Diary of a Professional
by Joseph V. Tomocik
Click images to enlarge
This year I have taken seven trips lasting from two to eight
days in pursuit of native trout.
The similarities of trout waters and water gardening are striking!
It seems that my visits with the "trout fly" soon relate
back to water gardening and my work at Denver Botanic Gardens.
In late September I visited the exciting Deschutes River in
Oregon with my brother Tom. The Deschutes is a world-class fishery
draining the Eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains. It flows
north into the Columbia River, which eventually spills into the
Common to the mighty Deschutes is an abundance of volcanic-origin
lava rock, steep canyon walls, rattlesnakes and an impressively
managed fishery. Representing an excellent example of a sustainable
the Deschutes is lined with an abundance of expertly maintained
convenient picnic and parking areas. The way to the prime fishing
holes is steep and dangerous. Steps are a blessing to the anxious
Only two trout 11-13 inches (28-33 centimeters) can be kept.
Regulations are clearly posted. One gets the idea that the quality
of fishing and integrity of the area will long be in tact. Leading
botanic gardens including Royal Botanic Gardens, Missouri Botanical
Garden, North Carolina Botanical Garden and Denver Botanic Gardens
are entrusted to play leading roles as stewards of the environment.
Denver Botanic Gardens operates a task force, the Green Team,
to promote conservation and sustainability. For example, they
placed numerous receptacles throughout the Gardens and designated
Thursday as the day to take the bus, walk or bicycle to work.
The Green Team oversees procedures to dispose of waste properly.
Last summer we completed a major renovation of the Japanese
Garden pond using the latest and most efficient methods and materials.
Two old water pumps force water through our main waterway. New
water- and energy-saving VFD (variable frequency drive) pumps
will soon replace them.
An extension of conservation is prolonging and enhancing the
quality of life. Denver Botanic Gardens will again enthusiastically
display next year Nymphaea 'Pink Ribbon' (Songpanich),
a recent plant introduction spearheaded by WGI. A portion of
the sales from the plant will go to fighting breast cancer.
Redsides Trout and a Favorite Marliac Waterlily
The native resident rainbow trout of the Deschutes (Oncorhynchus
mykiss gairdneri) is acrobatic, strong and shaped like a
football. Upon first seeing the "redsides" trout, I
associated it with one of my favorite small hardy waterlilies.
When I saw this gorgeous trout described as "brick red",
I knew I was on to something.
Nymphaea 'Indiana' (Marliac) has long been one of my
favorite tiny hardy waterlilies. It too is "brick red"
and distinctive. It has a tight Marliac root and grows well in
a two-gallon (7.6-liter) container. It is excellent for container
gardens. Anyone having this waterlily has a real gem!
Horsetail on the Deschutes
Dramatic sunsets, cascading falls and heron are all part of
the magnificent Deschutes. Horsetail (Equisetum laevigatum)
thrives there too, just a bit above the riverbed.
Earlier I had seen E. arvense along the South Platte
drainage near Denver, CO. With a near cosmopolitan distribution,
the horsetails are also called scouring rush, as the stems can
be useful in scouring pots. Sold as herbal remedies, horsetails
are suggested to be effective if treating kidney and stomach
With jointed, decorative hollow stems, the spore-producing horsetails
are wonderful ornamental aquatic plants sold by many quality
nurseries. The compact and easily cultivated dwarf horsetail
(E. scirpoides) grows to eight inches (20 centimeters).
On the Way to the Gardens
I have always marveled at the landscaping, bubbling fountain
and clear water of an exclusive apartment complex not far from
my home. Just a couple of days ago I noticed the pond had an
unsightly algae bloom. And the fountain was not functioning!
Three summers ago at the Gardens' Monet Pond, we added two
fountains with a timer and adjustable jets. The fountains aerate
the water, making it difficult for algae to take hold. Their
softly falling water makes gentle music for the ears and a striking
visual impact for the eyes. Fish survive better in the oxygenated
Moreover, every morning a rainbow appears!
Adding a single feature produces five benefits. How is that
for being efficient?
What do you do with them in the winter? Hardy Waterlilies!
And so you now have the most frequently asked question about
our water gardens. My reply is often, "Which plant are you
Visitors are a bit startled when I explain that we have plants
from Alaska to South America and Africa.
With our minimum winter temperatures at times reaching -20
F. (-29 C.), Denver, CO., is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5.
Most hardy waterlilies survive outdoors to Zone 5. Thus, they
successfully over-winter outside in our Gardens. We take steps,
if necessary, to insure that the rhizomes do not dry out or freeze.
Beginning the last Sunday in September, the very capable Colorado
Water Garden Society volunteers assist with our over-wintering
chores. They remove hardy waterlilies from the pools and place
them in one of several locations.
We store them in metal tanks or rubber tubs between our greenhouses
after removing leaves for sanitation reasons. During the first
or second week in December, we place two-inch (5-centimeter)
foam sheets in the tanks and then cover them with plywood. We
remove the foam and plywood during the first week in March. The
loss with this method is zero or minimal.
We move other hardy waterlilies into bins or bring them together
in two groups in the Monet pond, which is now drained. These
plants are then covered with bags of leaves or pine needles two-
to three-inches (five- to eight-centimeters) high. It is important
that you cannot see the pots as you peer through the bags of
mulch. If there are gaps, plants will freeze and be lost or severely
damaged from the cold and freezing temperatures.
Hardy waterlilies can also be lowered to the bottoms of pools.
Larger pools are much safer than small pools. Each situation
is truly different and should be carefully monitored. Sometimes
we may need to apply additional mulch. Having two-three inches
(five-eight centimeters) of ice form in our tanks is not enough
to damage the plants.
Denver's cold winters and nights are partly responsible for
the exceptional performance of hardy waterlilies in Colorado.
Not allowing them to enjoy a long, cold dormant period seriously
affects their health and performance.
See you at poolside,