Lilies Water Gardens News

Clean your Pond Out In February



Clean Your Pond Out In February

Most of us would still consider February as winter however, in certain parts of the UK like the west counties of Devon and Cornwall, spring usually arrives earlier than the southern counties of the UK though we soon catch up.  Our wildlife seems to know best when spring is arriving and it’s not UN-common for Frogs to start spawning in Cornwall as early as late January.

In order to protect our ponds as safe spawning grounds for Frogs, we need to make sure a spring clean out is done before the Frog spawning season begins.


Here’s How to Do an Early Spring Pond Clean Out By Using A Few Simple Steps

Simply remove your pond plants from your pond and re-pot any pot bound plants that have out-grown their existing sized Aquatic Baskets into larger ones.






Clean out autumn leaves and excess sludge but leave 1 or 2 inches of sludge in the bottom.


Save all water life including frogs and water snails and keep in a bucket of shallow water until the clean out is completed.


Do a partial water change but leave about one tenth of the existing water.


Top up with fresh water and add the newly potted pond plants back to the pond.


Introduce any saved wildlife back into the pond after you top up.


Add new pond plants Inc oxygenating plants and pond plants such as Water Lilies if needed.                                              


You can now relax and look forward to your pond coming back to life in the next few weeks.

Visit our website to see over 120 informative articles on all aspects of Water Gardening and pond planting and all the wildlife that ponds and water can attract, we also have the UK,S largest collection of pond plants and water garden plants available to buy online or from our retail nursery in Surrey as well as all the pond planting accessories needed to grow healthy pond plants and bring your garden to life.



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Pond Plants or Water Garden Plants (what is the difference)?

Pond Plants or Water Garden Plants (What Is the Difference)?


This may well be one of the shortest articles I have ever written, but the two headings could cause a little confusion, so I need to explain.


Pond Plants

The plants under this heading are ‘true aquatics’ that like growing in water of different water depths and are suitable for streams, ditches, ponds, marsh lands, water meadows, lakes and water features including deep water marginal pond plants and shallow water marginal pond plants, oxygenating plants and Deep water and submerged pond plants, free floating pond plants and Water Lilies.







Water Garden Plants

This parent category of plants include all of the above with specific and suitable plants that grow near water in order to tone in with pond plants.  The plant categories include the damp loving bog-garden plants, moisture loving plants, and the pond surround categories Alpines and rockery plants  and Water Garden and Woodland Ferns.





Please visit our website to see our huge collection of pond plants and water garden plants which are available to buy online or from our retail nursery.

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The History of Lilies Water Gardens

The History of Lilies Water Gardens

All journeys have a beginning and an end but, I can only write up to this present day as the future of Lilies Water Gardens is yet to be told.  I take a lot of pride in owning my own retail aquatic nursery and thought it would be fun to take a look back at the different transformations over the years.


The Beginning

It all started about 37 years ago when a natural clay based large pond/lake was dug at the bottom of my mum and dad’s garden.  My mum planted up this large pond with around 30 different aquatic pond plants, and one day, after several years of the plants, colonizing she came up with the great idea of supplying these plants to a local small wholesale nursery.  The deal was almost done, however  it transpired that they wanted all of them supplied in Aquatic Baskets which we did.  Before long, a small section of my parents land was then developed to house man-made shallow planting tanks with some deeper ones for Water Lilies, and a few poly-tunnels and a greenhouse which still stands today.  The small aquatic nursery then known as ‘Dorking Aquatic Wholesale,’ had been born







