As you might expect, gardening is big on Kauai. What we didn’t anticipate, however, was how popular water gardens are! It seems as though every lanai or common space is graced with a miniature version of a garden pond, in a beautiful composition that includes an artistic container, and perhaps a lovely statue or other ornamentation. A water garden is a great focal point just about anywhere.
In Minnesota, what we’re used to is a “water feature” or sunken garden pond in residential landscaping. This is perhaps a fountain or mini-waterfall that one installs with an electric pump, etc. On Kauai, the water garden is a composition in serenity. Often, you’ll discover a beautiful rendition of a garden pond in a place of honor on an entry lanai or outdoor sitting area. The notion of a simple recipe for a tranquil water garden in a lovely container was seductive, and we couldn’t wait to get started.
Recipe for Kauai Water Gardening: One container + plants + water +/- fish
We visited Garden Ponds Nursery in Kilauea, on the northeast side of Kauai. Tucked behind another business off the highway, Garden Ponds is in its own little Asian-inspired world. As this video shows, Garden Ponds knows water gardening. (Click here if you can’t see the video)
Ariel, a lovely young woman born and raised in Wayzata, Minnesota – small world moments are quite frequent here! – guided us through the water garden selection process. As we browsed through Garden Ponds, she was a big help in narrowing our choices. So was our water gardening budget. Beauty comes in different prices, and most of them are quite high. No doubt this is due to inbound transportation costs from Bali and Thailand. None of the water garden pieces are faux material with the exception of liners; all are natural terra-cotta, wood, ceramic and stone. It was so calming to wander through Garden Ponds; at every turn there is a pleasing vista.
Ariel explained that most of the plants in Kauai water gardens are bog plants, which are placed with the roots completely submerged in their individual containers. The majority of the blooming plants require a garden pond in a sunny location. That meant lotus, water lilies and other blooms would not thrive on our shaded lanai. Many shady Kauai water gardens have a taro plant as a vertical focal point. It’s available in different variegations but most of those seemed too dark for our setting as well. I started wondering if our garden pond wasn’t meant to be.
Finally, Ariel showed me a type of umbrella palm that was tall with bright green allium-like fronds. We then selected a moneywort, with tiny blue flowers. This is a plant we intended to trail over the side of our container. I chuckled to myself when Ariel said it would do that in a couple of weeks. Things grow fast in the tropics, and this water gardening thing is no exception! If you want to add fish – and we did – Garden Ponds will sell you a fish starter kit with a half dozen orange platys, a couple of snails, and submersible plant material.
Ariel sent us home with another little baggie of cement to plug up the hole at the bottom of our container. Pete let it set up overnight. Our little fishes spent the night in their baggie on our kitchen counter, with their snail friends who went right to work, busily cleaning up their tiny environment. Pete mentioned if we could collect rainwater, our fish could go into it immediately, rather than waiting for another 24 hours. When morning dawned overcast with no rain, we began filling our container with the hose, only to find a leak in its side. Back to the drawing board. Pete used Gorilla Glue to plug the hole, and we waited some more for that to set up. In the meantime, a huge downpour developed and we were in the rainwater collection business.
Pretty soon, everything came together. We released the fish and snails from their temporary home into their new one, and so far all seem happy. Pete thinks they’ll reproduce quickly. Let’s hope so!
We’re excited about our miniature version of a garden pond. Even though this is our first attempt, we’ll be looking more closely at every garden pond we encounter, whether it’s sunken into a landscape plan, or in a beautiful container. This will probably not be our last water garden, especially when the recipe is so simple!
Have you ever tried water gardening?