Lilies Water Gardens News

Ferns in the Water Garden

Ferns in the Water Garden

Water gardens by definition means, ‘Gardens that contain areas of water’.  it’s the plants that bring these gardens to life, but it’s not always about flowers and colour.  Different species and cultivars of foliage plants come in a wide variety of leaf colour and shapes.   In order to bring a natural look to water gardens there is nothing more suitable than adding a selection of Ferns.  Ferns look amazing when they have droplets of water on their delicate fronds and sparkle in the morning sun.







There are hundreds of different garden Ferns that come in a vast range of interesting shaped fronds and they grow in many different forms and heights.  Their leaf colour also varies in many shades from silver, orange, cream, burgundy and many shades of green.  Over the years, there have been lots of new hybrids developed that have multi-coloured variegation, ferns also favour different growing conditions, most Ferns do best in partial shade but some will grow quite happily in full sun.


Aquatic Ferns

There are a small but interesting collection of Ferns that like extremely damp soil or even having their feet just in the water and these can therefore, also be categorized as marginal plants.  Two of the most popular are Matteuccia Struthiopteris (Shuttlecock Fern) and Osmunda Reagalis (Royal Fern).


Dry Ferns

This collection includes the species Polypodium and Polystichum and their many cultivars.  Both grow best in areas of rotted bark and leaf mold and therefore, favor dry woodland areas.  Some will even grow happily in the cracks of walls or rotting tree stumps and logs and they have some of the most interesting fronds and look great incorporated into close water garden surroundings.







Moisture Loving Ferns

These Ferns thrive best grown in moist but free draining conditions and therefore look best when grown in moist shady garden borders or in damp woodland conditions.  This collection includes the many different species and cultivars of Dryopteris and Athyrium .  The later come in a vast range of variegated cultivars, but all look very natural when planted near water where they will tone in nicely with a variety of different pond plants.







Please visit our website to see our large range of Water Garden and Woodland Ferns available to buy online or from our retail nursery.

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Natural Marginal Pond Planting without using Aquatic Baskets in Lined Ponds

Natural Marginal Pond Planting without Using Aquatic Baskets in Lined Ponds

All ponds need to be able to contain water without any leakage.  Natural clay bottomed ponds and lakes take care of these themselves but if we want to construct a pond in our back garden, it will either need to be a pre-molded fiberglass pond or a lined pond.  Both types will require excavation, but if you choose to have a lined pond, simply by following a few basic steps, you can plant your pond plants straight into the soil in exactly the same way that you would plant up a natural pond.  This process and idea was presented to me some years ago and I have now decided to share it with everyone.  To find out how, just follow the steps below 







1.) When digging your pond, you will need several different shelf levels as different pond plants require different planting depths.  8 inch shelves for shallow marginal pond plants planted in aquatic baskets will be ideal and a further two levels of 12-14 inches and 18-24 inches, will give you plenty of variation to house Water Lilies and other deep water pond plants, but when it comes to planting shallow marginal pond plants (the 8 inch shelf) there is a natural planting solution that does not involve using aquatic planting baskets.


2.) When excavating your desired pond design, you will need to collect a large quantity of deep cut turfs and place them to one side.  The turfs needs to be about 4-6 inches deep and should come from where the 8 inch shelf will be located.  To make things much simpler, you could just excavate the whole area down to 8 inches deep first and then you can then decide on the shape of your next level.  Marginal shelves can be any shape and can swoop in towards the middle of the pond or in some areas; disappear completely.  Remember, this is your design and the more interesting shapes and curves you add, the more interesting the pond will look when planted up with your chosen pond plants.


3.) Its very important to keep your excavated marginal turf upright with the grass on top.  Keep them well watered until you have finished excavating and lining your pond otherwise the grass will turn yellow and die off.


4.) When  you have finished digging  and you are happy with your  different levels and marginal shelves, you can then add your pond liner  ready for the turfs you kept to one side, watered and ready to be placed back on to the marginal shelving so to construct a base in which to plant your marginal pond plants.  The soil level can vary from 2 -3 inches below the water to being just above the water at the edge of the pond.  It’s essential that THE TURFS ARE PLACED UPSIDE DOWN with the grass underneath and the soil on top.










