A Dramatic Tropical for the Pond

You last saw me post about this back on August 16–Foliage Follow-Up day.  But the picture I had there didn’t really give a sense of the scale of this tropical grass.  And since I’ve just repotted it for the third time (it was continuing to blow over in the slightest breeze because it had become too top-heavy in its last pot) I thought I’d post about what a remarkable plant it was.  It’s definitely one I’ll over-winter again for next year!

The tall plant in the background is the plant I’m really talking about–it’s cyperus papyrus King Tut, a Proven Winners plant that really has become a standout in the pond.  The frog adores it–it is his favorite basking place.  And the fish seem to enjoy nibbling around the pot and the roots too.

Its smaller cousin in the foreground, the umbrella plant, cyperus alternifolius, is one that I’ve wintered over 2 or 3 years now.  It gets pretty scraggly by the end of the winter and looks rather pathetic when it first hits the pond in the spring.

Water plants really need warm water to get going so I usually don’t even put them in until June or so but once the water warms they take off–and they can stay in the pond for quite some time in the fall because the water stays warm.  I leave them in until there’s a threat of a freeze, usually.

While these marginals are not great at filtering the water or preventing algae, their roots do provide some food for the fish–and King Tut’s pot has always been “Freddy,” the resident frog’s favorite basking and hunting spot, regardless of its size or position.  Even when it kept flipping on its side because the plant was top-heavy, I’d find Freddy perched on the plastic, astride the pot as if it were a mountain.

When a plant provides that much eye appeal (never mind entertainment for both me and the resident aquatic life) how can I not save it over for next year?

Spring Pond Clean-Out 101

I spent the last 2 days cleaning out my pond.  Normally it doesn’t take that long but I got interrupted yesterday by thunderstorms and the last place you want to be in a thunderstorm is standing in a pond–I suspect it’s worse than under a tree.

This delightful pea soup was the water before the clean out yesterday.  Normally it’s not quite so bad as this, but a combination of a very wet year last year caused a lot of string algae to form, and then a very warm April this year caused that algae to go crazy.  You can see why this needed to be done.

These are the water lilies that were at the bottom of the pond.  You can see how the string algae is even on the tags of the lilies.  Needless to say, they’ll be much happier in a cleaner pond.

Yes, there are fish in that pond too, although I didn’t realize how many babies there were until I started to clean it.  This is the holding bucket for them, with some pond water and some fresh.  The 2 glass balls normally float in the pond and I just threw them in the bucket to keep them safe.

We are fortunate–or not–because our pond will drain with our waterfall pump before we caulk the spillway each spring.  So my next step was just to turn on the waterfall pump on and to leave it for a couple of hours.  Since the pond was partially empty from winter evaporation anyway, it took about 3 hours to pump down, with me helping a little by scooping the water out with an old milk jug.

For those without this annoying feature, the way to do this is to disconnect the pump you have and connect it to a garden hose–there are adaptors that allow you to do this if there are size differences between your pond tubing and the garden hose–and then just pump away–after transferring your fish to a holding bucket, of course.

This is the point at which I have to shut off the pump and begin to hand bail the pond. (And believe me, today I really knew that I had been hand-bailing yesterday!)

While the pump is draining, this is what I’m hand-scooping off the pond bottom (along with the occasional baby fish).  To the extent that any of it is recognizable, it is pine cones, pine needles, oak and maple leaves, a few blades of ornamental grass and the decorative stones from the top of the water lily pots.

This is the pond, dry and about to be swept free of any remaining stones, maple “noses,” pine needles, etc.  Once I have done that, I am free to begin refilling it.

Before the fish can go back in, I have to treat the water.  I used 2 kinds of beneficial bacteria this year because my MicrobeLift had wintered in the garage and I wasn’t sure if it was still viable.  So I threw in the StressZyme as well, which is normally for aquariums.  I also used the Tap Water conditioner to remove the chlorine.

The beneficial bacteria are key to a healthy pond–much in the same way they are key to a healthy aquarium–and keeping it in balance.  And because this is a very old pond, as ponds go, and it doesn’t have a filter or a skimmer, it needs all the help it can get to balance the algae growth.  The plants and the fish help somewhat–but in years like last year, when nature was so out of balance, not enough!

As the pond is filling, you can see my 3 largest fish and one of my smaller ones happily enjoying their clear water!