Lilies Water Gardens News

Hibernation time for Frogs, Newts, Toads and Grass Snakes


Hibernation time for Frogs, Newts, Toads and Grass Snakes

With winter approaching, our Amphibians and Grass Snakes will be getting ready for their winters sleep.  In late summer and early autumn, our British Frogs, Newts, Toads and Grass Snakes will be eating plenty so as to gain enough weight to sustain them during their annual hibernation.

If you want to encourage Amphibians to your pond and back garden, you may consider providing them with some hiding places to hibernate under.  Flat stones, planks of wood, log piles, and leaf piles all make excellent, damp hibernation refuge sites for winter dormancy, compost heaps are a top favourite for Grass Snakes.

Many people have a phobia about Snakes, however, our British Grass Snakes should be seen as a welcome visitor to your water garden.  They can often be seen during the summer months, swimming gracefully through the water on the prowl for small Frogs and other tasty snacks.


Common Frogs

Our common frogs hibernate on land or under water.  In their natural environment, Frogs prefer to hibernate under mud and rotting vegetation at the bottom of a pond or, on land under rocks, logs, rotting vegetation and will even use previously owned small mammal burrows.







Common Toads

If you find Toads at this time of year you will notice they are very fat and round.  Our Toads prefer to hibernate on land in the same places that our common Frogs do.







Smooth Newts

Our Common Newts tend to semi-hibernate and can be very active foraging for food in mild spells of winter weather.  In cold snaps they will go into dormancy, seeking refuge under rocks and logs.







Great Crested Newts

Great Crested Newts prefer ponds that have deep water, so will often favour swimming pools to hibernate in.  So, if you have any form of deep water in your back garden, you might be lucky enough to house a colony of these magnificent little fellows.  As with our Frogs and Toads, they like to hibernate in frost-free hiding places such as under logs, rocks, rotting leaf vegetation and previously owned small animal burrows.







Grass Snakes

Grass Snakes prefer to hibernate in similar places to that of our Amphibians.  Somewhere that is cool, but stays above freezing is ideal.   Compost heaps and rotting vegetation makes an excellent safe haven for a long winters sleep.







Please visit my website to read over 120 different articles on all aspects of water gardening and the pond life that fresh water attracts.




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Water Scorpions


Water Scorpions

Also known by their Latin name (Nepa Cinerea), Water Scorpions are insects that look similar to land Scorpions.  They are dark brown in colour and 3 – 5 cm in length and they certainly are a strange looking insect with their long narrow tails that looks like a sting though, this is actually their breathing apparatus. They hang upside down with their tails stuck up in the air out of the water so they are able to breathe air. This is rather clever as they can take enough air to stay under water for up to 30 minutes at a time. Water Scorpions also have fierce looking front leg pincers designed to pierce and grab hold of any passing Tadpoles and or baby Fish.







Habitat and Life Cycle

Water Scorpions can be found throughout the UK in fresh water ponds.  These peculiar under water predators, spend most of their time crawling amongst shallow aquatic vegetation where they can hide and pounce on passing prey.  Adult females can lay up to 30 eggs and the newly hatched Nymphs go through a series of metamorphic molts until they become adults.  After each molt, their body shape and the length of tail, pincers and legs, changes until they end up looking like under water scorpions.

Please visit my website to see over 120 different articles on ponds, water gardening and the pond life that fresh water in the garden attracts.

Click here to see over  over 750 different pond plants and water garden plants including over 250 different water lily cultivars, all available to buy online or from my retail nursery in surrey




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Why Wont my Water Lily Produce Flowers?


Why Won’t my Water Lily Produce Flowers?

This is a question that I am frequently asked, but the good news is, it’s a question that can be easily answered.  By going through the check lists below you should find an answer that will rectify any problem you may have, thus resulting in plenty of beautiful Water Lily blooms all summer long.