5.) You should now have shallow planting shelf’s with a good substrate of upside down turfs in which to plant your various marginal pond plants of your choice, without the need to use aquatic planting baskets.  Planting this way will ensure that the soil won’t just wash down into the deeper water levels as soon as it rains as the roots from the grass that is now upside down and underneath, will hold the soil together.


6.) The end result will simply be outstanding.  The grass underneath the soil of the upside down turf will want to survive and start to grow up towards the water level or just above the water level near the pond edge,  the grass will change direction and grow upwards amongst the marginal pond plants giving a natural look to the edge of the pond hiding all exposed pond liner, and provide a safe entrance and exit for all visiting wildlife.  After all is done, a few months after spring planting, you will have the most stunning, natural looking garden pond in which to enjoy as well as all the wildlife it will certainly attract.


Please click here to read over 120 informative articles on all aspects of pond planting and water gardening and all the wildlife that fresh water will attract into your garden.



To see our full range of marginal plants and our whole selection of over 750 pond plants and water garden plants, and all the pond planting accessories and algae treatments required to grow and maintain healthy pond plants throughout the seasons, please visit our website at

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12 Good Reasons to Buy Pond Plants and Water Lilies from us at Lilies Water Gardens

12 Good Reasons to Buy Pond Plants and Water Lilies From us at Lilies Water Gardens







1.) Frost Hardy Pond Plants and Water Lilies NOT Tropical Pond Plants Being Advertised As Frost Hardy!

All our pond plants are suitable for growing outside in the UK.  There are quite literally, dozens of tropical marginal plants and Water Lilies being sold as frost hardy plants all over the internet without any warning to you the customer, that they are tropical and not frost hardy. Pond plants such as Colocassia (Taro),  Nymphaea Innocence and Trappa Natans (Water Chestnuts), will not survive our UK winters and are only suitable for heated conservatories.




2.) We Grow All Our Own Pond Plants

All our marginal plants, Water Iris and Water Lilies are home grown at our retail Aquatic Nursery in Surrey so therefore, they have already adapted to our UK climate and will grow faster, healthier and produce more flowers than imported pond plants that need to adjust to our climate.


3.) 100% Duckweed and Azzola FREE!

No one in the world wants to inherit Lemna Minor (Duckweed) or Azzola Filiculoides (Floating Fern), into their pond when they purchase Pond Plants.  All our plants are dispatched 100% free of these unwanted, nuisance aquatic pests.  However,  I have seen a few companies actually listing and selling these highly invasive free floating pond plants.







4.) All Our Plants Are Correctly Named

I have been collecting pond plants for over 30 years from all over the world.  The species and cultivars I collect are researched, photographed and studied before becoming available for purchase.  For that reason, all my plants are properly identified and named correctly.  It really does concern me when I see plants being advertised and sold under incorrect names.


5.) We Have the Largest Collection of Marginal Plants in The UK

I promise you, you will not find anyone else in the UK with the huge range of marginal plants that I grow and supply, I was however, quite surprised that another UK company are advertising that they themselves, have the largest collection.  They grow under 100 different plants compared to over the 300 that I grow, so someone is exaggerating the truth and it’s not me!







6.) We Have the Largest Collection of Water Lilies in the UK

Water Lilies are my main passion in the pond plant world and I grow and offer for sale over 250 different frost hardy cultivars.  My collection consists of many old favorites and new exciting, exclusive cultivars including a new break-through category of FROST HARDY Purples and Blues.  Unfortunately, I have seen some UK companies shamefully advertising and selling Tropical Blue and Purple Water Lilies as frost hardy Water Lilies which they aren’t and sometimes it appears they have even enhanced and changed the colour of images of Red and Pink cultivars, to Blue and Purple shades using Photo-Shop!  This is definitely a case of Buyer Beware!


7.) Over 35 Years Experience In Growing and Planting Pond Plants

Anyone can stock and sell pond plants, but do they have 35 years experience and knowledge in their growing needs, correct location and habitat’s needed to flourish and attract wildlife?  I can however, proudly say with my great knowledge and experience over the years, that I am now an expert in this field.







8.) RHS Gold and Tudor Rose Award Medal Winners

Over a 16 year period we designed and constructed 14 large show gardens at the Hampton Court Flower Show and over that time, I achieved 7 Gold Medals and 4 Tudor Rose Awards. Sadly though, due to the sheer effort and amount of work involved, I retired from show gardens in 2007.