The Garden Center Years

This is when I got involved at the age of 22.  Up until this point, I had been running my own small business of supplying pet shops with small furry animals, but allergies were kicking in so I needed to find a different path of employment so, I decided to join my mum in growing pond plants.  One day I was thinking about the nursery and how we could expand our productivity and came up with an idea which I put to my mum.  The idea was to supply straight to the Garden Centers.  Mum liked the idea so after many phone calls and visits to garden centers, we soon built up a customer base that proved popular and grew steadily year after year, and in turn at the same rate, our customer popularity grew and with it, the development of the nursery.   I must admit they were fun but busy years but we had a great a team which consisted of good friends and locals.   it’s around this time that we built our first show garden at the prestigious Hampton Court Flower Show.  As we enjoyed it so much it then became an annual event and over 16 years, we created 15 show gardens, many of which, won us Gold Medals and the highly prized best in show ‘Tudor Rose Awards’.  My love of garden construction grew and so did my competitiveness so I also started doing a fair number of other but smaller garden shows and fairs by myself at weekends.  This all proved to be fun and productive and this eventually swung me in a different direction.







The Garden Show Years

For me, this was definitely the place to be at the time.  Garden shows were really taking off and not long after sadly, my mum decided that she would semi-retire though she still keeps her hand in now and again today.  After a while, I decided to discontinue supplying the garden centers as I wanted to share the knowledge I have acquired of the years and to give the chance for others buy plants in which to make their own garden havens, so I opened the nursery to the public.  I still managed also to do plant shows including Hampton Court Flower Show but it was a very busy time for everyone involved.   It was then that I decided that it was time for my nursery to have a fresh name and so at the age of 32, ‘Lilies Water Gardens’ came into existence and I gave the nursery a massive  redevelopment to get ready for retail sales.   I always remember getting very excited when my first customer came down to buy some plants and with help from the flyers that we handed out at garden shows, the momentum soon picked up.  By the time I had reached 40, the garden show era was beginning to slow down mainly due to the website era taking off, so I realized it was time for me to build a small online website.  I remember the excitement I felt when I got my first online order and I haven’t looked back since.







The Online Years To Present Day

As the online orders and retail sales gathered speed, I soon realised it was time to stop doing the garden shows as I needed to concentrate and put all my efforts into Lilies Water Gardens.  So, I made a promise to myself that if I won a Tudor Rose Award and Gold Medal award just one last time, I would retire from doing garden shows altogether.  My mum and I gathered every inch of effort and went to town with planting up my last designed water garden and I was overjoyed when it won everything!  Six weeks later, I then did my very last ever one day garden show at Chenies Manor, and I remember feeling very sad on the way home knowing the years of garden designing  and the fun of planting them up, were over!



Over the last 13 years, I have built up an online customer fan-base and send out regular monthly newsletters to over 3000 subscribers.  I also have a lot of regular and new customers that visit my nursery throughout the spring and summer months and I consider many of my regular customers as friends.  I’m never alone in the spring-summer months as I have a small team alongside me that include a couple of friends, my wife, sister-in-law and a lovely lady called Elaine who has been with us from the beginning.!  Oh, and I must mention my mum who still comes to help us occasionally.







I hope this article is of some interest to you all and I am dedicating this article to my mum who paved this way of life for me and also to my father Ron Harman, who sadly passed away a few years back.  My father Ron supported me and put a lot of time, effort and money into Lilies Water Gardens and for that, I will always be eternally grateful.  He is much loved and I miss him terribly.  I will never forget him shouting for sales during sell-off every year which is the last hour of the Hampton Court Flower Show.  I’m sure his shouting might jog some memories of some of our customers who were there and are reading this article.


To read more articles/blogs on all types of water gardening subjects including wildlife ponds that attract wildlife, please visit my website


My Story

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Bare-Rooted Water Lilies


Bare-Rooted Water Lilies


Hardy Water Lilies grow and spread from tubers and rhizomes.  These soft woody root stocks are designed by nature to store essential nutrients and in late summer and early Autumn, the stems, blooms and Water Lily pads start to decompose adding more essential nutrients to existing nutrient rich pond sludge.  Throughout the winter months, the rhizomes/tubers are very much alive and securely rooted into the bottom of the pond sludge/substrate.  Water Lilies always have fresh dormant shoots even during their winter dormancy, but are ready to grow as soon as the waters they are planted in, warm up in the spring.

