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Water Gardens






In quite small gardens, much may be achieved by the use of tubs in which to grow collections of aquatics. Ingenuity will overcome many obstacles, and there are few places in which a small water garden such as is contemplated in this section may not be successful.


At first sight, a tub may not seem a particularly desirable object in which to grow even a small Water Lily. If the tubs form part of a definite garden scheme, their identity will be carefully concealed.


I have in mind a small garden of bog and water, which has been constructed at very small cost, and which might well serve as a model for others.


Practically no skilled labour was required in its making, whilst the area it occupies - some fourteen yards by three - could easily be spared in the majority of gardens. Few would imagine on seeing this charm­ing spot, that it has only been in existence a short time, or that the site was formerly a strip of waste ground overrun with nettles and coarse grass. With slight modification this water garden could be made almost anywhere, so that I shall describe it in detail.Container Water Garden


At the end of the flower garden, a small planting of mixed shrubs occurs, these are of the usual type, and consist chiefly of laurels. Along one side of this shrubbery a pathway led down to a small paddock, which it is intended later to convert into an orchard. The sides of the path were bordered with rough margins of waste ground, which through neglect had become over-run with weeds, and had also served as a convenient place in which to put rubbish, stack turf and erect a few frames.


Altogether it was thoroughly unsightly. The owner saw possibilities of improve­ment, and after some thought decided on turning it into a bog and water garden. Unfortunately, there is not a stream or pond on the property, and as expense was a consideration, nothing very elaborate was planned.


In the first place, the ground was thoroughly cleaned, and a new pathway made along the side furthest from the shrubbery. This provided a strip of ground some four yards wide and fifteen long between the path edge and the line of shrubs. As it was not considered advis­able that the bog garden should extend close up to the laurels, it is nowhere more than nine feet wide, and in some places even less.


Having marked out the site, the next step was to remove the soil to a depth of two feet. This proved a somewhat heavy task, but the advisability of having the bog and water plants sunk well below the general ground level, made a certain amount of spade and barrow work necessary. With the soil removed, high banks interspersed with rockwork were made at either end. These served to screen and shelter the bog garden, and also provided a home for many delightful plants.


Six large petroleum casks were then procured, each being sawn in half. The tubs were well charred inside, in order to render them as durable as possible, the oil which had soaked into the wood acting as an additional preservative against decay. Down the length of the bog garden holes were excavated of sufficient size to sink the casks level with the rims.


The holes were dug at about seven feet apart, and were arranged at irregular distances from the path, so that the tubs did not form a straight line. As the ground sloped naturally to the lower end, each tub, when sunk in position, was slightly lower than its predecessor: on the level, it would have been necessary to provide a fall by digging the holes deeper in succession.


A somewhat better effect would have been obtained had the tubs, or rock pools as they now appear, been spaced more irregularly. As it is, there is practically the same interval between each. Two tubs close together, then a third at treble the distance, followed by a cluster of three, would probably have produced a more natural result.


A bricklayer was now instructed to connect the line of tubs by a small watercourse, in this case, merely a shallow cemented channel. This did not run straight from tub to tub, but followed a slightly winding direction. The water supply was obtained from the mains, and was carried down to the entrance of the bog garden through ordinary iron piping. Before use, it was allowed to stand for some hours in a large open cistern, so that it became slightly warmed.


Suitable containers for aquatics had now been pro­vided, and a plan worked out whereby the water in the tubs could be renewed as often as necessary. All that remained was to lay out the garden, and conceal as far as possible the unsightly channel and the regular circles formed by the tub edges.


More digging was necessary, and a further eighteen inches of soil removed. Fortunately building operations had been in progress, and several cart-loads of broken bricks, mortar rubbish, and general debris were available. A good layer of drainage material was thus provided, and above it was spread a foot deep of peaty loam. The surface was made as irregular as possible, rising in small hillocks and ridges from the watercourse.


The symmetrical appearance of the latter was then masked by rough stones, so placed that they produced an impression of water flowing along a small rocky channel. In two places the minia­ture stream was bridged by flat boulders. 