9.) Why Not Buy Bare-Rooted Pond Plants and Re-Use Your Old Aquatic Baskets

We can never know where our pond plants will be homed.  However, the locations can often be natural clay based ponds and lakes where they will be planted straight into the silt/clay, Here at Lilies Water Gardens, we try to sell as many species and cultivars as bare-rooted plants and sell our Aquatic Baskets separately.  I believe that this is the correct way to go in a world where we need to think about and consider the impacts of all our plastic waste.


10 Special Online Offers

Because we grow all our own pond plants, we are able to offer a large range at very special prices available for you to purchase online throughout the spring and summer.  These offers are exclusive to you the online customer only.


11 Extra Additional Discounts at Online Checkout

We offer online discounts on the value of your order which are calculated at checkout 7.5% over £50.00, 10% over £125.00 and 12.5% over £225.00. These special discounts are quite often higher than the postage and packing charges, therefore saving you money.







12.) All Our Pond Plants and Water Garden Plants Are Categorized Correctly

I want you to enjoy and be able to navigate my website easily and find what you need without it becoming a headache.  For that reason, I have invested a lot of time and money in designing a user friendly website with the correct plants listed under the correct categories.  However, something to be aware of is, the categories in which some other companies may be labeling their plants in.  I have seen for myself plants like Monarda and Astilbe listed as Marginal plants which in fact, they are definitely not, and will simply die within a few weeks of being planted under water. Please click here to read my article on this very subject and to see my list of Perennial plants I have seen being labelled as Marginal Plants.


To see over 120 articles on all subjects of water gardening and to see our range of over 750 pond plants and water garden plants and all the pond planting accessories needed to bring your pond to life and attract wildlife all summer long, please visit my website

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Have you ever seen this amount of Frog Spawn?


Have You Ever Seen This Amount Of Frog Spawn?


Going back in time to around 35 years ago, I had a friend called Tony who had a passion for British Amphibians,  He was so keen and interested in pond wildlife, that he decided to create a home and breeding ground for Frogs, Newts and Toads. Tony was fortunate enough to own a field that is nearby to my nursery, and at the bottom of this field, he decided to excavate a clay bottomed pond.







The pond soon established itself with UK native pond plants such as Ranunculus Flammula, Typha Angustifolium, Juncus Inflexus and lots of other wild pond plants, and within a few years, the project became a successful spawning ground.  On warm, rainy spring nights, Tony and I would be out with our torches and buckets, walking up and down our lane picking up hundreds of wandering Frogs, Newts and Toads and helping them safely to the spawning ground.  Unfortunately, there were a few casualties along the way even though the road was less busy back then.  Some years later, Tony sadly passed away but his pond wildlife haven carried on being a popular breeding ground for years to come.  However, eventually, due to neglect and the fact that the pond was only 2-3 ft deep, the pond became over-grown, mainly by Typha Latifolium, and so the Frogs decided to re-locate to a newly created open woodland pond about 200 yards away from the original pond created by Tony.  This new site proved to be even better as it had a larger variety of pond plants including Ranunculus Aquatilis which they like.







Things get very busy for me and my Aquatic Nursery at this time of year, but I always try to find time to visit this open woodland marshy pond, and every year I do, there seems to be more and more of an accumulation of Frog Spawn.  Last week I decided to pay the pond a visit, my first in fact in three years and I was amazed at the huge size and success of this spawning ground.  I roughly counted the clumps in a small area and then multiplied it by the whole spawning area and estimate, that there were at least five to six hundred clumps of Frog Spawn.  The photos I took below speak for themselves.


I have dedicated this article to my friend and avid aquatic wildlife lover, Tony Warner.  Tony you are sadly missed but, there are many Frogs, Toads and Newts who will always be eternally grateful to you for the special haven you created for them and theirs.  Thank you.


Please visit my nursery  to view over 750 pond plants and water garden plants all available to purchase online or from my retail aquatic nursery in Surrey.  Here at Lilies Water Gardens, we also stock all the pond planting accessories and algae treatments  needed  to grow and maintain healthy pond plants that will bring your water garden to life all summer long.