In the UK, Water Lilies can be cut and divided as early as February and a good example of a spring cut Water Lily division can be seen below.  The cut rhizomes must always be planted with the aquatic soil/sludge level just above the rhizome covering about one inch of the base of the stems or, about one centimeter on small and miniature cultivars. Water Lilies can be cut and re-planted throughout the spring and summer but I would not recommend cutting later than the end of September.  October is still OK for larger growing cultivars, but a definite no for small/Pygmaea Waterlily cultivars.







The Start And Time Of Spring Growth

Water Lilies that are cut and planted April on wards will send out fresh roots almost straight away. These fresh, spring white roots shoot out between the base of the Water Lily stems and the rhizomes and at the same time, the shoots will develop into stems with curled up young leaves that will start to grow upwards towards the surface of the water and open on the surface as floating Lily pads.  In warm and hot weather, this process can happen within a matter of a few weeks followed by your first Water Lily flowers 3-5 weeks later.  By the time there are flowers, the fresh white roots would have developed into a network of long, strong  established roots up to 1 cm in diameter that will feed from the nutrient rich pond sludge.


Water Lilies that are cut and planted as early as February, will simply sit dormant until the water warms up, so if we have a late cold spring don’t be disappointed if you see no signs of life and growth until April or even later depending on UK location.  Examples of both spring and summer bare-rooted 


Water Lilies cut and ready for dispatch can be seen below.












Pond Plant Food

If you are planting Water Lilies into Aquatic Baskets, to home in new or cleaned out man-made fiberglass and butyl rubber lined ponds, you will need to feed them with some Aquatic Plant Food. Here at Lilies Water Gardens, we have several options available to buy online.  If however, you have an established pond with a rich build up of sediment or fish that produce plenty of fish waste high in nutrients, then there will be no need to feed your Water Lilies.


Please visit my website to see over 250 different Water Lily cultivars available to buy online from February on wards with full availability from March, weather depending!  Our pond planting accessories and potted pond plants are available to purchase all year around.

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The Demoiselle, Natures Fresh Water Wonder

The Demoiselle, Natures Fresh Water Wonder


My first sighting of a Demoiselle (from the Dragonfly family), was in North Devon whilst walking up a woodland stream.  Female Demoiselle are brown in color and not as easy to spot but the males, are an incredible metallic blue, green and black in color.  Unlike Dragonflies and Damselflies, the Demoiselle flutters like a butterfly and their magnificent metallic display of color, seems to flash on and off in much the same way as a Kingfisher’s vibrantly colored feathers reflect in the sunlight as they take flight.








Demoiselle cover a wide area all over Europe and the winged adults, can be seen in the UK between May and August.  If you have clean, fresh water in your garden you might just be lucky enough to see one of these impressive insects.  This year 2018, I spotted many male Demoiselle’s flying about on my nursery.  It does seem that Demoiselle’s preferred habitats are sand and shingle based woodland streams and rivers.  Demoiselle’s are attracted to cool, clear moving water that is usually surrounded by natural vegetation, where they can be seen resting in sunny stream clearings or dappled shade, or just fluttering among-st the stream-side plants.


Life Cycle

There are only two species of Demoiselle in the UK and the other is the very attractive Banded Demoiselle.  Both winged species and their larvae are predators feeding on other insects and their larvae.  Adult females go under the water to lay up to 300 eggs among-st submerged oxygenating plants such as Ranunculus Aquatilis (Water Crowfoot), and Callitriche Species (Starwort’s).  The females prefer to lay their eggs in stream-side shallow pools where there is no current.  When the eggs hatch, the larvae go through various stages of molts until they eventually have grown to a length of 1.5 cm and this takes place over a two year period.  The larvae have long legs which are especially designed by mother nature for gripping onto submerged aquatic vegetation that might be in the flow of running water.  Overwintering in mud and silt, in spring and early summer, the two year old larvae will then climb out of the water onto the stems of marginal plants, and just the same as Dragonflies and Damselflies, the winged adults hatch out of their Nymph bodies and dry their wings in the sun before taking their first flight.

