Typha minimus, an ideal marginal plant.
GARDENING FOR more than 20 years we have had a dream, latterly adopted by our two daughters.
The substance of that fancy is to create the best wildlife pond, which would be fed from an improbable black water source, from our household bathwater and waste.
Being just a tad out in the sticks, there was no mains drainage connection, so we sank a pit for a fibreglass septic tank when we converted the Water Tower into a home. And we were, most kindly, given permission to lay the overflow drains in the meadow at the bottom of our garden.
And it has worked a treat.
Septic tanks are built to continually overflow their content, which has passed through chambers — the nasty content digested by anaerobic bacteria.
The horrible solids are sucked up by a tanker every couple of years and the water, which is black and odourless, passes through the drainage network to keep the field green.
How much better, we immediately thought, if that water could pass through a series of reed and gravel beds before forming a wildlife lagoon at the bottom of the field.
The desire to get on and be able to do it was made even stronger a few years ago when our daughter, Bella, who has a real affinity with all creatures, saw a dragonfly in tangential flight, put out a finger ET-style, willing it to land.
The dragonfly promptly changed course and touched down on the fingertip.
Magical experiences like that are made more likely by the creation of a pond and for that I rely on the owner of the field and its tenants to make it possible.
One can only hope and, in the meantime, I look at all those plants out there that could make it such a special place, both for us and wildlife visitors.
My dream garden would be adjacent to the beach with a stream flowing through it and, most definitely, a large pond filled with amphibians and buzzing with wildlife.
But life is not perfect so I hope to be able to make do with reeds and rushes framing its edges in its more inland location.
In my dream, water lilies would float on the top and a weeping willow would droop lazily into the water, providing willow 'whips’ for all manner of projects.
Sadly that dream pond has yet to come to fruition but in my keenness to be ready for the day (should it ever come) I have had a look at some plant choices for those of you lucky enough to have a garden pond already. Water plants are essential for the health of your pond.
They can ensure the water balance is correct and the plant foliage is fabulous at absorbing carbon dioxide and minerals from the water. This helps keep algae at bay.
Choose the right plants and your pond will be aesthetically beautiful as well as providing a breeding ground for those dragonflies, newts and frogs — although fish and frogs do not mix well, the former enjoying the spawn as food.
There are four different groups of pond plants: oxygenators, floaters, marginals and deep water aquatics. Each group is equally important to the well-being of your pond.
Oxygenators are normally completely submerged. Water milfoil is very effective in a small pond or try willow moss, which is evergreen, slow growing and effective.
Free-floating plants have roots that dangle in the water as they float around on the water surface. Floaters include frog-bit, water lettuce and water soldier. Water hyacinth is a flowering floater but it needs a good summer to flower.
Avoid duck weed like the plague, as it is invasive and next to impossible to eradicate.
Marginal plants grow at the edge of the pond in shallow water. Marginals are normally planted in baskets using aquatic compost. Try typhus minimus.
Deep-water aquatics have their foliage above the water surface but have roots that are in water of at least 45cm deep. Water hawthorn (aponogeton) is scented, long-flowering and will tolerate moving water and some shade. One essential is acorus calamus, commonly known as sweet flag. It belongs to the marginal group, which means it likes to grow in shallow water. The plant has an inexhaustible list of uses and interesting facts.
The roots or rhizomes have been used as an aphrodisiac in ancient Egypt and in India for more than 2,500 years.
It is also used in homeopathic medicine to treat digestive disorders. In the 17th century, sweet flag was used by perfumers and makers of powdered wigs.
Later, Benedictine and Chartreuse liqueurs were flavoured with the root, as well as many liqueurs, beers, bitters, tonics and gin.
It is said to be in the original Dr Pepper and one of the key ingredients in the infamous, original Absinthe, which also had the hallucinogenic wormwood.
Acorus calamus will grow well in full sun. Its flowers are spike-like and fairly insignificant but this plant is grown for its zesty and fragrant foliage.
It will reach a height of about 4ft so it is not one, perhaps, for the more bijoux pond.
Cyril’s legacy for other squirrels
ONE of the most common non-avian country and fringe-of-town garden visitors identified in a recent survey on the Island was our old friend the red squirrel.
Gardens can be little eco islands for all sorts of visitors — including tufty. But they can also be places were squirrels, hedgehogs and birds can get themselves in all sorts of bother.
Luckily for them, there are dedicated people who care and do their level best to restore them to health, and, ultimately, the wild.
One such person is Jacquie Wilson and for her It All Began With Cyril — which is the title of her book.
Cyril was, predictably enough, a squirrel and a very lucky one to cross paths with Jacquie back in 1983, ten years before her now good friend Helen Butler founded the Wight Squirrel Project.
Now Jacquie looks after the waifs and strays brought either direct to her or to Helen, together with a revolving menagerie of creatures to which she and her husband, Bob, dedicate their time to helping.
It might have all started with Cyril but it didn’t — and hasn’t — ended there.
Before her family grew up, Jacquie continued taking in mostly birds in need of help and when her own family flew the coup she devoted even more time. She has put some of the tales into her just-published book, which is a good little read — well worth the £4 which will support the valuable work of the Wight Squirrel Project.
Among other places it can be bought is from Medina Vets, Seaview Post Office and the County Press shop in Newport — or by ringing 611003 or 613145, which are also the numbers to report sick, injured or orphaned squirrels.
Villages put on a real show
I AM handing out the prizes tomorrow (Saturday) at Bembridge Horticultural Society’s summer show, after attending the spring show earlier in the year.
The show opens at 2pm and prizegiving in the village hall is at 4.30pm.
It is a proper show in a village which has retained its sense of community.
Talking of proper village shows, Rookley Village Association is hoping for better luck with the weather tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon for its event in the recreation ground, which includes a horticultural marquee.
Earlier events were either thwarted or made very difficult by rain.