Garden Books

Water Gardener’s Bible

water lilies

We gained an abandoned small water garden with the purchase of our current home. After our January arrival, it remained a green, sludgy, empty mess through the winter. Then one sunny day in spring, my non-gardener husband took responsibility for the dirty pool. He drained the water, cleaned the scum, installed water lilies, stocked it with goldfish, and fell in love with it.

If he had read The Water Gardener’s Bible (Rodale Press) before starting our pond’s renovation, our water garden would have contained more types of plants and more fish, resulting in more beauty. The book is a step-by-step guide to building, planting, stocking, and maintaining a backyard water garden.

The authors’ begin with advice on determining the pond’s size, shape and position and help you compile your shopping list. Lists of pond placement considerations, such as viewpoint, trees, electrical wires, drains, and sunlight are discussed. One interesting fact revealed was a list of plants (willows, buckeye, walnut, holly, laburnum, and evergreen trees) considered toxic to fish that shouldn’t be near the water.

My favorite section is the plant directory with photographs and information on flowering season, climate zones, height and width. Floating and marginal plants, lily-like plants, water lilies, lotus, bog plants and oxygenators are introduced. Marginal plants are those whose roots prefer or tolerate permanent water coverage and function similarly to a border on a garden bed.

In a water garden book, a good fish directory must be included. Since goldfish like ours are the world’s most widely kept pet, I never imagined that so many fish existed for water gardens. The authors’ provide photographs, care for and pond types necessary for goldfish, koi, orfe, tench, sterlet, and other exotic pond fish.

The book concludes with points to aid in keeping your pond in good condition throughout the years, including the most helpful information on general and seasonal maintenance.

The authors’ backgrounds enable them to know the timing of activities. Kelly Billing has managed an aquatic nursery for more that twenty years and writes frequently for water gardening publications. Ben Helm is a qualified marine biologist who has farmed koi, managed aquatic businesses, and currently heads an aquatic department in a university. The experienced authors accept that some readers’ pools will include only plants, but their belief that “keeping fish in a pond certainly does add another dimension to ‘gardening’ and allows you to interact with your garden in a totally new way.”

Christine Thomson is a Raleigh gardener obsessed with plants.  She is a volunteer at the Raulston Arboretum and fills her spare time reading books, especially volumes about vegetation.

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