To see over 120 articles on all subjects of water gardening and the wildlife water attracts and to see our large range of over 750 interesting, unusual and rare pond plants and water garden plants available to buy online, please visit my website or click on the link below to take you to my Blog/Articles pages.

Useful articles/blogs

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Baldelia Ranunculoides (Lesser Water Plantain)

Baldellia Ranunculoides (Lesser Water Plantain)

Lesser Water Plantain is a British, shallow marginal plant that grows in still fresh water at the side of very gentle free flowing water.  It has a creeping habit and produces a very pretty airy carpet of white/pale pink flowers from the end of May to the end of August.  This attractive marginal plant produces small lanceolate leaves that float and emerge out of the water. The leaves of this aquatic herb give off a pleasant aroma when crushed or brushed.







Where to Plant

Baldellia Ranunculoides is one of my favorite marginal plants and it will grow almost anywhere. It thrives in shallow water that is 0-5 cm in depth and is non invasive and easily controlled so makes a fine choice for growing around the edges of small man made ponds, streams, ditches and also for colonizing water margin areas.  It can be found in natural clay bottomed ponds and lakes and because of its growing nature, is an excellent choice for growing in old sinks, barrels and other patio water features.

For more information on all subjects of pond planting and articles on pond wildlife, and to see our range of over 750 pond plants, water garden plants and pond planting accessories,  please visit our online website or click on the following link and this will take you straight to the info and purchase page for Baldellia Ranunculoides.


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Re-Potting Marginal Pond Plants


Re-Potting Marginal Pond Plants

There are two types of marginal plants, shallow marginal plants and deep water marginal plants.  Shallow marginal plants grow literally at the water edge and require no more than 4 cm of water depth.  The different species and cultivars of deep water marginal plants require different water depths but most will grow at the water edge like shallow marginal plants.  Some of these will grow in water up to 20 cm in depth whilst others, can grow in much deeper water that is up to 60 cm in depth.


Shallow Marginal Pond Plants

Most shallow marginal pond plants are either creeping plants, or clump forming plants such as Rushes and Aquatic Grasses.  In a natural pond, these plants have plenty of room to spread and establish and nature takes care of itself, but pond plants planted into Aquatic Baskets, will only have a shelf life of 2 or 3 years before they need re-potting.  This category of pond plants are best planted into the center of your Aquatic Baskets and here’s how.  Simply take cuttings or split them into divisions and plant smaller segments back into your Aquatic Baskets when they require re-potting.  I have listed the signs to look out for if your plants are pot-bound below.

Plants have stopped producing flowers.

Baskets have become distorted.

Plant growth has become stunted and foliage colour is yellowish in colour.


Deep Water Marginal Pond Plants

Most deep water marginal pond plants in this category, grow from rhizomes and tubers.  Pond plants with this type of rootstock are often invasive, and some grow so fast they might even need re-potting every season.  Re-potting shallow and deep water pond plants can be done anytime between March and the end of July.


Correct Method Of Re-potting Deep Water Pond Plants That Have Rhizomes/Tubers

This is a very important paragraph and my method of planting (pictures below) might not seem obvious and or even slightly strange to some people. When deep water plants need re-potting, you simply cut a few good growing tip segments and discard the rest of the old plant.  The growing tip segments should be cut to 2 or 3 inches in length, the next bit is most important. Don’t replant the rhizomes/tubers back into the middle of the Aquatic Basket.  Instead, plant them with the cut /sliced end of the new growing segment up tight against the edge of a round Aquatic Basket, or the corner of a square Aquatic Basket.  This will appear as if you are planting into as little as one tenth of the space of the top area of the Aquatic Basket, but it makes sense as this will ensure that the newly potted plant will have plenty of space in which to grow.







