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A serene water garden

Beams of light shimmer on the surface, illuminating exotic blooms. Elaborate or simple, a calming water garden can be yours -- with tips from these experts
Clockwise: Marilyn's water garden flowers include Sioux Changeable hardy water lily, Yuh-Ling hardy water lily, Texas Dawnwater lily, and Longwood Pink Canna.
Tom Kenney holds the long roots of water lettuce, as Murphy the cat inspects the fish.

Ponds to suit any yard

Tom's handiwork shows how easy it is to use water gardens in a home landscape. His smallest pond, about 5x4 feet and packed with fuzzy water lettuce plants, tucks into a fenced corner. In another part of the yard, a large formal concrete pond with a two-tier waterfall lends a note of elegance. Two larger water gardens, each about 13x20 feet, blend in so well with Marilyn's flower borders that you might not notice them until you almost fall in. Out-of-the-ordinary plants such as wispy, 5-foot-tall Egyptian papyrus, or 3-foot-tall taro, with burgundy, heart-shaped leaves, hint that these aren't average flower beds: They're ponds!

Tropical and hardy water lilies and lotus plants decorate the surface with pastel blooms, from lavender to pink and pale yellow. Dainty flowers and mammoth striped leaves of 5-foot-tall cannas add interest. The Kenneys grow nearly 30 kinds of water plants, including bog lily, cardinal flower, yellow snowflake, parrot feather, lotus, water hyacinth, and water iris. The roots of plants such as water lilies stay in submerged pots, making them easy to move around.

The blooms of hardy lilies, which come in shades of yellow, pink, and red, rest on the water. Very fragrant tropical lilies poke out several inches above the water's surface. Tropical lilies come in the same colors as hardies, plus blues and purples, and grow larger leaves. You can buy day- or night-blooming water lilies.

Lotus blossoms stay open two or three days, but the beauty doesn't end there. Marilyn cuts the stems and allows the petals to fall off. She uses dried center pods, which resemble miniature shower heads, in arrangements.

It's best to start small. "After people realize how much they enjoy a little pond," Tom says, "they think it's not big enough." Adds Marilyn, "Most come back the next year and say, 'I need a bigger water garden!'"

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