of a Lotus Pond
by Joyce Grigonis, Peconic, New York
Click images to enlarge
It all started when I moved into my new office next to my
boss Frank. The new office had a wonderful view of a drainage
pit. It was filled with cattails, swamp willows and breeding
swarms of mosquitoes. It smelled awful. I nonchalantly made a
comment to my boss that it was a bit embarrassing for our company
to have such a stinking drainage pond by the parking lot. We
needed something beautiful, stunning, and unforgettable when
clients came calling. Not to mention a better view from my office.
One morning I heard bulldozers outside the office. Didn't
think much of it, since I do work for a landscape design company,
and we have LOTS of big land moving machines rumbling around
most of the time: bulldozers, backhoes, excavators, sodcutters,
dumptrucks, 18 wheelers and such, always digging trees and shrubs,
hauling sod, loading topsoil and gravel, etc. But it seemed louder
and louder, and I finally glanced up to see our foreman Kevin
right outside my office window on the backhoe, digging up the
cattails! I turned to Frank, and asked him what was going on?
He said he was putting in a pond, something about the same size
as the front display pond at the entrance. And that I needed
to help him order a liner for it!
Well, the excavation went on for a few more days, slowly but
surely digging out all the cattails and other muck, digging down
deeper and deeper, wider and wider! My mind was going overtime
with plans for planting it! Finally the day came when it was
time to drop in the liner. Frank called in a dozen or so of our
workers in to help. The big black liner was laid out to warm
up in the sun. A thick layer of mud and sand was pressed into
the pond bottom and sides. A 4' (1.2m) high, 12" (.3m) wide
overflow pipe was installed in the middle of the pond, connected
to several drywells.
The area around the pond was graded to be "recessed",
with a 3' (1m) berm all the way around. One end was trenched
slightly to overflow into the parking area, which drained into
another set of drywells. This way the pond could handle a 3'
(1m) surge of rainwater without overflowing. The recessed berm
also created a bit of a wind break for any plants that would
be growing in the pond. Since the east end of Long Island is
extremely windy many plants get torn up by the winds, especially
the kind of plants I had in mind. Finally, the liner was all
warmed up by the sun, so the workers carefully, gently walked
it across the empty pond.
Everyone had a job putting the liner in, making the folds neat,
connecting the overflow pipe, securing the liner around it, and
adding sealant for good measure around the seams of the overflow
pipe. Then big cement culvert pipes were added for the koi to
hide in from predators. A huge granite boulder was lowered down
across the pipes, creating a rock island. A few more boulders
were placed near the edge, embedded into the berm, to make it
look like they had been there forever.
The edges of the liner were dropped into a level ditch all
away around the pond's margin and backfilled with topsoil. For
a natural look, sod was laid down over the edges, and a bit past
the water line. Then a layer of sand and mud was laid over the
liner, packed down hard, up to the edges.
FINALLY .... we started the pump that filled the irrigation
pipes laid down into the pond. By the end of the next day, the
pond was filled. I didn't want to go home. I could have sat in
my office until the sun went down staring at that pond and imagining
it planted...with LOTUS! It is a grand scale pond...about 90x70'
(27 x 21m), and needed a simple, grand scale statement of plantings.
Nothing too busy. In my opinion only lotus would do.
I contacted my friend John Johns in Charlotte, NC. I knew
he grew lotus, since we were in the same pond club when I lived
in North Carolina. I had visited his house, fantastic ponds and
luxurious gardens a few times for pond club meetings. He sent
me a nice big division of 'Mrs. Perry D. Slocum' via USPS Priority
mail. I laid the big tuber down at the edge of the pond closest
to my office window, in about 6" (15cm) of water, right
on top of the sand. Weighed it down with a slab of bluestone...and
walked away. Did not fertilize, did not fuss. Pretty much forgot
about it for weeks because it was the busy season at work and
I was swamped. Had no time for the pond.
Then one morning, while taking a break, I looked out my office
window. I noticed pads ... at least a dozen floating on the surface.
I walked down to the edge ... and there were runners everywhere!
The lotus had taken off!
That is when I decided to add a few dozen 3-4" (7-10cm)
koi fry from the front pond. There were lots of mosquitoes breeding
(being around the pond was a miserable experience because of
the mosquitoes), and now there were lotus pads the koi could
hide under while eating mosquito larva. Within a week, there
wasn't a mosquito larva to be seen ... the koi were doing their
job. And there were quite a few resident bullfrogs ... and tadpoles
everywhere too. Mother Nature was busy!
Every week, those pads grew wider, stretched farther and farther
across the pond. By the end of the summer, I had at least a dozen
blooms. It was fun to watch the koi fry dart from under one pad
to the next. Friends and family came daily to feed them ... they
Next spring, the pads started coming up, bigger than ever.
Now there were finally a few aerial pads, reaching 4-5' (1.2-1.5m)
into the sky!
By the end of that summer, the lotus had finally reached the
far side of the pond. The water was crystal clear, shaded by
the pads, filtered by the roots of the lotus.
Absolutely no fertilizer was added. The lotus were consuming
all the waste and organic debris in the pond...and getting PLENTY
of nutrients. The blooms were proof! There were dozens of blooms
every day all summer. Buds were coming up everywhere. Everyone
at work, clients and visitors were amazed ... and learning about
lotus! I picked lotus blossoms for everyone's desk. I showed
people how the water danced off the pads.
People heard about it through the grapevine and were coming
to the office to see the lotus and all the critters the pond
attracts. They fed the koi, which were now getting to be monsters
and happily making more little monsters.
By mid-autumn, seed ponds were standing up all over the pond.
I took my little inflatable rowboat and harvested all of them.
Most went to my friend Nancy who owns the florist shop next to
the office, but a lot were given to my pond friends, co-workers,
and used in bouquets all around my house.
Additional Images from Joyce's Lotus Pond
This summer, 2006 ... it was a true lotus pond. Every square
inch was covered with pads, blooms, buds, pods. A sea of lotus.
Blossoms 12" (.3m) wide, pads over 3' (1m) wide, to 6 feet
in the air. It truly took our breath away. Standing downwind,
you could smell the blossoms while feeding the koi through the
crystal clear water and listening to the frogs call and jump
around on the pads. And the dragonflies were whirring all around.
Next spring we have plans to thin out the lotus and make a bit
more room for the few water lilies that I have added. Oh, so
you think it'll be a fun job? Yup, lotsa fun ... maybe another
story to be told too.
and Nymphaea 'Pink Ribbon'