Read about Joe Tomocik


 Diary of a Professional
Water Gardener

Chapter Five
Spring 2008

By Joseph V. Tomocik
Curator, Water Gardens,
Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado
Images by Joseph V. Tomocik
unless otherwise specified


The ice sculptures are gone, the Canada geese are back, and the pools have been drained, cleaned and re-filled. The excitement is contagious and at a feverish pitch.

Sustainability and Urban Nature

The Gardens' signature exhibition, "Urban Nature", breaks new ground by addressing the relationship between nature and the built environment. How urban dwellers can be earth-friendly is one of the subjects posed. The Gardens is now interlaced by colorful murals created by ten street-style painters and mural artists. 


Several of these animated works-of-art are adjacent to the pools and present a much-welcomed challenge as we seek to correlate them with the garden designs.


< Reaping rewards of gardening, Boettcher Memorial Conservatory in the background

Above left: drama in the Sacred Earth Pool

Mural across the Monet Pond

The Gardens' Mitchell Hall was energized and buzzing yesterday Sunday April 20, 2008, as we hosted a Sustainability Fair. The newly formed Green Team is committed to "greening' our internal operations and getting the word out about sustainability in new and creative ways. Plant and water conservation are major components of this important program. These important aspects will be illustrated in our container gardens and smaller gardens now under construction.

Spreading Our Wings

In March and the first part of April we were dividing and repotting showy tropical marginals. Some of these are being displayed in our own pools. Our relationships with other entities like Denver City Park Greenhouse, Hudson Gardens and the University of Denver help us diversify our collections by establishing first-rate gardens for these organizations. These partnerships are mutually beneficial and fun, allowing us to spread the good word of water gardening. 

Papyrus and Machete Time

Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) displays are so effective; we have been concentrating on propagating many of these. Dividing these rootstocks is a bit challenging, requiring machetes and pruning saws to cut through the tough rhizomes. Seven gallon squat containers or larger are used for these plants. Anything smaller would result in wind-toppled plants and a headache come summer time. 

A heavy garden soil (clay loam) is being used for most of these plants. Potting in a peat-like mix would require repotting as the plants are placed in the pools after the danger of frost has passed. This is mid-May in the Denver area.

Experience has taught us that potted papyrus plantings are prone to go into heavy prolonged shock when transplanted from a light soil mix to a heavy soil. This year we are fertilizing at potting time with one ounce of a granular slow-release fertilizer at the rate of one ounce per two gallon pot. We may augment this by occasionally fertilizing with a water-soluble commercial fertilizer in the greenhouse, or with fertilizer tablets to enhance outdoor performance.

Additional selections of merit include the tall C. giganteus, dwarf C. papyrus 'Perkamentus' and elegant full C. papyrus 'King Tut'.  

Sundays Are Special

The capable and energetic volunteers of the Colorado Water Gardening Society (CWGS) have come on time and in full force for four Sundays now, assuming an important role in helping to put our outside displays together. A recent Sunday was extra special and fun as Director of Horticulture Sarada Krishnan dropped in to share her wisdom and lend a hand. 

Sarada Krishnan >


CWGS continues its vital leadership role in education. In April they hosted Get Wet, an educational seminar held annually at the Gardens. Attendees were treated to superb presentations discussing recommended plants for our area and new products for pond maintenance. They observed a demonstration area for dividing and potting plants and a photography booth. Venders offered plants, pool construction, plant choices, fish and pond basics. I personally delighted in recommending membership in WGI and expounding on its scope and value. It is a valuable water garden resource always close at hand. 

A highlight this summer will be the CWGS and Denver Botanic Gardens supported Water Blossom Festival on Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27. CWGS Vice President Jim Arneill is doing a phenomenal job organizing this spectacular event as CWGS celebrates its 25th anniversary.  

See you at poolside,
Joe T.

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