Splish splash



 Here’s a Bloom Day surprise that’s been two-and-a half-years
in the making, proving that the sleep/creep/leap theory is just as true for
water plants as it is for other perennials. I’d just about given up on this miniature
water lily, which for three summers has put up 3-5 leaves at most. I’d figured
there was too much shade for it.

 But here it is, exactly the coral-pink flower promised on
the tag that came with this when I bought it along with a bunch of other
long-dead aquatic plants when the pond was installed (it’s really more a water
feature than a pond). There has been considerable travail within the limited
confines of this little puddle. Special pond fish were purchased, given away to
neighbors with deeper ponds for overwintering, and then never retrieved. Now I
have a couple goldfish I won at a local festival that are getting fatter by the
day, and another overwintering dilemma looms.


As for the other plants, the pickerel (invasive in Florida,
apparently), iris, corkscrew rush, and papyrus, their fates are shaky at best. The iris—and maybe rush—will
likely overwinter in the pond; the others will be brought inside, or, if that
fails, replaced next spring. Water gardening is still a mystery to me, but the
late season success of this little nymphaea may be the turning point for a more
thoughtful attitude toward these plants. Maybe.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Lovely flower! My pond, too, is in a semi-shady spot and I only get a couple of blooms a year from my water lily. I love the surprise when I round the curve and see one.

  2. This bloom was well worth waiting for! I don’t have a pond, sigh, but I think there are two valuable lessons here: 1. Gardening requires patience. 2. There’s always something new to learn about gardening.
    I hope you find a winter home for those goldfish!

  3. Terrestrial gardens require more patience than water gardens. Many aquatics measure annual growth in feet, and sometimes miles, so education and planning are needed to prevent the pond from being overrun.

    There are times when we prefer “rambunctious” plants in the dry garden, but in the pond that will inevitably spell trouble. Aquatics are quite forgiving, and most will look fresh in late Summer when the rest of the garden is haggard.

  4. I used to keep my shebunkins(?), like goldfish but black, silver and gold, in a big tub of water with some pond weed in the front porch overwinter. The porch was cold but not freezing, mostly. I did not have a water pump in the tub, and they all survived just fine.

  5. Rainymountain, Interestingly, common goldfish such as mine are very prone to lots of diseases and really should have filtration over the winter. Some can have a swimming bladder problem that requires—get ready—surgery!!

    So I now think they’d have a better chance in a bigger deeper pond. Mine should have been deeper and I am mad at my pond guy.

  6. When I had a water feature, I’d buy feeder goldfish for 25 cents every spring, and every October something came and ate them.

  7. Congrats on your better-late-than-never water lily, Elizabeth. Some water lilies tolerate part-shade better than others. You might try the dwarf yellow ‘Helvola’ next year. It blooms reliably in a half day of sun, while my new ‘Colorado’ put up only a handful of flowers in the same conditions.

  8. I hope I am having a similar experience with my water lilly. I rescued it two years ago and repotted it and ever since I have had a few leaves and no flower.

    I’m hoping that next year I will have some flowers and your post has given me hope!


  9. Seven years ago I purchased five ‘feeder’ goldfish (30 cents each, 1.5 inches long) for my puddle in RI. They are now a robust 11 inches. Each winter I plug in a low wattage floating pond de-icer ($30). I haven’t lost a fish yet to ice.

  10. Bring those fishes in and put them in the plant room. They will look good swimming around in a room full of bulbs blooming. They won’t take up much room and they won’t bark or make too much noise.

  11. A pretty lily with great color! I’m waiting for the “leap” phase of a few plants in my garden. Sometimes I find it hard to be patient. But my garden is teaching me the value of patience – over and over again.

  12. Congratulations on your bloom… looks like it was worth the waiting… we gardeners are a patient breed of human. You certainly have a lovely water feature. Good luck with the fish!

  13. Your waterlily is a lovely surprise. It’s a great color against those glossy, dark leaves.
    I can just see those goldfish swimming in a tank surrounded by all your lovely blooming bulbs 🙂

  14. For fish you don’t need to worry about – get a few of the ‘mosquito’ fish, or rosies – these are in the pet store as feeder fish, cost a dime or so each. I’ve wintered over ten or so of these fish in a two gallon hex aquarium, with a bubble filter, on an unheated sun porch (skim ice occasionally, but otherwise no freezing)

    Or you can let them freeze in the pond and then do a full water change when the weather opens up in the spring.

    Cycle of life. Fertilizer for the pond.

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