 Water Garden

The rims were hidden by an edging of flat stones resting on a collar of cement. This was found necessary in order to prevent the water from overflowing, instead of passing along the channel to the next tub. The stones were of all shapes and sizes, and were so arranged that they did not follow the barrel rims exactly, but produced small angles and crevices, with an occasional larger piece of rock jutting out over the water. When finished, no two pools were of exactly the same shape.


Simple steps of rough stone lead down to the sunken water garden from its upper end, passing behind the rock mounds. In the joints, ivy-leaved, Toad Flax, Campanula Pusilla, and some of the smaller Saxifrages have become established. The pools nearest to the path are also approached by steps, with a stone slab at the edge to give convenient foothold for closer examination of the Lilies.


When making this garden, adequate means for supplying water to the bog plants themselves was un­fortunately overlooked. As it is, they are occasionally refreshed and the soil kept moist, from the water barrow. This involves a little extra labor, which, I think, might have been avoided. A small iron cistern could have been sunk in the ground at the point where the supply pipe emerged from the rock mound.


An overhanging edge of stones would have given it the appearance of a small spring, and an easy approach would have constituted it a useful dipping pool. Some inches from the top an outlet would make contact with the cement channel, so that after using as much water as was necessary for soaking the bog soil, the simple method of turning on the supply at the reservoir would refill the dipping tank, causing it to overflow down the channel, and refresh the aquatics in the tubs.


An overhanging fringe of Hart's­ Tongue would look well near the tank, and in the stone­work joints, the common Polypody, the Oak and Beech Ferns would thrive.


Only plants of small size can be used for these miniature gardens, everything must be planned on a reduced scale. For the tubs the larger Nymphaeas are, of course, out of the question, but in one of them we may grow N.pygmaea, a diminutive Lily with white flowers, in another, the pale yellow variety Helvola, which is a seedling from N.pygmaea, and was raised by M.Latour-Marliac. Pontederia, with arrow-shaped leaves and spikes of blue flowers, would also be suit­able, as would the beautiful Cape Pond flower (Apono­geton). The leaves lie on the surface of the water, and the white waxy flowers, sweetly scented, are raised slightly above it. There is a pink flowered variety, roseus.


In the moist bog soil, Primula Farinosa and P.rosea will be found, small patches of the native yellow Saxifrage (S.autumnalis) being placed near the sides of the watercourse. The Bavarian Gentian (G.bavarica), with blossoms of iridescent blue, is like­wise at home in the wet bog.


A charming plant for contrast is the dwarf Bunch-berry (C.candensis), dis­tinct as to its cream colored bracts and scarlet berries. In Sphagnum, the Droseras and the smaller plants mentioned elsewhere can be established.


From the American swamps we get the Meadow Beauty (Rhexia Virginica), a beautiful dwarf plant, with deep rosy flowers. For carpeting, in addition to the mosses, there is the Moneywort (Sibthorpia), and in shade the hardy Adiantum pedatum and the American Mayflower (Epigaea Repens). One corner in half shade must be set aside for a clump of Cypripedium Spectabile, and at the back Osmunda and certain of our smaller Spiraeas would relieve any tendency to flatness.


It is the intention of the owner of the water garden we have been considering, to make considerable altera­tions in the shrubbery which bounds the bog margin.


In course of time the majority of the laurels will be removed, and their place taken by Rhododendrons and the choicer flowering shrubs. Peaty soil will be provided in which colonies of Lilies can be established, with ferns in the damper quarters. Short vistas will be opened from the bog garden side, so as to soften the present hard dividing line.Water Garden


The two gardens, water and shrub, will gradually merge into one, and the plants range from actual aquatics to those which inhabit the dry peaty clearings among the Rhododen­drons. It is always best to forecast other schemes, and arrange for future developments when planning alterations.


In very small gardens indeed, where space cannot be spared for even the above modest attempt at water ­gardening, isolated tubs may be used.The water supply will be renewed by hand, taking care to disturb the plants as little as possible. Some gardeners never change the water in tubs and small basins, but find that a few newts suffice to keep it moderately clean and fresh.


A water garden suggests something elaborate and costly, but there are many who derive no small amount of pleasure from the miniature charms of a single Lily in a tub, with a fringe of bog plants growing in a moist, peaty bed beside it.





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