My little water garden

When I bought the half-barrel for my little water garden two years ago, I had no idea what an adventure the project would be. Of course, I did it all backwards. First, I bought a water lily and some oxygenating plant at an amazing place in San Jose. The nice lady there assured me that I could not grow plant in a barrel that had held wine, she'd tried it. So I tried to find some fabric to line the barrel with and, after the requisite three trips to the hardware store, I decided on a preformed plastic half-barrel that goes inside the oak barrel.
Next, following the instructions from a book, I dug a hole. I wanted two thirds of the barrel in the ground so the water would not heat up to much on warm days. After a day of digging in clay the hole was finally deep enough and I put sand at the bottom to allow the barrel to find a horizontal resting place. I needed more sand because the plastic barrel was not as tall as the half barrel, but after a weekend of work I had a barrel full of water and could put my water lily in there. I added the oxygenizers, which promptly died, but bought some more. Then I called the Santa Clara Water District who, at that time, had a program to bring mosquito fish to your house. Finally, I installed a small solar pump to circulate the water.
I enjoyed the sound of the water, the beautiful water lily, and my little fish all summer, and was a little sad when everything went dormant in the fall.
The next year, with more information about native water plants, I bought Mimulus guttatus (seep monkeyflower) and Sisyrinchium californicum (yellow-eyed grass), both native but readily available at the local nursery. Both did fairly well. Sisyrinchium has elegant little yellow flowers, and Mimulus spread a little bit and bloomed for most of the summer. And of course I still had the water lily.
Today, I started the water garden clean-up project. For now, I've left the water lily but I divided the two natives, and I was actually amazed how much the Mimulus had spread. Of course I'm nervous that I've killed it in the process -- some plants don't like to be disturbed -- but that's the beauty of gardening: If you make a mistake, or two, it's not really such a big deal. So, I like to be a little reckless. I used the clay from my back yard rather than some fancy stuff carted in from who knows where in plastic bags (and then carted in my car to my house) and I'm not going to worry about the Mimulus. Who know, with luck, I'll have twice as many this spring.
And here's a Mimulus photo from Wikipedia.


Country Mouse said…
Very nice, and informative - I hope some people looking for info on water plants etc find it. I like your pictures. I don't think I'll get into a water garden for a while yet. Too much chaparral to tame.
Anonymous said…
I'm doing the barrel garden too. Did you plant your Mimulus in a container and then raise it up in the barrel? Or what?

Town Mouse said…
Susan, yes, the mimulus is in a 1-gallon container and raised some. It's some times a little bit under water and usually a little bit above.