly this might be because I need to plant them deeper, with more water over their crown. Currenly they have up to 20cm over their crown, so I will be placing them deeper this year to see if that makes a difference.

I just took some photographs of the Persicaria to share. You can see the P. affinis spreading really well.
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In fact, is it spreading so well, it is even sending out runners into the water, kind of doing part of the job I had planned for P. amphibia. This will actually help as in order to move P. amphibia into deeper water, I need to move them another 30cm or so away from the edge.
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Here is a close up where you can just about see new shoots from P. ambibia poking out of the water, alongside the runners from P. affinis moving into the water.
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Courtneybst

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It looks amazing in every season! Echoing what's been said already, it's hard to believe this is so young.

The colours and textures just blend perfectly and the windy wooden path ties it all together like an ancient tapestry. I particularly like the shot below where you can see deep into the water, it reminds me of some of the imagery from Chris Lukhaup. The fish must be in their element!

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killi69

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The colours and textures just blend perfectly and the windy wooden path ties it all together like an ancient tapestry. I particularly like the shot below where you can see deep into the water, it reminds me of some of the imagery from Chris Lukhaup.
Thank you Courtney:):)

This is my favourite journal of all time, I look forward to it every spring! just leaving a comment so I'll be apart of this legendary thread 😊
That is so nice of you to say, and so funny. Thank you Ginkgo!!!
 

killi69

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Today, I am posting a bit about blanketweed and algae. There is blanket weed in most of my ponds. I have found over the years that blanket weed comes in different forms and stages. Most of the blanket weed I have at the moment is at the stage of where it starts to die off and float (see pic below), and can be easily removed with a net.
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I know that in some ponds blanketweed can be absolutely everywhere but right now in my ponds, it is more sporadic, with some plants being more affected than others. Potamogeton gayi, P. lucens and P. crispus, for example, seem to have less blanketweed around them while Elodea has significant amounts and, to some extent, so does giant Vallisneria.

Maybe I am wrong, but at the moment I am going by the theory that healthily growing plants might be less troubled by blanket weed. Vallisneria (giant Vallis) has not yet started to grow and tends to have some blanketweed. I am hoping that as the weather gets warmer, the Vallis will take off again and might have less blanketweed on its leaves.

I recent wrote about Elodea;
I planted my Elodea in baskets with clay topsoil and placed them at the bottom of my ponds (80cm depth). I read the other day in one of my Ada Hofman reference books that in her experience, Elodea does better on a shallow marginal pond shelf and that if it is planted deeper than 20cm, the stems become too long and thin and easily break off, causing the plant to become a nuisance by multiplying too much. I am thinking that this might have happened to me, as I find many of the plants not looking too healthy and it is also exactly those plants which seem to have mbore blanket weed around them.
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I have started removing some of the Elodea baskets from my ponds anyway, as a way of thinning them out. I feel I can afford to do this as I still have enough other pond plants left and perhaps this might even encourage some of the others to grow more.
I will cut back the Elodea in some of the baskets and then place them on the shallow shelves and observe the diference. I will also start grouping the Elodea baskets together more tightly, more away from the other baskets, to prevent them from invading other plants.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been thinning out Elodea from most of my ponds. In three of the ponds (big pond at the back - middle pond - and the one in between) I removed half the baskets of Elodea altogether and the remaining baskets of Elodea I cut back.

Here is an example of a more unhealthy looking basket of Elodea. Baskets looking like this I removed;
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This example is in better shape. Baskets like this, I kept and trimmed right back;
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I also fertilised the baskets but not all of them, so that later on I can tell the difference in plant health and perhaps even if they might be affected by blanketweed differently;
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I am hoping that the other plants in the ponds might perform better also, with less competition from the Elodea. Cutting back the Elodea so hard is an experiment for me as I have never been so ruthless before in removing so much plant mass in one go. I am aware that I run the risk of a backlash in the form of an explosion of algae or blanket weed over the coming weeks but I am counting on the fact that I still have a large amount of baskets remaining and hope that these will be spurred on by removing competition from Elodea.