It amazes me how often I see quite the opposite in some of the garden cent-res I have visited.  I have seen rhizome/tuber root stock of marginal plants being advertised as ‘Pond Ready’ and planted the wrong way round, pot bound and crammed into 9 cm and 1 liter Aquatic Baskets that are just far too small for them.  These plants will need re-potting straight away if they are to stand any chance of survival.  Deep water marginal plants that grow from rhizomes and tubers should never be sold or re-potted into anything smaller than a round 23 cm Aquatic Planting Basket (3.5 liters).







I hope this article is useful.  There are over  100 informative articles on all aspects of Water Gardening and the varieties of pond life who make their homes in the water, available to read on my retail online website, as well as over 750 pond plants and water garden plants available to buy online or from my retail nursery in Surrey.




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Attract Bees and Butterflies to your Water Garden with Succisa Pratensis

Attract Bees And Butterflies To Your Water Garden with Succisa Pratensis


Succisa Pratensis also known as (Devils Bit Scabious), is a UK native deciduous perennial.  It’s natural growing habitats include damp meadows, marshes and along river banks, however, the plant is quite versatile and will grow just as happily in slightly moist soil and can often be found growing on the edges of deciduous woodlands.  Devils Bit Scabious likes to be grown in sun or partial shade.  It is a compact plant with low growing purple blotched leaves and its flowering stems grow to a height of 60 cm and produce pincushion shaped single violet flowers from July-November.  These plants are particularly favored by visiting Bees and Butterflies.







Devils Bit Scabious is a member of the Honey Suckle family and its leaves are the food plant for the larvae of the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly.  This special British Butterfly is sadly in decline which makes a good valid reason for growing and incorporating this free flowering  plant into your pond surroundings. Devils Bit Scabious has medicinal qualities and has been used to treat skin ailments, hence the word Scabious (Scabies).   Apparently , according to folklore, the Devil was angry at the plants medicinal purposes and bit of the plants short growing roots, hence the common name (Devils Bit Scabious).



Succisa Pratensis Peddars Pink is a lovely rare pink flowered variety that looks great planted either on its own, or mixed with the violet native plant described above.  Both varieties of these Butterfly and Bee friendly plants can be purchased from our retail nursery or you can purchase online from our website Lilies Water Gardens.


To see our full range of over 750 pond plants and marginal plants and water garden plants and to read over 120 articles/blogs on all aspects of pond plants, pond planting and the wildlife fresh water habitats can attract, click on the link below.

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Growing Water Lilies in Deep Ponds


Growing Water Lilies in Deep Ponds


One of the most frequent inquiries I receive is “What Water Lilies are suitable for deep water.”? The deepest water in larger ponds and lakes could be anywhere between 4 to 15 feet in depth or even deeper, but Water Lilies will not grow in waters of more than 5 ft deep and there are only a few Water Lily cultivars that will grow happily in water that is 5 ft in depth. There are however, quite a lot of cultivars that will also grow happily in 3 to 4 ft of water if allowed time to establish.


There are two essential things that Water Lilies require in order to grow fast and colonize quickly, and these are warm water and light.   All large growing Water Lily cultivars will grow twice or three times as fast when planted into shallow waters that are 12-18 inches deep.  If a large growing Water Lily cultivar is planted into 3 to 5 ft of water, there will be less light and the water will be cooler and therefore, a large colony of Water Lily tubers/rhizomes will take a long time to establish.   So, when you see a large patch of established Water Lilies growing in a village pond, they have probably been growing there for a long time or, they are growing in a purpose or natural raised/shallow area of clay/silt which is ideal.


Water Lilies always grow better when planted straight into natural clay and silt rather than in aquatic baskets as the rhizomes/tubers are not restricted.   So, even in man-made concrete, lined or fiberglass ponds I would always recommend adding 6-8 inches of pond substrate into the bottom of the pond if possible ready for natural planting.


