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Garden Ramblings, Issue #021
May 15, 2006
May 2006


Monthly Musings on the Garden Scene

*********************************************************** If you prefer, you can view this month's issue online where you can also subscribe if this copy has been forwarded to you by a friend. ***********************************************************

In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Plant of the Month
- Water in the Garden
- How To Choose Water Garden Plants
- Special Offers
- Useful Resources

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Hi

Welcome to the May issue of Garden Ramblings your monthly window on what's going on in the world of gardening.

The "Plant of the Month" is the English Bluebell which is in full bloom just now in gardens and growing wild in the woods.

The theme this month is Water in the Garden. If you've ever wondered about building a garden pond but were not sure where to start, here's some suggestions for you.

The Guest article continues the theme with advice from Brett Fogle on how to choose plants for your water garden.

As Summer approaches there are the last of the Spring sales and a few new offerings to whet your appetite.

The resources section this month follows the theme of water gardening with a selection of sites showing pictures of ponds and water features to give you some ideas if you are planning to build one of your own.

If you want to keep up with all the news in the gardening world, you can read my blog Garden Supplies News.

Enjoy the issue.

Hugh

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Plant of the Month Name: English Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Description: The bluebell is a hardy perennial bulbous plant with strap-like pointed mid-green leaves. Bell-shaped violet-blue flowers are borne on 12 inch stems in late spring.

Origin: The English bluebell is native to the UK and Western Europe.

Cultivation: Bluebells are woodland plants and so thrive when planted under trees in light shade but will also do well in an open border. Plant the bulbs 4-6 inches deep. Conventional wisdom says that bluebells prefer moist soil but others have found that they thrive in dry conditions. Propagate by lifting annually and replanting at once giving the small offsets room to grow. They can also be grown from seed but you will have to wait 4-6 years before you see any flowers.

Pests and diseases: Generally trouble free but can be affected by rust and a virus disease which causes yellow mottling of the leaves.

Folklore: In Greek mythology hyacinths grew from the blood of the young Hyacinthus as he lay dying. The God Apollo wrote 'AI AI', which means 'alas' on the petals of this flower as a lament to express his grief. The part of the scientific name 'non-scripta' means 'without letters' and distinguishes the English bluebell from the ancestor of cultivated hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis).

In English folklore it was said that the bells rang to summon fairies to their gatherings and should a human hear the sound, he would die within the year. On a lighter note, it was claimed that if you could turn one of the flowers inside out without tearing it, you would eventually win the one you love. ***********************************************************

Water in the Garden No, this is not another of those articles telling you how to save water by growing drought resistant plants but, rather an invitation to those of you who have not yet experienced the delights of a garden pond or water feature to metaphorically dip your toe and give it a try. Water is a precious resource but also one of the most fascinating of the natural elements. Water has some magical quality that gives pleasure in so many ways. You may be inspired by the sight of fish swimming lazily in a peaceful pool or feel your daily cares drain away as you sit by a babbling brook. So why not enjoy these benefits in your own backyard? With modern materials the cost of building a pond or other water feature does not have to break the bank, and the pleasure that you will gain will repay your investment many times over. Whatever the size of your backyard there is a pond or water feature to suit the situation. In a formal garden setting you might choose to build a square or rectangular pond with a fountain. In a less formal setting an irregular oval shape would be more appropriate, but the choice is yours and you will only be limited by your own imagination. You don't just have to have a pond. There are all sorts of extras that you can add or even create as stand-alone features. These include fountains, waterfalls, streams, bog gardens, beaches and bridges. Then there is the question of plants and fish. Imagine a pond with pink and white water-lilies floating on the surface with colorful fish swimming below. If space is at a premium and you do not have room for a pond, all is not lost. You can still have a container pond, pebble fountain or a wall mask waterspout. Even a container pond will have room for a plant or two and a few small fishes. I hope that this brief introduction to water gardening has given you some idea of the pleasure that can be obtained from building a pond in your backyard. As I have tried to explain, whether your plans are large or small, there are countless ways that you can bring water into the garden to improve the amenities of your outdoor space.

