The world is full of latent water gardeners. They lust after everyone else's garden pools because this natural aquatic bent remains unfulfilled. This is no reason to be water-less when its so easy to create a summer water garden in just one weekend.
The key is to treat your water garden the same way you look at summer annuals. Annual flowers exist for the growing season only, and then are discarded with autumn frost. The same idea applies to water gardens created in large ceramic pots. They are set up in spring to support a wide range of truly unique plants for the season.
Plants known as marginals live along the edges of waterways. They can survive equally as well on dry land as when fully inundated. They are mostly reed-like plants sold as terrestrials in the garden center. Those in five gallon pots will be sizeable enough to make a big impact on day one.
All you need to get started is a large, heavy weight pot with no drain hole. If you need to plug a hole use waterproof silicone. Asian ceramics are perfect for this because you can splurge on vivid glazes and textures to create a living work of art. Choose one with a thick wall for structural integrity. Size it to comfortably hold a five gallon nursery pot or a few one gallons with three to five inches clear on every side.
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Position the pot where it will remain all season. Fill it with the garden hose to a few inches below the top rim. Then set the plant and its pot slowly into the water so the black nursery pot rim is an inch or two below the water line. If the pot sits too low, raise it up on clean bricks or upturned empty pots to achieve the proper depth. Then fill until the water line is as high as you like.
A single five gallon upright plant may be all you need to make this a truly spectacular. Large papyrus or cannas are truly beautiful all by themselves. You may prefer to combine a few smaller plants of varying form or texture to create a composition. Here you can use colocasia, horsetail, water iris and acorus for great looks.
During the summer you may have to fill the big pot daily to keep the water level consistent. This also cools off the overall temperature of the water to discourage algae bloom. If water quality declines, overflow the pot for a few minutes to refresh it.
Be aware that mosquitoes can breed in this kind of water garden. To prevent larvae there are two methods you can use: mosquito fish or nontoxic mosquito dunks.
Most Mosquito Abatement Districts give out free mosquito fish (tiny minnows) to keep your water mosquito free. Kids love these and you'll enjoy seeing them dart around.
Water garden centers sell nontoxic mosquito dunks you can drop into the water for chemical-free natural larvae control. Be sure to replace these as often as directed by the manufacturer.
For more variety and to reduce nitrogen that stimulates algae bloom, you can add floaters. These drag their roots in the water taking nitrogen. Floaters are always moving around to give your summer water garden more visual interest. The most widely available are water lettuce or hyacinth.
Tall upright plants for water gardens are easier to grow in dry climates when they are submerged. The ready supply of water keeps them firm, their foliage luxuriant and fully hydrated. When all die back for the winter, lift their pots, let them drain and dry out. Then store dormant in a dark, frost free area until spring rolls around. However, many gardeners simply discard them altogether at season's end and start over fresh the following year. So whether it's in the garden, porch or patio, gratify your lust this summer and fulfill those dreams, even if it's only for just one season.
Maureen Gilmer is a horticulturist and host of "Weekend Gardening" on DIY Network.