Aquatic Baskets and Water Depth Requirements

Adding a natural level of sediment/substrate to the bottom of a man made pond can be a costly procedure so, most of the time large Water Lily cultivars are planted into large 40 cm square aquatic baskets.  To achieve impact and a more established look in the first season, you can plant multiple rhizomes (3 or 5) into one basket and this is always recommended if the basket is going to be positioned in deeper water (3-5 ft) but, if the basket is to be positioned in shallow water 12 to 18 inches, then you might want to plant just one or two rhizomes as they will grow three times as quickly, for the reasons as explained in the paragraph above.



One good thing about large aquatic baskets is they are spacious and 12 inches deep which means, that if your pond is 4 ft deep and the baskets are going to be positioned at the bottom of the pond, you will be able to choose Water Lily cultivars with a water depth requirement of 3 ft as the water depth calculation will be the distance from the top of the aquatic basket to the water surface.


I have listed three large growing Water Lily cultivars below with links to photos, but there are plenty more listed on my website  that will grow in water that is 3-4 ft deep.  The water depth requirements can be seen below the Water Lily cultivar images throughout the website.


Nymphaea Texas Dawn







Nymphaea Postlinberg



Nymphaea Myra







To see our full range of water garden plants including Ferns, Moisture loving perennials, Rockery plants, Marginal plants, Deep water marginal plants, Water lilies, free floating pond plants and oxygenating plants, all available to buy online or from our retail nursery in Surrey, please visit our online store 

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Juncus Species and Cultivars for Ponds


Juncus Species and Cultivars for Ponds


Planting up a pond or water garden is not always about flowers.  The colour of foliage and plants that produce interesting seed heads can be just as visual and create a natural looking balance, when planted among-st and in-between flowering plants.  Not surprising, that ornamental grass areas are so popular throughout the garden trade.  There are around 300 species of Juncus, commonly known as Rushes that originate from all over the world.  They are plants of wet habitats and many are so small and insignificant, they just look like small weeds.  However, some species are grown commercially and look great when planted in different water garden environments.  All produce interesting seed heads (flowers), and are valuable for attracting wildlife.  Juncus are tough plants and will survive the harshest UK winters and tolerate short periods of drought and flooding and I have listed some below –


Juncus Articulatus

Common name Jointed Rush – A clump forming British wild native marginal rush with very attractive dark brown/black seed heads.  Suitable for ponds, streams, lakes and bog-gardens. Height 40-60 cm.  Flowering time June-September. Water depth 0-2 cm over the soil/crown.



Juncus Ensifolius

Common name Sword Leaved Rush – A clump forming British wild marginal plant with narrow blueish/green ornamental looking rush-like leaves and small round pea sized dark/black seed heads.   Suitable for the edge of streams, lakes and shallow muddy pond margins. Height 20-30 cm. Water depth 0-2 cm over the soil/crown.



Juncus Submodulosa

A small British Juncus with attractive compact seed heads.  Suitable for the edge of ponds, lakes, streams and bog-gardens.  Height 30 cm.  Flowering time June-August.  Water depth 0-2 cm over the crown.



Juncus Effusus

Common name Common Rush or Soft Rush, A clump forming British wild native evergreen marginal plant with narrow green ornamental looking rush-like leaves. There is also a ornamental cultivar of this species called Juncus Effusus Gold Strike which has vertical banded yellow and green leaves, Suitable for ponds, streams and lakes. Height 60 cm.  Flowering time June-August. Water depth 0-2 cm over the soil/crown.







Juncus Inflexus

Common name Hard Rush or Blue Rush, A clump forming British wild native evergreen marginal plant with narrow bluish/green ornamental looking rush-like leaves.  Suitable for ponds, streams and lakes. Height 60 cm. Flowering time June-August.  Water depth 0-2 cm over the soil/crown.





If you are interested in growing some of these superb Rushes, or would like to see our full listings of over 750 pond plants and water garden plants and our range of pond planting accessories, please visit our website

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