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Water garden in a 30-inch tube.

A little water goes a long way in an aquatic container garden, which can provide a cool oasis on the porch, in a courtyard, or out in the garden. Once filled and stocked with plants and fish, the container needs only to be topped off with an inch or so of water per week during summer. Don't be surprised if your aquatic garden doubles as a birdbath, inviting birds to drink and preen among the luxuriant leaves, especially in this dry year. Virginia Hayes of Santa Barbara Water Gardens designed the arrangement shown here following these steps: Choosing a container. Any sturdy plastic or glazed ceramic pot without a drain hole will do. A half-barrel, treated with asphalt emulsion, is also an option. Ms. Hayes started with a 30-inch-diameter pot made of durable plastic that looks like terra cotta. Adding water and plants. Fill the container about two-thirds full with water, then add plants. (Check the yellow pages under Nurseries for those specializing in aquatic plants.) The size of the container dictates the number of plants you need. Once they're in place, fill the rest of the tub with water. Here, Ms. Hayes started with a hybrid water iris, positioning it in the tub as shown in the photograph at near right. She then placed a water lily (Nymphaea Chromatella'), also in its own container, on the bottom of the tub; the plant's flowers and leaves float on the water's surface atop long stems. Next, she rooted a clump of parrot's feather Myriophyllum aquaticum) in the iris container; its needle-like leaves contrast with the smooth ones of the iris and lily. Last, she added a free-floating water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes). Total cost for plants was about $50. Selecting the fish. To control mosquito larvae, choose mosquito fish (Gambusia), minnows, or goldfish. The fish will also feed on algae in the tub. No supplemental feeding is necessary. Acclimatize fish before releasing: place them still in their plastic bag, in the tub garden for about 20 minutes. About a half-dozen mosquito fish dart about in Ms. Hayes' water garden. Maintenance. Remove dead leaves and flowers. If necessary, scoop out floating algae. Yearly, without emptying the water, scrub the plant pots and inside of the tub with a stiff brush; remove loose algae. Drain when a couple of inches of decomposed matter accumulate on the bottom (every few years). Give inside surfaces a good scrubbing, and divide plants. 11
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Date:Jun 1, 1990
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