A friend told me an unfortunate story the other day: his wife had suggested they go for a walk, as the weather was nice. However, he'd got a bad knee and didn't fancy that but suggested a bike ride instead. I didn't quite follow the logic of this, because I'd have thought knees are exercised pretty vigorously on a bike. Be that as it may, the conversation continued along the lines of:
"I'm not that good on a bike. Still a bit wobbly."
"Well, the way to improve is through practice. Tell you what - we'll go along the canal bank."
Now, it may only be me, but it seemed that this conversation was moving in the same way as the build up to Towering Inferno or Titanic and you couldn't expect a big prize for guessing the ending.
"Alright then," she said dubiously, "I'll follow you".
So they set off and for some time all was well. Then my mate, who is a keen birder, suddenly stopped and pointed across the canal.
"Buzzard", he said.
His wife, more intent of staying upright, forgot where the brake was and ran into the back of him. Then, in his words: 'unable to free her feet from the pedal clips, she wobbled towards the canal in slow motion. It was almost artistic, like a scene from a David Lean film'- at this point his eyes glazed with the memory - 'then she careened over the edge, at one with the bike. The water closed over them and I stared in dismay. A good few seconds later, the now still surface was broken as the bike slowly rose, held in white knuckled hands and bringing to mind the presentation of Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake.'
"Thank God," he said in relief, "that's a new bike".
When the Lady of the Lake eventually emerged, the poetry of the situation dissolved somewhat:
"Well", she said through clenched teeth, dripping mud and frog spawn and squinting through a curtain of bedraggled hair, "the next time you see a bastard, you don't need to stop, because I don't give a shit".
"Buzzard", he corrected miserably, but under his breath. In these situations you need to know when to stop.
His wife's name isn't Lily but it was her situation that led me to think of how we can easily overdo the planting of our ponds. If you are keen on wildlife it is sometimes a temptation to go overboard with native plants, following the line of thought that these will be a greater attraction to other forms of life. In this case though, it may not be a good idea unless you've got a sizeable pond: the white flowered Nymphae alba has big leaves that spread to about six feet and end up forcing each other into a jumble which completely hides the surface of the water. When flowers appear, they are often lost in the mass of greenery. Similarly the yellow flowered Nuphar lutea has even larger leaves and needs plenty of space. Its common name is brandy bottle, because the seed head looks like the old fashioned containers. Another native, Nymphoides peltata, the fringed water-lily, has small leaves and yellow flowers, making it more suitable for a small pond. It has a tendency to spread but is easy to thin out. With much the appearance of a water lily, it is botanically classed differently.
|Nuphar lutea (brandy bottle) - flower|
|Nuphar lutea (seed head)|
If you have a large pond, the world is your oyster, choice wise. However, many varieties share the size problems of the natives, so it pays to do a bit of research: dwarf varieties make it possible to grow water-lilies in the smallest of situations, such as half-barrels. Nymphaea 'Pygmaea Helvola' is a good example. With yellow flowers, its spread is around a foot to eighteen inches,dimensions it shares with a number of other varieties.
|Display of water lilies at Bodnant Gardens|
Another important consideration when planting water lilies is the depth of the pond. Some of the larger forms will only thrive in two or three feet, whereas smaller forms require considerably less. The depth should be increased once the plant is established, so that it is receiving optimum light in the earlier stages of growth. This is best done by standing the basket on bricks and gradually removing them until the optimum water covering is achieved. Plant labels are now informative enough to outline the specific depth required and the ultimate size of the variety chosen.
Lilies not only add to the aesthetics of a pond, they restrict light to the area underneath and algi, the stuff that causes cloudiness, needs light to thrive. This is not the complete answer to algi - only a component, so we'll have a look at supporting remedies in a later blog. At the same time, I'll update you on my mate's marriage.