Pot Bound Problem

Water Lilies grow from tubers/rhizomes.  These rhizomes need free growing space in order to flower.  In a natural clay bottomed pond, this is not a problem as the rhizomes will have endless space to spread just under the clay bottom of the pond or lake.  However, in man made preformed or lined ponds, we tend to grow Water lilies in Aquatic Baskets that come in all sizes to suit any size Water lily rhizome.  If your Water Lily out grows the Aquatic Basket it will usually stop flowering due to the rhizome being compressed/restricted against the inside of the basket and a tell tale sign is a distorted shaped basket.


Divide and re-plant the growing end tubers/rhizomes every 2 or 3 years by simply cutting about 2 inches of the growing end or 6 inches growing end depending on Water Lilies size, and re-plant with the cut end pressing against the side of a Round Basket or the corner of a Square Basket.  This may seem strange as it appears we are only planting into a small corner of the Basket, but it does actually make sense as the Water Lily will then have plenty of room in which to branch out and grow.







Lack of Nutrients

Established natural and man made ponds have plenty of nutrients in the form of rich silt that has built up over the years from decaying dead leaves and fish waste.  However, in restored, cleaned out and new ponds there will be no silt, so therefore, will have no nutrients.


Fish waste/excrement makes an excellent base as it is full of rich nutrients which are an essential ingredient for a good display of Water Lily flowers.  If you have a wildlife pond but don’t have any fish, try adding some aquatic plant food and we have a few different options available to buy at Lilies Water Gardens from our website







Lack Of Sunlight Or Too Much Shade

Water Lilies flower best in full sun.  However, you will still get a good display of flowers if the pond is situated in dappled light or even if the pond is in full shade for just part of the day.  If your pond gets less than five hours of sunlight a day or is in a dark, sheltered position, you may get very few or most likely no flowers at all.


Consider the site and position of your new pond before excavation.  For existing ponds, cut back over hanging foliage and branches that might be creating too much shade and always position Water Lilies in the sunniest corner or area of your pond.







Planting or Positioning Too Deep

It is a miss-understood myth that Water Lilies favor deep water.  Whilst certain large growing cultivars will grow happily in five foot of water, the majority of cultivars are best suited to eighteen inches to three foot of water at the most.  But if you grow/position them in even shallower water, they will thrive and flower all summer long,


For best flowering results, position your planted Water Lily Baskets in water that is twelve to eighteen inches deep and this is measured from the top of the basket, to the water surface.  Water Lilies that are grown in deep water will often not produce any flowers or if they do, the flowers themselves will drown before reaching the surface of the water.








Please visit my website to see our full range of over 750 pond plants and water garden plants and all the pond planting accessories required to bring your pond to life all summer long.

Click here to read over 120 informative articles on all aspects of water gardening and the wildlife that fresh water in your garden can attract.

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Alpine Newts in the UK


Alpine Newts in the UK

Long before my aquatic nursery even existed, I used to visit another aquatic nursery in Newdigate, known throughout my childhood as the Field Station. This wonderful place sold all kinds of Amphibians, Reptiles and Fish as well as an interesting range of pond plants.  You can read more about the Field Station on my article called ‘Memories of Beam Brook Aquatic Nursery in Newdigate’.  The Field Station, also known by its proper name L.Haig and Co.LTD, used to sell Alpine Newts.  Long before I used to visit the Field Station, some of these colorful Newts managed to escape and before long, there were small established colonies in several of the natural ponds in the surrounding countryside of Newdigate.  So not surprising, that when I was growing up and went pond dipping, I would occasionally net up an Alpine Newt.







Alpine Newts also known by the Latin name (Ichthyosaura Alpestris), are now found in around 40 locations in the UK.  Due to the fact that they are not a UK native species, it is however, illegal to move them from one location to another or release any livestock back into the wild.



Habitat, Diet and Life cycle

Like most other Newts, the males are more colorful than the females and this is more prevalent especially in the breeding season, when they will display vibrant colors of Blue, Orange and Yellow with Black spots.  Outside the UK, they are native to northern and Central Europe.  Being a very adaptable species, they can breed successfully in shallow and deeper water ponds and slow flowing streams.  During the breeding season, females can lay up to 200 eggs on the foliage of submerged pond plants, and outside of the breeding season, Alpine Newts favor damp woodland and forest locations where there is an abundance of invertebrates on which to feed on. The eggs hatch into baby Newts that breath through gills, they feed on small underwater insects such as Water Daphnia also known as Water Fleas.  In late summer, they lose their gills and emerge from the water and will not return to the water again for 2 or 3 years or, until they have matured into adults.  Adult Alpine Newts have many predators but can live up to 20 years in captivity.



