Pond News 5/6/2012


The date for the pond tour is rapidly approaching. It is the weekend of June 9/10 and by my reckoning, we are four weeks away which gives me about enough time to finish all I want to do prior to the Tour. The spring rains have worked wonders in the garden and stuff is shooting up all over the place. I haven’t seen the yard look so green and lush for a long time. The only problem with “shooting up” is that I also need to trim some of the walkways especially the Nature Trail.

Fern plants at Muir Woods, California

Fern plants (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I keep adding more plants to fill in the few holes that are left and have even resorted to planting wood fern in the area that I usually let run wild. At the last Pond Society meeting at Zilker Gardens, I noticed that they had planted a large area with ferns under the shade trees and they were looking very strong. I have not had much luck growing ferns in the past mainly due to the intense heat in the summer and my guess is that the ferns really like it moist and humid.

Anyway, looking at the Zilker ferns gave me an idea that I should try to grow a bunch of them under the shade trees in the “wild” area. So, always the willing one to try something new, I have planted about a dozen or so ferns and we will see if this will work. There is still the problem of moisture in the summer so I’m thinking that a soaker hose on a timer will do the trick. I have one of those on the bog that I constructed between the streams. It has a timer that is set to run for 30 minutes every couple of days which provides enough moisture for the marginal plants.

My neighbour had a plant swap on Saturday and called me to come over and take what was left. So, even though I hadn’t planned on it, I ended up with another 20-30 plants of all types and varieties. If I can’t find room in the back yard, I will start work on the front garden. It desperately needs some work now as most of the ground cover that I had growing under the trees for the last several years did not make it after last summers killing heat. It is a big project as removing that amount of dead stuff is a chore all by itself and ground cover takes several years to really establish itself.

I have quite literally been in the ponds to clean out the debris and cut back all of the over growing plant life. The amount of surface water was disappearing under the amount of growth. A word of warning to you pond lovers out there. Beware of the Lizards Tail. It will take over your pond unless you cut it back every spring. I cut some of it back on the outside of one of the bogs where the bog transitions to garden as it was extending way beyond where I wanted it to grow. This was about 10 days ago and the stuff has already nearly grown back. It will choke out other plants if allowed to flourish.

I have Zantedeschia aetheopica “Crowborough” that is a beautiful lily like plant with big white flowers very similar to a water arum and it was really struggling to hold its own against the Lizards Tail. A few deft strokes with the shears and the lily plant can breath again.

Español: Zantedeschia aethiopica. Real Jardín ...

Zantedeschia aethiopica. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was interesting actually being in the water along with the fish. I moved slowly so as not to frighten them and felt them brush against me several times. I had my hands in the water cleaning out the debris and felt something hard. Turned out to be one of the turtles and I easily caught it which really surprised me as I would have thought it would have high tailed it out of there. Among the many plants actually in the water are reeds, water iris in several varieties and Thalia. These bigger plants are usually in an 8 inch deep by 2 feet wide planters and the Thalia is in one of the 20 gallon tubs. I always put a layer of large round stones on the top to keep the Koi from washing out the plants with their tails. The Thalia is weighted down to stop it from blowing over as it gets top-heavy with so much growth. In one pond, I have a spruce tree growing directly in the water in one of the flat containers. I thought is was dead as last year, it didn’t grow but apparently didn’t die either as this year it is shooting up.

The Iris in the lower pond had grown so enormous, it was taking over a quarter of water surface. Upon inspection, the plant had grown way beyond the pot and had tubers that extended out nearly 6 inches all the way around. I struggled to move it and while it was in the water, was able to get it over to the side. As soon as I lifted it out of the water, the full weight of that plant hit me and I really had to work hard to get it up on to the edge of the pond.

After I had cleaned out as many of the dead leaves and debris that I could and was satisfied that I had cut back everything that needed it, I placed two water lilies each in both the upper and lower ponds. I have not had much luck with lilies as the big Koi like to destroy them pulling the leaves off one by one. If this happens this time around, I will have to put the water lilies back into the small 20 gallon pots and raise them there. When I was up to Hill Country Water Gardens a couple of weeks back, I purchased a water-lily that is supposed to do well in the shade. I have placed it in the Pond/stream and so far it is holding up. There is only one Koi in this pond along with about a dozen goldfish who don’t seem to bother the lilies.

I have saved the tubers and leaves that I have cut off the iris and will bring them to the plant swap in two weeks time. I still have the big pond to clean and there is some cutting needed to be done on the two very large Iris plants very similar to the previously mentioned one.  The Koi did their best to destroy one of them when they were going through their mating ritual. This one along with another of similar size will need to be trimmed back to a reasonable size. Even though this big pond is almost 30 feet in diameter, these plants tend to take up an awful lot of space and surface water.

I have a Lotus in the big pond that keeps coming back year after year. I know that the Koi will get at the lilies that I try to grow but they don’t bother the Lotus. Maybe the stalks are made of stronger stuff and the Koi can’t do it any damage.

One thing is very sure after the pond cleaning is the number of times that the filters will need to be changed for a few days until the water gets back to its previous clearness. I am not one to advocate that the water has to be crystal clear and in truth, the number of and size of the fish make that impossible in my case. This is an ongoing discussion between us Pond members, crystal clear or just clear. The Koi are usually busy through the day searching for food and are naturally bottom feeders being members of the carp family so they keep it stirred up. It settles down again in the evenings and I have found that the best way to examine the ponds and check the fish is with a flashlight. There are no shadows or sunlight to get in the way.

Saururus chinensis (Chinese Lizard Tail) - cul...

Saururus chinensis (Chinese Lizard Tail) – cultivated (Photo credit: Arthur Chapman)

The Little Old Man water feature was giving me some trouble and the stream was not dramatic enough for my liking so I purchased a 1100 gph mag pump with an inch and a half hose and that did the trick. The stream now has a very substantial flow to it and the Little Old Man is crying real tears.

Little Old Man

Thank goodness for the inch and a half of rain that we got last night. The thunderstorm was a real humdinger and the dogs were all curled up alongside of me while it was going on. They needed lots of assurance that their world was not coming to an end and at least I am good at that. It is one of the few things I can do to repay their undying love and affection that they give me. A small chance to give something back to them…

Rain, beautiful rain…

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