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Upper Midwest Gardening: Water Gardening Benefits Everyone

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Water gardening benefits wildlife and people alike. Pick the right plants and let nature do the rest.

Nature's serenity sanctuary comes to fruition in late spring.
Water lilies provide beauty with a purpose.

When I need therapy I walk out my door, pull up a chair and sit next to my water gardens. I'm not sure whether it's the soothing sound of falling water, or watching the water or the wildlife it attracts that sends me into a quiet place of serenity and calm.

I love to garden but don't like all the maintenance that often comes with it. That's why water gardens are a must wherever I live. Once built, filled with water and surrounded by plants, water gardens can be left to Mother Nature's care. It took a few years but I've learned the right mixture of plants is the golden ticket for clean water, and a plethora of wildlife.

Sedums bring a softer touch to a hard surface.

Algae are often found in warm water that is full of nitrates from fertilizer runoff. They're a nuisance and, if left alone, compete with other plants. To keep them out, I use surface plants such as water lettuce, water hyacinth and water lilies. The iconic leaves of the lilies float flat on the water surface, blocking out the sun, keeping the water cool and offering protective covering for fish. And the lily itself isn't a bad addition!

I found out quickly that homemade water gardens lose a lot of their natural appeal when surrounded by rocks and stones. To soften the hardscape I always tuck moss and groundcovers, like this sedum, between the cracks and crevices of the edging. They totally give the water garden a natural sense, like they've always been there.

Natural water filters, such as 'sweet flag' acorus, contrast with the pond's greenery and clean the water beneath.

Around the shallow edges of the pond I added marginal plants, like this variegated acorus, also called 'sweet flag.' I love the stunning contrast it brings to the greenery and how it punctuates the pond with vertical interest. However, it was what I couldn't see, under the water, that I appreciated the most. The root system acts as a natural water cleanser.

Cattails are water-garden naturals.

This clump of cattails is busy keeping my water clean while making a perfect camouflage for frogs. In fall birds love the fluffy seeds.

Oxygenators are the third must-have in the water garden. Common plants include: parrot's feather, water thyme, water buttercup and others. They are definitely not pretty plants but are the workhorses in the pond. They add oxygen to the water during the day and absorb carbon dioxide during the night. The submerged plants are additional natural cleaners, removing excess nutrients from the water, starving algae.