A naturalistic stream chattering around boulders and splashing into a large pond is the centerpiece of my garden—that is, the garden I dream of having one day. In reality, my small, flat garden is never likely to support this vision, so I make do with a 100-gallon container pond and keep thinking of a way to shoehorn another water feature—some sort of fountain—into the front garden.
My source for plants and fish for my container pond for the last 6 years—and inspiration for the future—has been Hill Country Water Gardens in Cedar Park (a suburb north of Austin). It’s the best water-garden resource center in the Austin area. Although the drive from central Austin takes about 30 minutes (longer in rush hour), it’s worth it for the service, selection, and ideas presented by the display ponds and fountains. Before you go, check their website to make sure of their hours. They close on Monday in the off-season, as I once discovered the hard way.
What makes this nursery worth the drive? The selection of water lilies and other pond plants is very good. I can always find anacharis (Egeria densa ) for sale here, a submerged plant that helps clean the water and which my two goldfish polish off several times a year. They even have quite a few Texas-native pond plants.
You can also purchase fish here—from big koi like this one to inexpensive comet goldfish.
The selection of decorative objects for your pond or garden is fantastic, from classic to fun to kitschy.
But the displays of pots and other containers for fountains or just decoration is what always gets my attention. I have a weakness for glazed pottery, though I try to be selective and very restrained in adding more to my garden at this point.
When you pull into their gravel lot and start looking around, you see these friendly signs inviting you to explore and ask if you have a question. If you do ask for help, the staff is always friendly and helpful, and if they don’t know the answer they’ll ask operations manager Christopher Howell, who is knowledgeable and service-oriented toward the do-it-yourselfer. Every Saturday at 11 a.m. he hosts a free seminar at the nursery; upcoming topics include “Installing Disappearing Fountains,” “Building Disappearing Streams,” “Container Gardening,” and “Pond Building.”
I like to stroll around the display ponds and streams, watching the fish and seeing what new plants and decor are in stock.
Seating nooks are tucked in near the display ponds.
For a more somber note, how about this column-like bust? I think this is “Summer,” and the other seasons were available too. I don’t know—it kind of reminds me of a cemetery.
This sculpture is more playful.
And this chicken is just plain goofy and fun.
Or how about putting this guy on a stone column in your garden? Noisy kids? The gargoyle will sympathize.
A classic choice. If only I had an old brick wall covered with ivy to put it on. In Savannah.
I thought this was pretty—papyrus in a simple “container bog.”
Another tiny container pond, this one intensely green thanks to the duckweed covering the water’s surface.
Here’s where I bought the dwarf yellow water lily ‘Helvola’ for my container pond. There are all sorts to choose from, and they’ll be blooming soon.
Here’s the fish shed, which contains long tanks of koi and goldfish separated by size and price.
A staff member scoops out a half dozen with a net into a large bucket, and then you make your selection. The fish go home with you in a plastic bag filled with water and compressed air; remember to bring a large bucket or other container to put the bag in for the drive home, or it’ll roll around and scare your fish.
These raised pond beds hold marginal (shallow-water) and bog plants.
When my children were younger, this was a key feature at any nursery I frequented—a play area. A wooden swing hangs from a tree nearby. But with all the ponds around, you couldn’t leave a young child unsupervised here, even for a minute or two. Still, it’s a great spot for your spouse and kids to rest while you promise “just one more minute” and stroll off with a smile on your face and a full wallet in your purse.
Just look at these colorful, glazed fountain vessels. Wouldn’t they be great in a tropical garden?
With a stool or table to match.
At the back of the nursery, an enormous number of containers are displayed in tiers. You could turn any one of these into a fountain. Or plant it. Or just tuck it unplanted into your garden as a focal point.
Tropical-loving gardeners can go whole hog with a tiki umbrella, carved furniture, and…
Chocolate-streaked canna, bamboo, and glazed, reddish-brown pots play well together.
If you like a more rugged water feature, try one of these stone fountains, like Annie in Austin installed. The manager told me that 70% of their fountain sales are to do-it-yourselfers like Annie and Philo. HCWG installs the other 30%, which amounts to about 2 or 3 fountains a week. After reading Annie’s post about their installation, I admire their handiness (and muscle!) but think I would have to get mine installed.
I haven’t even mentioned the selection of non-pond plants the nursery sells. Every time I visit they have an expanded selection, particularly of native and adapted perennials, including interesting plants like the Australian knife-leaf acacia and the red ‘Lady Margaret’ passion flower pictured above. When I commented on this to the manager, he told me that they plan to be a full-fledged nursery by next year, selling trees in addition to the perennials, shrubs, and pond plants they already carry. Their nursery staff could be a little more knowledgeable about the plants they do carry (two employees weren’t sure whether they carried plants I asked about on the day I visited, though it turned out the nursery did have them), but friendliness and a desire to help counts for a lot, and they always have that going for them.
Picking up that red passion flower and the anacharis I needed, I headed to the gift shop to pay.
More temptations appeared inside…
…including a nice selection of books about ponds and fountains. But I resisted and left with my plants and inspiring ideas for a future fountain.
All material © 2006-2008 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.