I've been trying to be good and not plan to do too much work while visiting Amherst. Last visit was great but exhausting with little time for dreaming. This trip I want to do some work, but more importantly have time for imagining what it will look like, marking out the house & envisioning the views from the windows, etc.
But in one of our regular discussions bemoaning the muddy state of the dam (as in "why can't it look more like a lake?"), Dave came up with the notion of water lilies.
Now I adore water lilies, always have, although have never successfully grown them (the darn koi ate the ones in our London backyard pond). But they were my Gran's favourite flower, even to the extent she had them in her wedding bouquet. So I always envisaged having a pond with water lilies... but for some reason had never put two and two together and thought of filling the dam with them too.
I couldn't resist making a start on it this trip.
First stop was checking with Prue to make sure I wasn't making a hideous mistake. She said:
"Water lilies would be really lovely, perhaps even water iris on the banks
too. As for suppliers in Melbourne, the best one I knew of has closed down but I
found another online: http://www.walliscreekwatergarden.com.au. The iris can be found at many places but a good range can be found at http://www.tempotwo.com.au".
I then got in touch with Wallis Creek:
"I'm interested in buying some waterlilies from you via mail
order, but would like your advice on which varieties would be
most suited and how many I should get.
The varieties I'm thinking of are:
--Nymphaea "Hal Miller" (white)
--Nymphaea "Karleen Harder" (yellow)
--Nymphaea "William Falconer" (red)
but if there are others that would be better suited let me know.
...During summer the water level can go down significantly
so anything planted fixed in the dam edges would be at risk
of exposure. The dam also has yabbies in it which my husband
refuses to condone getting rid of, so I was thinking of not
planting in the actual dam bed itself but instead in something
like a big garbage bin with holes drilled in the side, as I
presume that would give more protection from the yabbies?
Also, I was thinking of rigging up some floats so that whatever
I planted them in could move around rather than being fixed to
the bottom.... the advantage of this would be that it could
adjust itself to always remain in water if the dam started to
get low. Would love to get your advice as to whether this
would be something you could envisage working or if you have
any better suggestions."
Unfortunately, they replied with some downbeat news:
"Water level fluctuations are ok so long as lillies are
not high and dry until the mud around their roots drys
completely. Your main problem is much more likely to be
the yabbies - They muddy water, snip off leaves and flowers
and dig up and float away tubers - robbing them of food
and anchorage. Placing then in drums will only work if
the drums extend above water level-which won't work
really well. Usually we suggest establishing plants
before animals-it sometimes works then by sheer mass.
I suggest if you want lillies- you may need to trap and
eat as many of your yabbies as you can, especially the
Now unfortunately, trapping & eating the yabbies isn't an easy option as even if we catch them now, they'd soon repopulate and we won't be around to catch them again. And we live in an area that is extremely yabbie-prone. There is even an annual Yabbie Festival in Talbot!
Despite this, I refuse to give up without trying. I've ordered one each of the white and yellow ones above, and to help find a way that yabbies and water lilies can cohabit, I posted on Yahoo & Google Answers. I got responses on both, albeit with more thorough research at Google (as you'd expect, hey, you get what you pay for).
On Yahoo, thanks to odafintutuola:
"All I can think of is a piece of straight culvert or drainage pipe
with slits in it, sunken straight down into the water and drop your
(smaller around buckets) of bulbs down into it, you don't say how
deep you're going to have to sink the buckets so I would only hope
no matter which route you take is going to allow for sunlight to
'bring up' the stems..."
On Google, thanks to hummer, I got some hope - apparently the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne managed to restore water lilies to a lake, helping to protect the lilies from birds and yabbies using netting. At least it is possible! Hummer also found me several suggestions for how to make the floating containers, including one that is very clever, out of an old tyre.
I ran these past the guys at Wallis Creek, and they were skeptical but did come up with one alternative idea:
"I looked at the answers and in my opinion they will not
work in the long term. These answers assume all yabbies
are of a certain size that they will not go through the
net. Once my pond pump was not performing well, it had
been deteriorating over some time. I expected to find a
mud blocked filter, but in fact there was a large yabbie
which must have crawled in when small enough to fit between
2mm slots. If you have a dam try to get yabbie eating fish
like eels or catfish and these will keep them under control."
Eels I loathe, too close in appearance to snakes. But catfish... I wonder if Dave would allow it, hmmm.... Perhaps catfish will be a back-up plan but for this trip, we're going to try making 2 variants of containers.
I'll post pictures of the contraptions as we do them. Keep your fingers crossed for us!