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Water Bowl in the Landscape

Once upon a time, I bought a lovely container from Aw Pottery. As I paid for my purchase, they offered to drill a drainage hole for me; however, I wasn’t sure what I would use the large piece for, so I declined. I set it up on my deck and filled it with water and plants. The pot remained there for a few years.

I was sitting out on my deck one morning sipping a cup of tea when I spied the perfect place for my water bowl—a patch of garden that once contained hebes, heathers, and rosemary plants. The Hebe died during an early and brutal fall frost, leaving a bare spot in its place. I was tired of the look and, for months, tried to think up something new and exciting for the space. The bowl would fit perfectly there, so I moved it to a new place of honor.

Uncinia ‘Belinda’s Find’
Uncinia ‘Belinda’s Find’
Uncinia ‘Belinda’s Find’, Sedum oreganum ssp. tenue, Viola x wittrockiana Ultima Radiance Red™
Uncinia ‘Belinda’s Find’, Sedum oreganum ssp. tenue, and Viola x wittrockiana Ultima Radiance Red™

A few years later, the rosemary plants came out. Uncinia ‘Belinda’s Find’, and the Northwest native Sedum oreganum ssp. tenue filled the void. Finally, the heathers came out, and I surrounded the bowl with more grass and sedums. On the shady side of the bowl, I underplanted it with spike moss (Selaginella kraussiana). While the sedums filled in, I planted Livingstone daisies (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis) and pansies (Viola x wittrockiana Ultima Radiance Red™) to fill with color.

Water bowl
Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), fairy moss (Azolla caroliana) and dwarf waterlily
Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), fairy moss (Azolla caroliana) and dwarf waterlily

I try different plants in this water feature in the garden every year. Fairy moss (Azolla caroliana) quickly covers the surface and helps keep algae down, while a dwarf water lily gives the bowl colorful flowers. For height, I add Cannas or Colocasias. Last year, I tried water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) to see if the raccoons would demolish it. Thankfully, the critters ignored it, so I plan to use it again in the bowl.

Colocasia 'Black Stem'
Colocasia ‘Black Stem’
Colocasia 'Black Stem'

I’m not the only one drawn to this vessel in the garden. The birds use the water feature for bathing and drinking. Two pigeon-sized, ring-necked doves appeared one afternoon and became frequent visitors. My first encounter with them, I looked them up in my bird books and found they are not natives to the area and are slowly infiltrating our region. Other species, such as robins, chickadees, and nuthatches, exploit the continual water supply: the neighbor’s cats and my dog love to drink from it too. Fortunately, the plants surrounding the bowl’s base are tough enough to take the endless two and four-legged traffic.

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