Once you’ve added water to a garden, it’s impossible to imagine having an outside space without it. I resisted for a while, when I gardened on a balcony, thinking I’d have to get involved with pumps and the like, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth.
In the end I just filled an old tin bath with water, added bricks to make it the right depth, and plonked some water plants in it. The result was transformational, and not just because I actually had dragon-flies visiting my first-floor urban balcony, but mostly due to the sense of calm that having a body of water (however small) seemed to impart.
Here’s how to do it:
Find your receptacle first. A large bowl is a fine place to start, or an old favourite glazed plant pot (lined of course). The only requirement is that it should be water-tight, and deep enough so that your pots can be submerged. In terms of plants, you can go for anything sold as a ‘marginal’ plant. This is not the time to get distracted by terms such as ‘oxygenator’ or worry about the balance of plants. Just find one, three or five plants that you love, get hold of small ones and try them out.
I love Iris pseudacorus - a lovely, late-summer flowering yellow. Hydrocotyle sibthorpiodes‘Crystal confetti’ (variegated pennywort) is another favourite; it will spill over your container beautifully. Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) is an absolute must for those needing something bold and architectural whilst being delicate at the same time. This one is a dwarf variety, and would work in a less-than-pond-sized container, but if it likes you, be warned that your water garden may just become a bog…and that’s okay!
Sink the pots in your container, paying attention to their preferred planting depth, and weighting the pots down with stones if necessary.
If your container is large enough, be sure to submerge some stones or bricks in it so that frogs can get in or out. Having frogs in your garden, and hearing them sing their evening song is one of the more blissful experiences you can have.
Be aware that, as with any border, some plants will really enjoy their life with you, and some won’t, so be open to your particular water garden becoming a monoculture…I mean, why fight nature? Seriously. It’s important to realise that it’s the WATER, rather than anything else, that’s important here. By bringing water into your space you’ll be supporting SO much more wildlife than you thought possible. Even a small bucket of water, left alone, in a garden becomes a magnet for insects, birds and the rest, especially during the summer.