Please visit my website  to read over 120 informative articles on all aspects of water gardening and the wildlife water can attract into your back garden, and to see my huge range of over 750 pond plants, water lilies and water garden plants available to buy online or from my retail aquatic nursery in Surrey.

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My First Wildlife Ponds


My First Wildlife Ponds

I have always had a massive interest in wildlife and plants, and by the time I had reached the age of twenty five, I had kept and studied numerous Mammals, Reptiles, Birds, Insects, Amphibians and plants. As a teenager I used to breed many species of Butterflies and Moths and that’s where I developed my interest in plants, as I had to forage plants for food in which to feed the Butterfly larvae on.  Strangely, my first wildlife interests, started around the age of six or maybe even before that.  I was fascinated by metamorphism and looked forward every spring to collecting some Frogspawn, which I would place in large plastic tubs of water and keep on my windowsill in by bedroom.  I always remember the excitement of getting home from school and seeing the now black Frogspawn cells changing in shape every day until they hatched into minute Tadpoles that within a week, were taking their first swim.  A few months later, the Tadpoles would be sprouting back legs and then a few weeks after that, front legs and before long, emerging out of the water onto bits of floating wood as Frog-lets.  I used to release hundreds back into local village ponds every year, and this hobby of mine, still exists today except nowadays, I can watch the whole process going on in my tubs and fiberglass ponds on my Nursery in which I grow all my pond plants in.







My First Ponds or Puddles!

When I was young, I loved creating wildlife ponds.  In my parent’s garden, there always seemed to be some old building plastic lying around, so all I needed to do was dig some holes and line them with this builders plastic.  I remember by parents back garden being full of various sized holes which I had lovingly dug, though fortunately, most were shallow and no more than nine inches deep and some of these holes were as little as 2 ft x 1 ft wide.  Some of my first attempts were actually successful and held water whilst others, would be full of water one day and completely void of it the next so, I quickly learnt to in future, thoroughly inspect my second hand polythene sheets for any minute holes.  At this young stage in my life I thought a bit of plastic and some water would be sufficient enough to attract wildlife, but these were of course my first attempts at pond making and soon realized, that a pond is not really a pond without pond plants in it.  I certainly had a lot to learn back then though even these small bodies of water void of any plants, still attracted an abundance of pond life such as Mosquito larvae, Water Boatmen and Pond Skaters, so it still kept me interested.


My First Real Wildlife Ponds

At the age of seven, my parents moved to Newdigate.  Moving to Newdigate was a lucky move for me as there was lots of land with an already established natural clay bottomed pond, which was a haven for wildlife so I was in my element.   Luckily, the pond was well established and perfectly balanced supporting a massive population of Damselflies, Newts, and submerged pond plants.  Being an already large breeding ground for Frogs and Toads, the pond was also gave me plenty of aquatic wildlife to fascinate me with for years.  However, I was still hadn’t lost my passion with creating small, man-made lined ponds and somewhere around the age of ten, I was given an old rubber dingy.  Well, I was overjoyed and instead of launching it on its maiden voyage out into the far reaches of the pond, I dug a hole on the edge of some woodland and lined it with the rubber dingy instead.  It seemed to hold water very well so I went on a mission to plant it up with some native pond plants. I found some Ranunculus Flamula, (Lesser Spearwort), in a ditch in a local woodland and took a few other submerged aquatic plants from our natural clay bottomed pond.  It wasn’t very long before the pond plants attracted various wildlife including Frogs and Newts.

A few years later, I had a collection of small man made ponds and even put one in a greenhouse where I was trying to breed some colonies of British Butterflies.  Most of these ponds were what I call, small garden sized ponds 2 ft by 6 ft. Half the pond would have a marginal shelf about six inches deep, whilst the other half would be twelve inches deep and it was around this time, that I started adding Frog Spawn to my ponds every spring. it’s is truly an amazing site to see thousands of black, wiggling Tadpoles all swimming about in the warmth of a sunlit corner of a pond, on a warm spring day.