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How To Choose Water Garden Plants By Brett Fogle So. The water garden bug has bitten. You’ve dug and levelled and sweated and said words you hope that no one else has heard. Now it’s time for the fun part – picking out your water garden plants! Plant varieties within these four categories are what you need to eyeball: deep-water, marginals, oxygenators, and floaters. (If you think these words are big and weird, just thank your stars we’re not talking medicine.) After you’ve diligently planted your babies in plastic tubs, pans, or clay pots, packing the fertilizer- and chemical-free soil down tightly, load the container down with pea gravel to keep the soil from floating away. (Don’t ask why this works, but it does.) Plunk your prize into the water at the appropriate depth (You’ll read about that in just a minute, so hang on to your hat.) and you’re on your way! Plant-dunking should be done during the growing season. Wait four or five weeks for the water plants to do their thing before you add your fish. If you just can’t hold your horses, er, your fish, for that long, you can jump the gun a couple of weeks, but the idea is to let the plants first get established. When picking your plants, you’ll no doubt be wowed by water lilies of the tropical persuasion. These aquatic wonders lord it over their hardier cousins with knock-out fragrance, big blooms day or night – depending on the variety – and a habit of blooming their little hearts out nearly every day during the growing season. They love their warmth, though, so unless you live in a year-round, warm-weather climate (in which case, you are used to being hated and has absolutely nothing to do with this article), be prepared to hasten them into a greenhouse or at least muster up enough moolah to buy them some “grow” lights to tough it out through the winter. They will definitely bite the dust at freezing temperatures, but give them night-time temps of at least 65F and daytime temps of 75F or warmer, and your love affair with tropicals will only grow that much more torrid. Hardy water lilies, while not the showboaters that tropicals are, are . . . well, hardier. Their big advantage is that they can stay in the water year ‘round unless it freezes so deeply the rootstock is affected. And being the tough guys they are, you can plant these puppies deeper than the tropicals, some living it up in depths of 8 to 10 feet. Both hardy and tropical water lilies are real sun worshippers. At least 5 to 10 hours a day is what it takes, along with regular fertilization, to keep these plant pals happy. Everybody and their brother with a water garden wants a lotus plant. (Sisters, too, no doubt.) These water-lily relatives come in hardy and not-so-hardy strains, so make sure you know what you’re buying. Much bigger than water lilies, lotus have huge, famously splendid blooms that not only will knock your socks off, but make you forget you have feet altogether. Their leaves and seed pods are so breathtaking, they’re a favorite in costly cut-flower arrangements. Big, bold, and beautiful, with water-depth needs of 2-3 feet, these shouters are really better off in big ponds that get plenty of sun. Marginals (sometimes called “bog” plants by those less high-falutin’) are grass-like plants that strut their stuff in shallow areas no deeper than 6” that border the water garden. They also do well in mud. Cattail, bamboo, rush, papyrus, and many other plants fall into the family of marginals and grow best with a minimum of at least three hours of jolly old Sol. Some plants are there but not seen, working stoically under water and without fanfare to fight algae, oxygenate the water, and provide food for fish. (In lieu of these plants, if your pond is small, you can fake it fairly adequately with an aquarium pump.) Easy on the wallet, varieties of these plants can be bought in bunches and like their soil sandy and/or gravely. Like hardy water lilies, they, too, will warrior it through the winter. Water hyacinths have become a recent rage, especially for the lazy among us. No soil is required for these beauties. Toss them in the water and they’re “planted.” A water hyacinth ain’t just another pretty face, though; these plants do their part in the war against algae and blanket weeds by keeping sunlight scarce on the water’s surface. But one note of caution: This plant may take over the world if allowed. It’s invasive as all get out, so keep it under control or you (and your neighbors) may wish you’d never laid eyes on it. A water garden isn't a garden without plants. Take your time, know your climate, and choose wisely. Your rewards will be great in return. ************************************************** Brett Fogle is the owner of MacArthur Water Gardens and several other pond-related websites including MacArthurWatergardens.com, and Pond-Filters-Online.com. He also publishes a free monthly newsletter called PondStuff! with a reader circulation of over 9,000. To sign up for the free newsletter and receive our FREE 'New Pond Owners Guide' visit MacArthur Water Gardens today!

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Special Offers As Summer draws nearer the last of the Spring sales are coming to an end but there are a few last-minute bargains to be found. Also look out for some new offers like this one from Brecks Bulbs. Brecks Bulbs have a special tulip offer. This is a collection of Deluxe Perennial Tulips which will bloom in your garden with increased vigour and beauty year after year. With each collection you receive a free gift of a Towering Prism which will grow over three feet tall, producing a tall, chalice-shaped, mid to late spring flower with a beautiful pink blush, fading into a yellow trim. Click Here!

Dutch Gardens have a Spring Clearance Sale on Spring Planted Flowers. You can save 55% on Fata Morgana Double Asiatic Lily bulbs - 5 bulbs for just $6.67. There are lots more bargains to be had. Click the link icon to see them all.

Gurney's have extended their sale so you can still find bargains on a range of fruit trees, shrubs and plants. Butterfly plants, Blackberries, Mallows, Spruce trees and a Red Trumpet Vine are just some of the goods on offer. Click Here to find out more.

Gardeners Supply Company are featuring Rainbow Garden Tubs. "These flexible, lightweight polyethylene tubs are washable, bendable, crushable, nearly indestructable. Now in nine different “designer” colors, our Tubs are heavy-duty enough to haul rocks, mix soils, transport root balls, carry leaves and weeds and much more." At just $14.95 each they are well worth a look. Click here for the details. icon

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Useful Resources Continuing the Water Garden theme this section features a number of sites where you can explore this topic in greater detail. Several contain pictures to give you ideas on design if you are planning to build a pond of your own. The first site is one man's story of how he designed and built his water garden with lots of pictures of the pond and its flowers, fish and other visitors. The Water Garden. The next site is similar but this one is set on the Isle of Jersey in the UK. Again lots of pictures to inspire you. Reg's Garden My third choice is a merchant's site but the link takes you to a page which shows photos of ponds built by their customers. Here you will find plenty of ideas to help you plan your own water feature. And if you go to the bottom of the page, you will find links to more pictures going back to 1998. The Water Garden. Number four is MacArthur Water Gardens which is owned by Brett Fogle, our guest author this month. His site contains a large collection of articles telling you all you need to know about building and looking after a garden pond.

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Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to: [email protected]

That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog Garden Supplies News

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