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Water Gardens: At Water's Edge

Plants for the water’s edge may grow on the boggy slope leading to the pond or between the rocks edging a water feature, with roots reaching into the water. The ones detailed here can also grow on a shelf in the water garden, where their pots sit under 2" (5.08 cm) of water. Their most important role in the design is to ease the eye from the flat surface of the water up to the sky’s canopy above.

The premier plants in this group are the Irises. The green wall rises quickly in spring where winter freezes are common; some areas enjoy evergreen iris foliage.

First to bloom are the yellow flags (Iris pseudacorus), with leaves as wide as 2" (5.08 cm) soaring to 5' (152.40) tall. Less hardy, hybrids come in shades of yellow and white; some have double flowers.

Louisiana irises (L.A.’s) come to us from three parents with boggy roots. The resulting hybrids thrive at warm pondsides with flowers ranging from coppery red to salmon, through lavenders to blue and white.

Next, Siberian iris reward with two or three flowers in clusters above grassy clumps of leaves about 2' (60.96 cm) tall. Jewel tone colors (royal purple, maroon, yellow) and sturdy stems make the Siberians great cut flowers, too.

The native American blue flag iris (I. versicolor) and the swamp flag (I. virginica) bloom just after the Siberians with blotched or streaked flowers, usually shades of blue with yellow markings.

Finally, Japanese iris, called orchid iris, climax the season with two big flowers on each stem, grassy leaves, and beautiful fall color.

Reedy plants like cattails, dwarf bamboo, spike rush, and horsetail make rustling sounds in summer breezes. Look for their distinctive, cylinder shaped leaves; many will maintain their upright lines all winter.

Flowering rush (Butomus), spider lily (Hymenocallis), cardinal flower (Lobelia), rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), swamp coreopsis (C. nudata), bog lily (Crinum), and monkey flower (Mimulus) offer flowers to complement the water lilies floating nearby. In all but the warmest climates, the flowering plants canna lilies and elephant ears or taro (Colocasia) are grown as annuals or overwintered with protection.  



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