One Day the Best Thing Happened!

It’s a well known fact that during the breeding season, Frogs likes to return to the pond in which they were born.  I had a favorite pond that I had kept going for the last three or four years, and a teenage hobby of mine.   I would lovingly clean it out and re-plant it up every spring and on one particularly warm spring morning when I went to participate in my spring pond cleaning event, I found to my delight, glistening in the sun, about three freshly laid clumps of Frogspawn. Naturally I was overjoyed and now, things have gone full circle as a that meant that a few of those small, black wiggly Tadpoles from a few years back, had made it to adulthood and returned to the pond that I had created to use as their breeding ground to start the cycle of life all over again.  This was the moment I realized I was hooked on wildlife ponds.


Lilies Water Gardens

My Aquatic pond plant nursery is a family business that has now been established for over thirty four years and I have been collecting rare, unusual and newly hybridized pond plants for over twenty five years now from all corners of the world.  I hope you find my large and extensive variety of pond plants as interesting as I do.


My Summary

My interest in the natural world and all its wildlife has never changed.  I feel blessed  by the sounds of nature and when I hear the sound of bees and watch them feeding on the nectar of colorful flowers on a hot summers day, or see a newly emerged Dragonfly Nymph hatch into a Dragonfly, drying its wings in the sun, and take its first flight, for me, there is nothing better.




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Memories of Beam Brook Aquatic Farm in Newdigate, Surrey


Memories of Beam Brook Aquatic Farm in Newdigate, Surrey


During my childhood, I used to frequently visit a very special place called Beam Brook Aquatic Fish Farm.  Also known by locals as The Field Station, this wonderful place was just two miles down the road from my parents house and where my retail Nursery, Lilies Water Gardens stands today.  I remember it being a pleasant cycle ride for me on warm sunny spring and summer days down to the farm on roads that had 75 percent or more less traffic than they have nowadays. At the farm I also remember that there were numerous natural and man made lined ponds that housed hundreds of unusual pond plants along with enclosures and tanks that had various Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates and Fish, so not surprising, that this was the place for me to definitely visit every March to collect some Frogspawn for my own lined ponds.  Please see my article “my first wildlife Ponds”.







The Field Station was originally called ‘L.Haig and Co LTD,’ and first opened in the early twentieth century.  I have included some interesting images below of some very early catalogs. Unfortunately,  various species of non native pond wildlife did escape into the wild, and now there are localized colonies of Alpine Newts and Edible Frogs that have established themselves in various ponds in the countryside surrounding Newdigate.  Please see my forthcoming article on “Alpine Newts.”







I am very fortunate and lucky enough to own my own unique and popular retail Nursery called “Lilies Water Gardens “and although I don’t sell Fish, Amphibians or Reptiles my Nursery is certainly a haven for many forms of wildlife.  Many of my customers also remember and have fond memories of The Field Station too and now enjoy visiting my nursery.  It was in fact one of my customers that dropped in the catalogs shown in this article, he thought, they may be of some interest to me which they certainly are, and therefore, I would very much like to share them with you.

Please visit my website to see my large range of over 750 pond plants and water garden plants, including over 250 Water Lily cultivars, you will also find all the pond planting accessories required to grow healthy pond plants and bring your pond to life.

Click here to see over 120 articles on all aspects of Water Gardening and the wildlife that ponds and water can attract to your own back garden.


Just a small piece of Aquatic Nursery history


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Calla Palustris-Bog Arum

Calla Palustris-Bog Arum

Calla Palustris is a single species aquatic pond plant that is native to the northern hemisphere including the UK.  Also known by the common names Bog-Arum and Marsh-Calla, It favors muddy margins and boggy conditions and can often be found growing wild at the edge of ponds, lakes, streams, ditches and in marshlands. Having attractive, heart shaped glossy green leaves, It spreads itself out on creeping runners/tubers that often float out across the water creating a rafting effect.