Another reason for cutting back the Elodea is that I wanted more growing space for the other plants. It was useful in the beginning to have access to lots of Elodea to control the algae but now I have a more varied and greater stock of other ponds plants, I really want to try out different combinations and groupings to see what can be achieved visually, as well as practically in terms of keeping a healthy pond.

If cutting back the Elodea proves to be a succesful way to maintain the vigour of the plant, I will certainly do so earlier next year as newts have already returned to the ponds, so it was not really a great time for me to be removing plants during their breeding season.

Here a few pictures of inside the ponds.

The large pond at the back is definately a success story. Probably I think because of the ratio of deeper parts (80cm) to shallower parts - this pond has the largest ratio of deeper water and least amount of blanket weed, especially now the Elodea has been removed which had quite a bit tangled among it. It has baskets of Elodea, Potamogeton lucens, P. crispus, giant Vallis, and Myriophyllum 'Red Stem';
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The next pond towards the front is a smaller pond, which sits between the large pond at the back and the middle pond. Potamogeton crispus does very well in this pond, as it does in the large pond at the back. There is also some Vallis in here. I removed Elodea and replaced with baskets of Potamogeton lucens and Myriophyllum 'Red Stem'. This pond is probably the most shaded out of all of them but is only shaded for part of the day. There is also hornwort in this pond which prefers the shade. Unfortunately, hornwort disappears easily during blanketweed removal (hornwort is not rooted and therefore easily gets caught up with blanketweed being pulled out).
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I forgot to take a picture of the middle pond but will share a video at the end of this post, which shows the middle pond. This pond had the most Elodea growing and the most amount of blanketweed also. I removed two thirds of baskets of Elodea and added baskets of Potamogeton lucens and Myriophyllum 'Red Stem'. It also has Vallis.

The pond next to my house is also doing well. Here you can see how the blanketweed seems mainly concentrated around the Elodea at the top of the picture, and to some extent the Vallis (bottom/left). The Potamogeton gayi, P. perfoliatus and P. lucens (right/bottom right) seem less affected. I have thinned out the Elodea in this pond but thought I should 'play it safe' in at least one pond and did not cut back drastically as I have in the others. Also, it will be interesting to see if the blanketweed might just disappear by itself.
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One pond where things have not gone too well, is the smaller pond which sits in between the large pond at the front and the middle pond. This pond contains a population of Aphanius mentho. Here is a video taken back in March, where you can see some of them.


The problem is that the water over the last three weeks is turning green and I need to take some urgent measures.

18 April 2022;
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24 April 2022; I noticed water starting to turn a bit 'milky'
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08 May 2022
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I am not sure what is causing this problem. I did not remove Elodea baskets from this pond, nor did I remove other pond plants, which otherwise would have been an obvious explanation.

The Aphanius mentho population was becoming a bit large, with too many youngsters from last year. A high bio load could cause problems, especially without filtration but on the other hand, these are still small fish. Also, I do not feed the fish in my ponds, so I wonder how much bio load can really be added to the system?

When the water at first was turning a bit 'milky', I did think whether this could be caused by bacterial issues and was wondering whether the cause might be a dead animal or something fallen into the water which might be polluting it or something? But I can't detect any foul smell and there has been no scum floating on the surface.

Last year, I did not have any problems with green water.

Whatever the cause, I need to add some more oxygenating plants to combat the green water and maybe even install some shade netting. For now, I placed another basket of Elodea in there, both to compete against the green algae in the water and provide more surface cover.

I will leave you with a video with more views of inside the ponds. In future updates, I will share more about the individual types of submerged/ oxygenating pond plants, as well show pics of the rest of the garden which is really starting to look great, and of course let you know how I am getting on with the green water in the mentho pond.

 

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