For the Best Gardeners in the Cardiff Area

   Aug 23

Your Questions About Gardening

Nancy asks…

How can I attract dragonflies to my backyard pond?

My garden and pond are in the planning stages now. I’m hoping that the dragonflies would predate on the mosquitoes, of which there are TONS.

Mosquitoes aside, I’d just love to have the dragonflies!

Tips would be appreciated!

GardenersCardiff answers:

I built my pond and followed some basic principles for attracting dragonflies and this is what I learned…The ideal dragonfly pond should vary in depth, shallow at the edges and at least two feet deep in the center. Deep water offers nymphs a refuge from raccoons and other predators. Varied depths are also important to accommodate a variety of water plants. It’s not that the nymphs or adults eat the plants. The underwater plants provide important habitat for the nymphs, which need places to rest, hunt for food and hide from predatory fish.

Vegetation, rushes and other plants that stick up above the water’s surface–provides perching places for adults. Such vegetation is also critical for dragonflies because the nymphs crawl up it when they emerge, making the transformation from water dweller to their free-flying adult form. And though dragonflies don’t rely on specific host plants to nourish their young the way butterflies do, some species do use water plants as nurseries. They insert their eggs into the soft stems.

What you plant around the pond is almost as important as what you plant in it. Don’t mow the border, let the grasses and rushes grow. Make sure you have some shrubs within a few feet of the water, they will provide perching sites. Reeds, and rushes and grasses with seed heads are good choices for your pond’s edge.
Many garden shops and catalog suppliers now sell all kinds of plants for water gardens. Look for species native to your area. Put a few flat rocks near the pond’s edge. Dragonflies like to warm up by basking in the sun. Some species are attracted to light-colored rocks.
Now I have in our garden, not only dragonflies, but hummers, gold finches and too many other birds to list, and lots of butterflies, too.

Carol asks…

can someone tell me about Japanese gardens?

GardenersCardiff answers:

A catalogue of features “typical” of the Japanese garden may be drawn up without inquiring deeply into the aesthetic underlying Japanese practice. Typical Japanese gardens have at their center a home from which the garden is viewed. In addition to residential architecture, depending on the archetype, Japanese gardens often contain several of these elements:
* Water, real or symbolic.
* Rocks or stone arrangements (or settings).
* A lantern, typically of stone.
* A teahouse or pavilion.
* An enclosure device such as a hedge, fence, or wall of traditional character.
* A bridge to the island, or stepping stones.

Karesansui Gardens “dry landscape” gardens were influenced mainly by Zen Buddhism and can be found at Zen temples of meditation (Japan Guide). Unlike other traditional gardens, there is no water present in Karesansui gardens. However, there is raked gravel or sand that simulates the feeling of water. The rocks/gravel used are chosen for their artistic shapes, and mosses as well as small shrubs are used to further garnish the Karesansui style (Japanese Lifestyle). All in all, the rocks and moss are used to represent ponds, islands, boats, seas, rivers, and mountains in an abstract way (Japan Guide). – Example: Ryo-an-ji, temple in Kyoto, has a garden famous for representing this style. Daisen-in, created in 1513, is also particularly renowned.

Tsukiyama Gardens often copy famous landscapes from China or Japan, and they commonly strive to make a smaller garden appear more spacious (Japan Guide). This is accomplished by utilizing shrubs to block views of surrounding buildings, and the garden’s structure usually tries to make onlookers focus on nearby mountains in the distance (Japanese Lifestyle). By doing this, it seems that the garden has the mountains as part of its grounds. Ponds, streams, hills, stones, trees, flowers, bridges, and paths are also used frequently in this style (Japan Guide).

Chaniwa Gardens are built for holding tea ceremonies. There is usually a tea house where the ceremonies occur, and the styles of both the hut and garden are based on the simple concepts of the sado (Japan Guide). Usually, there are stepping stones leading to the tea house, stone lantern, and stone basins (tsukubai) where guests purify themselves before a ceremony(Japan Guide).

Japanese gardens might also fall into one of these styles:
* Kanshoh-style gardens which are viewed from a residence.
* Pond gardens, for viewing from a boat.
* Strolling gardens (kaiyu–shiki), for viewing a sequence of effects from a path which circumnavigates the garden. The 17th-century Katsura garden in Kyoto is a famous exemplar.

Kaiyu-shiki or Strolling Gardens require the observer to walk through the garden to fully appreciate it. A premeditated path takes observers through each unique area of a Japanese garden. Uneven surfaces are placed in specific spaces to prompt people to look down at particular points. When the observer looks up, they will see an eye-catching ornamentation which is intended to enlighten and revive the spirit of the observer. This type of design is known as the Japanese landscape principle of “hide and reveal”.

Stones are used to construct the garden’s paths, bridges, and walkways. Stones can also represent a geological presence where actual mountains are not viewable or present. They are sometimes placed in odd numbers and a majority of the groupings reflect triangular shapes, which often are the mountains of China.

A water source in a Japanese garden should appear to be part of the natural surroundings; this is why one will not find fountains in traditional gardens. Man-made streams are built with curves and irregularities to create a serene and natural appearance. Lanterns are often placed beside some of the most prominent water basins (either a pond or a stream) in a garden. In some gardens one will find a dry pond or stream. Dry ponds and streams have as much impact as do the ones filled with water.

Lizzie asks…

How do I create a great garden?

I live in Florida if that helps at all with the soil? I noticed that most of the “dirt” down here is actually kinda sandy.

GardenersCardiff answers:

Gardening in Florida can be a bit more difficult in coastal areas, but inland Florida has some unbelievably fertile cropland as well.

One of my first gardens was grown in Largo, FL, and within 6 years’ time, I was gardening in Cleveland, OH (I’ve since moved south and found some terrific old farmland). I’ll take sandy soil over Lake Erie clay anytime!!

The benefits of sandy garden soil means that it drains well and doesn’t compact as easily (sandy soil has lots of air pockets = healthy roots). The down side is that nutrients and water can leach out quicker than you want them to. The type of soil you’re most likely gardening in is going to be ideal for root vegetables – carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes and such – and even peanuts if you choose to grow them. The “heavy feeders” will require additional nutrients.

To enrich your soil, add composted humus, peat moss, composted manure and organic matter for nutrients. Mulch to conserve water, and you may want to run soaker hoses for simplified irrigation. Florida summers tend to make watering your garden a challenge when it’s not monsoon season.

Herbs LOVE your grow zone. Most culinary herbs originated in Mediterranean regions and are well-suited for a Florida garden. They’ll thrive in arid conditions and sandy soils.

Also, look for plants with origins in South America (particularly Mexico). Many varieties of corn, sorghum and amaranth come from there and are genetically suited for your area as well. Aside from their usefulness, some varieties make spectacular backdrops for mixed beds and can work as a natural fence or trellis for climbing vines, or create natural shade when planted to the west of a more tender crop.

For landscaping, you obviously have a vast choice of tropicals (and all the citrus trees that I miss so much!), but you might want to give succulents a try as well. Many varieties of sedums will do exceptionally well for you, and you can mix them with tropicals and aloe plants for a garden that has tons of structural interest.

Now is the time to start planning what you’d like to grow and selecting varieties that are more heat-tolerant. For specifics, I’d recommend some of my favorite seed catalogs (Seeds of Change, RH Shumway’s & Johnny’s). All have grow zone info on every seed and plant they carry, and you’ll find some are more suited to a southern climate than a northern one.

Hope this helps… Good luck and happy gardening!

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