To see our list of FAQ (frequently asked questions), read over 120 articles on all aspects of water gardening and the wildlife that fresh water attracts, or to use our “Plants to suit all your needs” page, please click on the links below.

FAQ page

Useful Articles/Blog Page

Plants to suit all your needs page

Simon Harman – (Proprietor)


Happy Frog Spawning!

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The Three-Spined Fresh-water Stickleback



The Three-Spined Fresh-water Stickleback


If anyone reading this article went pond dipping as a child, you will most likely remember catching Sticklebacks.  Also known by their Latin name Gasterosteus Aculaeatus, these small fish grow to 3-4 cm in length and are abundant throughout the UK.  They can be found in almost any areas where there is fresh water, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, ditches and marshlands.  Being small predatory fish, they feed on Tadpoles, Water Daphnia (Water Fleas), Invertebrates, Newts and also other Fish including their own baby fry.



In the spring male Sticklebacks change colour to attract females where their throats and belly’s turn bright orange.  The males are very parental and build nests amongst small pieces of aquatic vegetation and silt, then after a complicated courtship, the males align the females into their nests where she will lay up to 400 eggs.  The male then fertilizes the eggs and then chases the female away, defending the nest until the eggs hatch three to four weeks later. During that time, he will regularly fan the eggs with his fins sending fresh oxygenated water into the nest.  Baby and adult Sticklebacks have many predators so it is thought; the three spines are defense against larger predatory Fish.







Please visit our website to see our large range of over 750 pond plants and water garden plants grown to enhance your garden and attract wildlife to your pond and water garden all summer long. We also carry a large range of pond planting accessories,  Aquatic plant food, Algae treatments and Blanket Weed treatments to help maintain clean healthy water and promote fresh lush looking pond plant growth.


For many more articles on all subjects of water gardening and the wildlife that the water attracts please visit my website

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Water Lilies and Iris Louisiana for Early Spring Planting in your pond

Water Lilies and Iris Louisiana for Early Spring Planting In Your Pond


Spring is the ideal time to plant Water Lilies and Iris Louisiana.  Both these wonderful pond plants come in all colours of the rainbow and are sold as bare-rooted cut sections ready to be planted straight into clay/silt bottomed ponds and lakes or are even planted into Aquatic Baskets using aquatic soil, though using this type of method will require you to line the Baskets first with Hessian or Velda Cloth Liners.  It is important to plant the bare-rooted sections into the corner of a square Aquatic Basket or against the edges of round Aquatic Baskets and always with the cut end against the edge of the basket.  This pond planting technique will allow the pond plants plenty of room to grow and establish themselves into the rest of the Aquatic Basket.  It is important though if using a round Aquatic Basket, not to use anything smaller than a 23 cm, but whatever size you choose, you must always make sure you add some Aquatic Plant Food at the time of planting.













Click on the links below to see the largest range of Water Lilies and Iris Louisiana available to buy in the UK here at Lilies Water Gardens, and to see our full range of over 750 pond and water garden plants and all the pond planting accessories required to grow healthy pond plants and bring your water garden to life, please visit our website



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Now is the time to plant Caltha Palustris (marsh marigolds) in your pond

Now is the time to plant Caltha Palustris (marsh marigolds) in your pond

Late winter/early spring is the ideal time to add Caltha Palustris (Marsh Marigolds) to your pond. They are the first marginal pond plants to flower and you should have a vibrant display of yellow flowers from mid-March on wards. There are also a handful of other interesting cultivars so, click on the links below to see our range of spring Marsh Marigold species and their interesting and rare cultivars.


Caltha Honeydew









Caltha Palustris Alba

Caltha Palustris Newlake Hybrids

Caltha Palustris Laeta

Caltha Palustris Plena

Caltha Palustris Auengold

Caltha Palustris Auenwald

Caltha Palustris var Palustris

Caltha Palustris var Palustris Honeydew

Please visit our website to see over 750 pond plants and water garden plants including our large range of oxygenating plants and 250 different Water Lilies, available to buy online or from our retail nursery in Surrey, as well as all the pond planting accessories required to plant and maintain healthy pond plants that will give you colour and lush foliage throughout the spring and summer.

You will also find on our website over 120 informative articles on water gardening and all the wildlife that fresh water habitats can attract.

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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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