Friday, March 30, 2012

Water Garden - Early Spring

The Water Garden made it through the winter with no change in the level of planktonic algae that makes the water green.  The water normally cannot go more than a few weeks in this condition before something emerges to eat the algae.  Several clusters of Wood Frog eggs hatched in the Water Garden, so we’ll see just how effective those tadpoles are at filtering the water.

When the Water Garden was first established, I used several pots to create areas for the growth of shallow water plants.  Small-flowered Water Plantain was one plant that I brought in from the pond.  It has since died out from the pond, but is expanding its population in the Water Garden.

Several other plants have entered the Water Garden as volunteers.  Bulrushes have claimed much of the shallow water area.  The plant composition continues to diversify.

The pots were originally completely submerged.  Decomposing plant material has since built up the soil to a level a couple of inches above the waterline.  The mass of mosses and plant roots has created a floating island that extends eight inches beyond the edge of the pot.

The plant composition in the landscape is constantly changing.  I’ve been encouraging native species and in some cases have been fairly successful.

The creek was my primary source of aquatic plant material.  I transplanted a small clump of Horsetails to a spot beside the Water Garden and gave it special care during its first year.  It survived and flourished to the point of becoming a nuisance.  It has just about surrounded the Water Garden and is spreading across the lawn as well as the gravel driveway.  It grows in two distinct forms.  First to appear each year are the fertile stalks that develop a spore producing cone.  I’m certainly glad it’s a native.

Following the fertile stalks are the sterile stalks.  I’ve always loved the look of this plant, probably because I associate it with their prehistoric ancestors living in the Carboniferous swamps.

I also introduced a few plants that grow in the floodplain along the creek.  This is Spreading Jacob’s-ladder, Polemonium reptans, AKA Greek Valerian.  This is the species with the short stamens as opposed to P. van-bruntiae which as long stamens.  Both species are commonly referred to as Jacob’s-ladder in various texts, but everyone seems to have their own opinion of which species properly deserves the name.  I’ve heard some pretty heated discussions on the subject that were never satisfactorily resolved, because both sides were right.  What ever name you wish to apply, the plant thrives in a garden setting.

Virginia Bluebells also appreciate the special conditions found in a garden bed.  There are still some exotic species crowded in with the natives, but natives gain a little more ground each year.

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