Do you love the idea of a pond, but don't have an actual yard to place one in? No fear — you can cultivate a mini watery paradise on your balcony or terrace with very little effort by creating a container water garden. By selecting a variety of plants and containers, you can create a customized water garden in any outdoor space that receives six hours of sunlight every day (a little bit less if you are using bog plants).
Small-container water gardens are actually a collection of submerged potted plants, which makes them easy to set up and to rearrange at will. You can use just about any container to start your water garden, but pots with dark interiors give an impression of greater depth, discourage algae growth, and make algae less obvious when it does grow. Best of all, most water plants are tough so the garden is low maintenance, and even those of us with a black thumb have a chance because they are generally hard to kill.
Once you have chosen your display container, use bricks or overturned containers submerged below the surface of the water to allow you to vary the height of your plants to create a lovely landscape. Your local nursery can help with selecting water plants—consider varying tall grasses with cascading plants for interest, and definitely select a couple of water flowers for color. Top up the water in your container every couple of days depending on the rate of evaporation- if you are using city tap water, let it sit first for 48 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate, or pick up special tablets at the nursery to remove the chlorine.
If you want more information on setting up your own container garden, here are some great sites to get you started:
• University of Illinois Extension - Container Water Gardening
• Colorado State University Extension - Container Water Gardens
• HGTV - Container Water Garden Recipe
(Image: Bart Everson licensed for use under Creative Commons.)