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July 2007

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Skunk lily, unacceptable exuberance, marsh marigold and flash flooding

Water adds an extra dimension to a garden, visually and aurally, as well as producing growing conditions for a whole range of exciting plants I am very fortunate to have a stream running through the site, which has enabled me to make a series of water gardens. The pools are fed by a gravity feed system, so I do not have the worry of maintaining pumps and filters. Unfortunately, that does not mean that the water areas are maintenance-free. This month I intend tackling some of the main problems.

In early spring the stream banks and the pool margins are full of colour. Plants range in size from our native primrose to the majestic skunk lily, Lysichiton americanus, and the Himalayan primulas. However, the pools themselves are at their best in July, with the water lilies making a major contribution.

There is an unacceptable exuberance of growth of all the water plants at this time of year. Because of the small size of all my pools this excess growth has to be curtailed. Marginal water plants can be so invasive that they can take over the whole water surface, leaving no space for reflections. Even the water lilies need to have their growth restricted, though these are best divided in spring when they have just started developing their new buds.

There is an unacceptable exuberance of growth of all the water plants at this time of year.

I have been removing the worst offenders completely over the years. I stopped growing bulrushes in the early days of water gardening when I found myself getting into waders every year to pull out the ones that were invading too far. The beautiful marsh marigold, Caltha palustris, is now becoming a major menace and is trying to swamp an area colonized by a particularly beautiful water lily.

During the last few years the summers have been exceptionally warm and this most probably accounts for all the increased growth of the water plants. The skunk lily is seeding very freely now for the first time. As the leaves can grow to 120 cm long, I cannot afford to have it seeding all over the bog garden. The growth of both the oxygenators and plants that spread both on the surface and the base of the pools increases in warm weather and I have a constant battle to keep it under control.

The flash flooding of the stream that occurs during the winter brings a lot of debris into the pools, which aggravates the problem. Likewise, the surrounding trees shedding their leaves, also contributes to the build up of algae and unwanted base growth. During April this year the level of the stream dropped and one pool completely dried up. This enabled me to dredge the bottom of the pool completely, which has kept it clean ever since.




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