Make a Splash with Container Water Gardening

Alternatives to Ponds or Additions to Any Yard

Turn anything that holds water into a container water garden
Turn anything that holds water into a container water garden

Consumers are likely to have smaller budgets this pond season so why not offer them smaller water gardens to match their budgets? Container water gardens provide a great solution for cash-strapped customers who still want to enjoy the pleasure of water gardening.

Any vessel that holds water and supports plant life can be considered a container water garden. There are a lot of reasons to have a container water garden, ranging from space restrictions to accenting the backyard and garden. Those with limited space can tuck a container water garden virtually anywhere since they come in all shapes and sizes. Some people believe that having a container water garden can add personality to their garden. Surrounded by gorgeous perennials or annuals, they are considered a pleasant surprise when passersby see or hear the water.

Container water gardens, however, aren’t always a replacement for a large water feature. Many full-fledged pond owners dot the rest of their landscapes with container water gardens because of their mobility and ease of maintenance. They also can be used to accent the current pond and provide a balance in the landscape.

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At some point in your water gardening career, you’ve probably encountered a customer who’s hesitant to take the plunge and have a pond installed in their yard. A container water garden is a great way to help them get their feet wet with this growing hobby. Successfully growing aquatic plants in a small container provides much needed confidence for the novice. Toss a couple of ruby red fish into the mix and you’ve created a mini ecosystem. Adding a small fountain helps to aerate the water and provides the soothing sound of running water that attracts so many gardeners to the pond hobby in the first place.

Garden State Koi in Warwick, New York offers container water garden kits for customers, says Chris Buttel, wholesale manager. For $200, a customer receives an aquatic bowl, three marginal plants, a water lily and two goldfish. Larger kits are available for greater impact in the garden. Chris says they display the container water gardens so customers can easily imagine having one on their deck or patio.

“Everyone loves them,” claims Chris. “We usually sell one container water garden kit per week.” Many pond owners purchase the container kits to complement their existing water feature, while shoppers who can’t afford a pond will opt for the mini ecosystem.

When it comes to the location of the customer’s container water garden, the sky’s the limit. The common spot would be on the deck or patio, a beautiful focal point while grilling outside with friends or relaxing after a long day of work. Not strictly relegated to the backyard, a container water garden can greet guests at the front door. Instead of the common welcome mat, gurgling water with beautiful plants provides a unique welcome to visitors. Many times, your water garden customers become so focused on what their backyard looks like that they forget about the curb appeal of a nice container in the front yard.

Consider the Options

Container water gardens can take on many shapes and forms so there’s no lack of style for whatever your customer’s taste might be. A container water garden can be as simple as a decorative pot filled with water and a beautiful lotus, or it can be more elaborate with stately plants that provide vertical impact along with an ornate fountain. Small fish are a great addition because they’ll eat mosquito larvae in a container without a fountain. If a fountain is used, fish aren’t necessary since mosquitoes like to lay their eggs in stagnant water.

The type of container used is the first choice that your customer needs to make when designing their miniature water garden. The color and size of the pot will influence the type and number of aquatic plants. Some manufacturers provide aquatic bowls that already have shelves built in or aquatic plant baskets that easily hang from the rim of the bowl. To make things even easier, you can find these baskets pre-planted, taking the guess work out of what plants to use.

The main thing to remember when choosing a container is to make sure it’s water tight. If it comes with a drainage hole, simply plug it with a rubber plug, cork, or plumber’s putty and then seal the inside of the container so it doesn’t leak.

If your customer wishes for something truly unique, consider adding a “spitter” to the water garden pump instead of a fountainhead. Spitters come in an assortment of materials, shapes and sizes. Be sure to consider the style and size of the container when choosing a spitter.

Pumps, spitters and fountains aren’t necessary elements for a healthy container water garden. Some people prefer not having to worry about plugging the feature into an electrical outlet. By avoiding the use of a pump, the container water garden can be placed anywhere the customer pleases.

Pretty with Plants

While a myriad of plants and flowers are available for container water gardening, a simple rule of thumb helps keep plant selection simple. Once you know the size and location for the container, apply the “thriller, filler and spiller” philosophy for adding aquatic plants.

Thrillers are plants that create drama from a distance. These provide the focal point and draw attention to the container arrangement. Fillers, such as water lettuce, give the arrangement “body” and fill the center with plants that either complement or contrast the thriller. Finally, spillers are plants that break up and soften the edge of the pot by cascading over the edge. Not using a spiller causes a clear separation between the bowl and plants.

One thing to remind your customers when encouraging them to try container water gardening is that they rarely need to water the plants like they do with their soil counterparts. Your customer can go on vacation for a week or two without worrying whether their plants will survive their absence. Better yet, there’s no need to hire the neighbor kid to come over and water the arrangements. Container water gardens only need to be topped off occasionally due to evaporation.

You Can’t Go Wrong

If you’re a pond installer, container water gardens are a great up sell to your customers. A container water garden at the front door hints at what’s in store in the backyard. These mini ecosystems can also be used as a promotion to sell a larger water feature. Offer a container water garden valued at $300 to your customer if they purchase a pond installation from you within a certain timeframe.

And if you’re a retailer who carries containers or aquatic plants, container water gardens are the perfect vehicle for moving inventory out the door. In order to be successful doing this, you need to always have container water gardens on display at your garden center. Place them in different locations with signage that describes the plants and lets your customers know you actually sell container water gardens and they’re not simply there for decoration. As an added bonus, offer container water gardening classes to show how easy this hobby can be.

Water gardening continues to grow and offers a variety of tempting options for every budget and lifestyle. For those hesitant to dip their toes into this enjoyable and beneficial hobby, container water gardens provide the perfect solution for getting started with what’s sure to be a lifelong love affair.

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