Bog Arums grow to a height of 25 cm and flower during the months of May. Their white, arum shaped flowers are reminiscent of Zantedeschia  Aethiopica which also has a confusing name (Calla Lilies).  Bog Arums make excellent shallow marginal pond plants and are suitable for all types of water gardens.  Growing in water that is 0-5 cm in depth,  they will provide an extra showy display of clusters of bright red flowers in the Autumn.


To see my full range of over 750 pond plants and water garden plants, including over 250 Water Lilies and all the pond planting accessories required to grow healthy lush looking pond plants,  that will bring your pond to life with flora and color all summer long,  please visit my online website

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Pond Plants (Eco-Friendly Buying Guide)


Pond Plants (Eco-Friendly Buying Guide)


We are all aware of the state of our oceans and the amount of plastic that finds its way down rivers and eventually into the sea.  Sky Ocean Watch and Lewis Pugh have certainly been doing their best to make us all aware of the long term dangers of plastic waste and the environmental damage it can cause to nature and our precious wildlife.   It therefore, makes sense to me to use alternatives to plastic or to use plastic to a minimum whenever possible.  For that reason, I am currently experimenting with growing pond plants in Pots made from Rice Husk which are biodegradable.









Buy Bare Rooted Pond Plants Whenever Possible

Pond plants are bought and used in many different water environments.   Many of these water environments already have a natural layer of clay at the bottom of them which means plants can be planted straight into the clay/silt which therefore, cuts out the need to buy pre-planted plants at all, many of which will not get used or just thrown away and eventually find their way into our oceans. It is simple to understand that the less plastic we use the better for the environment.







Did you know that you can also plant bare rooted pond plants into man made lined and fiberglass ponds, without the need to use aquatic baskets, Click on this link to see my article “Natural Planting In Lined Ponds”.


Reasons for Buying Your Plants and Aquatic Planting Baskets Separately

1 Most of the time, the pre-planted baskets will be far too small for the plant, so you will end up having to buy separate, larger aquatic planting baskets and throw away the aquatic baskets that the plants were supplied resulting in (More Plastic Waste).

2 When needed, I grow all my pre-potted pond plants in solid black plastic pots, which are much lighter in weight and are made of far less plastic than that needed to make the same sized heavier aquatic baskets.


3 Many pond hobbyists will own a stack of 2nd hand re-usable aquatic baskets as pond planting makeovers are a regular event for hobbyists making it pointless in buying your new pond plants in pre-potted aquatic baskets when you already have existing ones at hand.  Less waste, less pollution.


Why Not Buy and Plant Into Aquatic Planting Bags

Aquatic Planting Bags are a fantastic idea for planting up some varieties of aquatic pond plants as they are made from a fine fabric mesh making them, a very good alternative planter.  However, unfortunately, they are not suitable for any aquatic plants that grow from Tubers or Rhizomes  such as Water Lilies or Water Iris though I hope this will be on the manufacturers agenda soon.  Unfortunately again, they are packaged in a thin plastic wrapper which means what your saving in one hand, your throwing away with the other.  A dilemma for sure!


Why Not Experiment With Biodegradable Pots

Most marginal pond plants have extensive root systems.  It would be good to find out that by the time a Pot made from rice husk starts to biodegrade, that the plants root system will have become established enough to hold and knit the soil together.   I suppose though, it just depends on if or how much faster the Rice Husk Pot biodegrades when placed in water as to whether this can be a successful way of growing shallow marginal pond plants.  You could of course, give it a try for yourselves and see what happens.  I would of course, be very interested to hear your results.

To see over 120 articles on all aspects of water gardening and pond wildlife, click here

please visit my website to see our large range of over 750 pond plants and water garden plants, including over 250 Water Lily cultivars and over 300 different marginal plants, we also carry a large range of Ferns, Moisture Loving Perennials, Oxygenating Plants, Bog Garden, and Free Floating Plants Plants, and all the pond planting accessories required to grow lush looking healthy pond plants and bring your pond to life with flora and color all summer long.


Here’s To Saving Our Environment And Making A Safer Planet For Our Precious Wildlife That Inhabit Our Oceans And Land

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Where Does Our Pond Wildlife Arrive From?

