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How to create a water lily and fish pond in your Florida garden

The June 30 meeting will be conducted around the water features in the Naples garden of group leaders Peter and Suzanne. These photos show views of the water lily ponds Peter created within their back garden's spacious (36'x60') screened enclosure. One pond, designed for lotus and other aquatic plants that prefer shallow water, measures 10'x11'. An adjoining pond, housing water lilies and other aquatics that prefer deeper water, measures 11'x 30'.

In the gardens of their previous homes and their friends' homes, Peter had created six other ponds of various sizes, some including waterfalls, cascades and fountains. Those ponds designed for koi included no water plants, because these beautiful but voracious fish would consume all of the plants in short order. Because Peter and Suzanne favor raising exotic aquatic plants, their ponds have no koi. Instead they house only a few goldfish, plus native gambusia (mosquito fish). Originally, twelve gambusia had been netted out of the lake bordering one 200-foot side of the garden, and re-homed into the two ponds. These twelve apparently dated, fell in love, and decided this would be a wonderful place to raise a family, because each of the ponds now contains hundreds.

Peter experimented and learned more from each of his pond projects, and he'll be passing that information on at this meeting. We'll learn about the various designs for formal and naturalistic ponds, where to position them in a garden, which materials make the best pond liner, how to design ponds to be safe for curious young children, which aquatic plants grow and bloom best in our semi-tropical environment, how to protect the fish from hungry water birds, and many other considerations. We'll see photos showing the various steps in digging, lining, planting and stocking garden ponds of various types.

Group members who believe their gardens are too small for an actual pond will be shown the five "pondlets" that Peter created in the couple's front garden by simply sinking large storage tubs into the ground. Each of these mini-ponds houses a different kind of aquatic plant, such as papyrus, cattails, water cannas, and other attractive species. These plants live with their roots under water all the time, and southwest Florida's normal rainfall keeps the tubs full. Adding such features to your garden entails no additional watering.

A guided tour around the rest of the small property will show other features, including orchids blooming in the live oak tree, citrus and other fruit trees in the orchard, cacti and succulents on the mounded desert garden, and several patches of various bromeliads and ferns. These plants and others will be discussed in the cool shade of large umbrellas in the screened enclosure. Bring your questions to be answered by the experts.

As at all our meetings, you can also bring your excess plants for display on the plant-exchange table, and take home other plants for your own garden. Members of all garden groups typically share their bounty generously with other members, and ours is no exception. Visitors who already have ponds can be given aquatic plants directly from the meeting hosts' ponds.

Conversations will be lively around the tables while everyone enjoys the drinks and healthful foods baked by Suzanne. Guests who enjoy other snacks and beverages can supplement the hosts' refreshments by bringing their favorites to share with others.

To let Peter and Suzanne know if you can or can't attend this meeting, please click either Yes or No under the RSVP link near the upper right corner of the screen. Visitors are always welcome at these free events, so you can invite some interested friends and neighbors. If you do, please indicate the number when you submit your RSVP.

Whether you are or aren't considering adding a water feature to your garden, you can meet many other local gardeners with whom you can exchange advice here on Sunday, June 30. Among them will be some of the 18 new couples and singles who joined the group in the past month. Come help us welcome them.

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  • Jeanie

    I loved seeing Peter and Suzanne's ponds and gardens. Thank you Peter for all your years of wisdom you shared and thank you everyone for plant cuttings. They have all been planted. I started a mini pond and put the water hyacinth in it. I would love to get a few of those mosquitoes fish. Peter have you left yet? Would love to come by and grab a few fishies.

    2 · July 10, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      Thanks for the kind words, Jeanie. Right now, we're in our other home in New York City. But if you have a net you can easily collect some mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis) from almost any pond or canal in Florida. They'll be happy living in your mini-pond.

      1 · July 11, 2013

  • Suzanne and P.

    Despite the threat of rain (which never materialized), 19 gardeners showed up at this event to learn about garden ponds. Several said they intend to create new ponds in their own gardens, ranging in size anywhere from the large ones in our garden to mini-ponds made from large storage tubs. Guests who already had ponds or aquariums were given all the aquatic plants they wanted from our own ponds.

    Members were very generous in bringing their excess plants for the free plant-exchange table, and the plants were adopted by other members for their own gardens. Everyone shared snacks and drinks, both in our garden's screened enclosure and in the house, while discussing ponds and other features that help beautify all gardens. Dozens of the butterflies breeding in the enclosure fluttered overhead during the meeting.

    Suzanne and I will be away for the summer, returning to Naples in September. We encourage other members to host garden club meetings in their own gardens during July and August.

    1 · July 1, 2013

  • Missi

    Everyone remember to bring your spare plants, plant cuttings &/or seeds to share! ^_^ You bring yours, I'll bring mine!

    1 · June 29, 2013

    • Missi

      Nice of you to say, Peter! Thank you. I do not have as many to share this time but I will bring what I can :)

      June 29, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      OK, Missi. You show me yours and I'll show you mine.

      1 · June 29, 2013

  • bruce

    Hello, I am interested in starting a backyard aquaponisc setup. Does anyone in the group have any experience with this. Thanks

    June 28, 2013

  • Jeanie

    I am hoping to bring my husband Starbo.

    June 24, 2013

  • Fred R.

    My pond just covered itself with algae. It happened within a few days. I quickly ordered an aerator as this heat is creating problems out there in the sun. I need more oxygen.

    June 24, 2013

  • Missi

    My husband wants to know if the ponds have filtration or if they are filtered by the plants.

    June 18, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      In our current and previous gardens, Geoff, we paired deep ponds with shallow ponds, to accommodate the preferred water depths of the many different species of aquatic plants. Algae is never a problem in our ponds. They're simple single-celled plants, very primitive compared to the more advanced vascular plants that beautify the ponds. We include many of the latter, because they absorb all the fish waste and other nutrients in the water, thereby leaving none for the algae. You can see 24 photos of the ponds I created in our garden in Switzerland at­. Enjoy.

      1 · June 19, 2013

    • Geoff

      Great Photos Peter. Thanks so much for sharing. Looking forward to seeing you water garden in person!

      June 20, 2013

  • Missi

    My husband is definitely coming & maybe my mother-in-law :)

    June 19, 2013

  • william

    I take care of two small fish ponds at work which I inherited. Looking forward to this meetup.

    June 8, 2013

  • Suzanne and P.

    Pond fish add lively motion and beauty to water gardens. We encourage all gardeners to ponder becoming a ponder.

    June 7, 2013

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