Short on space but fond of ponds? Water gardening in a container may be just the thing for you. You don’t need
a large yard, or even a yard at all to keep a water feature. A sunny corner on a deck or balcony can provide all the space
you need You can use almost anything to hold your water garden—from a simple plastic tub from the discount store to
elaborate ceramic creations costing hundreds of dollars. The basic principles are the same as full-scale ponds.
The Sound of Water
Do you want the sound of water dripping? Japanese-style
bamboo fountains are available and affordable. Set up the bamboo pipes to deliver a steady musical drip into a stone or concrete
basin. Wall fountains are another way to create the delightful sound of running water.
you like the sight of flowing water? Select a basin that overflows with water, sending rivulets running down the outside?
Drilled granite columns, available at many landscape outlets, can be set up in this manner. (A secret hidden reservoir under
the container contains a recirculating pump.)
Fountain fixtures for recirculating pumps can be put into containers
of almost any size. Fountain heads can bubble, sprinkle or spew water from the mouth of a frog or fish.
A container water garden can be a great way to showcase delicate tropical water plants we would otherwise
have trouble growing in this region. Nelumbo nucifera (Lotus) requires warmer year-round temperatures than we have here in
western Washington. The container water garden offers a gardener the ability to move the plant to microclimates in the garden
that are warm enough to encourage the lotus to grow and bloom. The pot can also be brought indoors or adequately insulated
to prevent winter freezing.
Papyrus and umbrella plants will also appreciate a little coddling in our climate.
If your container is as at least as wide as a whiskey barrel, you can select a beautiful tropical water lily and enjoy its
blooms and fragrance at close range.
Two bunches of oxygenating plants
(ask your nursery person for a recommendation) will help to keep the water clear. A water lily for floating leaves and flowers,
plus some reeds or horsetails to provide height, and —presto!—you have an attractive container water garden.
The Portable Pond
If you plan on moving the container frequently, select
a lightweight faux terra cotta or stone container on a rolling stand. These new plastics have the added benefit of not cracking
and crumbling like terra cotta does.
One of the most widely used
containers for a water garden is the half whiskey barrel. Few of these barrels are suitable for use without special preparation.
Most are no longer watertight due to wood shrinkage. The wood may also contain residues which can kill fish and inhibit plant
growth. Most home improvement stores carry flexible plastic liners or thin plastic barrel liners.
For more surface area than a half-barrel, stop by your local feed store and check out their selection
of galvanized metal or heavy plastic water troughs. If you find their appearance somewhat unappealing, disguise the outer
walls with landscape timbers or bricks.
First in eye appeal—but
hardest on the pocketbook—are large ceramic jars. Because of their depth, (some over a meter tall) you will need to
elevate the plants you place in these containers. Simply set a large flower pot upside-down inside the container to create
a platform. You can fill the jar with gravel to the proper planting level, but it will make the pot impossible to move.
Regardless of the type of container you use for your
portable pond, some requirements will always be the same. When siting your water garden, make sure it will get several hours
of sunlight daily. Avoid areas where dead leaves may fall into and foul the water. Make sure you are near enough to water
sources and electrical outlets for convenience and that your outlet carries a ground fault circuit interrupter for safety.
Ceramic pots can not be allowed to freeze in winter or they will crack. If this
happens, or if you find a cracked jar you want to use for your water feature, aquarium sealant will make the jar watertight.
Similarly, if you have a pot with a drainage hole on the bottom, aquarium sealant and a flat piece of plastic will plug the
hole. Follow the curing directions on the package carefully.
consider the possibility of a leak or overflow. Where would the water go and would anything be damaged? Frequently check pumps
and fountains to make sure you don’t have any leaks. If your container water garden sits on a deck or balcony, be sure
the structure is sturdy enough to support the added weight of your filled container. Another important safety precaution is
to put screening over the water’s surface if you have small children or curious pets.
invest in a floating mosquito ring that kills mosquito larva (organically) and can be easily hidden in floating foliage. A
mosquito infestation is unpleasant at anytime but intolerable on your own patio.
The type of container and plants you select for a patio water garden is limited only by your imagination.
No matter what style of portable pond you decide on, count on hours of pleasure for a relatively small investment of time