Where Does Our Pond Wildlife Arrive From?

This is a question I get asked a lot.  Many people are often amazed at just how quick wildlife seems to arrive in their pond as if from nowhere.  So, just where does it arrive from?  All new ponds large or small will start attracting wildlife within days and can become established wildlife havens within 1 year.  How some of the wildlife gets there, is quite fascinating.


The Arrival of Fish and Pond Snails

Many species of freshwater Fish and Pond Snails will often lay their eggs on or amongst aquatic pond Weeds.  Water Fowl including Ducks, Coots and Moorhens that swim amongst this aquatic vegetation, get Fish and Snail eggs or aquatic Weeds attached to their feathers and feet.  When the Water fowl re-locate to a different area of fresh water, the eggs fall off into the water and hatch.







The Arrival of Fresh Water Invertebrates

Established ponds usually have a large diversity of invertebrates which includes Water Skaters, Water Beetles and Water Boatmen.  These three species and many others live submerged or on the surface of the water and their arrival to new ponds is most often by air travel.  Most submerged aquatic insects have wings and in time of drought, over population or lack of food supply, they will simply re-locate to a new area of fresh water.







The Arrival of Amphibians

Adult Frogs, Toads and Newts have a built in instinct to return to the pond they were born in during the breeding season.  If on their seasonal migrations, a few Frogs or Toads find their way to a new pond, this new site might take preference to their old breeding ground.  All it takes is one or two happy males to start croaking all day and night and before you know it, there will be plenty more Frogs and Toads joining them.  Newts seem to find and often favor new ponds, but are far more likely to stay if you have plenty of submerged pond weeds and oxygenating plants on which they like to lay their eggs.  Frogs are also attracted to submerged pond plants, but to attract Toads, it is best to plant lots of marginal plants.







The Arrival of Dragonflies and Damselflies

These stunning flying insects have a built- in instinct that attracts them to ponds that house emergent pond plants.  If you plant marginal plants with emergent stems, you will attract adult insects to your pond in which they will lay their eggs. However, they are especially attracted to ponds that are planted up with Pontaderia Cordata and Sagittaria Graminea it seems for some reason.  In early summer, the submerged Dragonfly and Damselfly Nymphs climb up out of the water on the emerged stems of marginal plants and pond Rushes where they will hatch and dry their wings in the sun, before taking their first flights.







To see over 120 informative articles on Pond Plants and Water Garden Wildlife please click here

Please visit my website to see the largest collection of over 750 water garden and pond plants available to buy in the UK, our collection of pond plants available to buy online or from our retail aquatic nursery in Surrey includes over 300 different Marginal Plants, 25 different Water Lily cultivars and a large range of oxygenating plants, free floating pond plants, bog garden plants, moisture loving perennials and ferns.


Wildlife forever!

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Veronica Beccabunga



Veronica Beccabunga

Veronica Beccabunga also known as (Brooklime and European Speedwell), is a low growing, evergreen marginal pond plant that is native to the UK and Europe.  It has a creeping habit and grows in shallow water and muddy margins in a water depth of 0-4 cm and can be found in shallow streams, ditches, ponds, lakes and also growing amongst damp grass in marshy and boggy wetlands. Brooklime produces long stems covered in oval shaped, evergreen lime green leaves that are arranged in pairs. In late spring and summer, these compact leafy stems will spread in abundance and float across the water surface producing an attractive, raft of lush green foliage and a pretty display of small blue flowers.  Brooklime grows to a maximum height of 30 cm and is happy in full sun or partial shade.



Usage In The Water Garden

European Speedwell is one of my favorite marginal plants as it always looks natural and can be used in all water garden environments and projects.  This wonderful plant looks really good in ponds, streams, ditches, bog-gardens, moist borders and rockeries.  It’s an excellent filtration plant removing excess nitrates and therefore, a good choice for planting in the shallow beach margins of swimming ponds or pools.



Veronica Beccabunga is an edible plant, however, you may want to avoid trying it as it has a rather bitter taste.

To see my full range of pond plants and water garden plants that are available to buy online and from my retail nursery, please visit my website

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