9 November 2009

white delights on the water

I like autumn. Lovely things happen in autumn. The hectic days of summer have passed and the shortening day length triggers new prettiness both left and right. The colours of autumn might supposedly be limited to the reds and yellows of the changing leaves but there are white delights appearing in the ponds.

Water Hawthorn, Aponogeton distachyos, has opened the first of a long season of fragrant white waxy blooms. This South African shuts up shop for the summer dying back to a tuber, an adaption for drought in its homeland, it will happily lie dormant underwater until the cooler weather stimulates the new growth of floating paddle shaped leaves. The flowers emerge above the water as pointed, capped buds. The cap soon splits and the forked bloom extends. These are sweetly scented, supposedly like hawthorn, and each lasts for a couple of weeks. Pollinated by insects they readily set seed and this germinates freely in shallow water. They can grow in deep water, in our ponds the depth ranges from 6inches to a couple of feet and they are much more shade tolerant than water lilies, a useful attribute in shaded city gardens.
Spotted by an eagle eyed chairman in the shade of the banana are the flowers of the pondweed, Egeria densa. This is the archetypal pondweed of goldfish bowls and has long stems of whorled leaves. Growing at a rate of knots it has become established around the world as a garden escape and is classed as an invasive water plant in many countries. In our garden it has grown successfully in the shadiest of the ponds and from a small bunch added in the spring has filled the pond with great green ropes. Here it is easily controlled by pulling out any excess. Small white flowers with three delicate crumpled petals are held an inch above the surface on fine green stalks. Hardly a show but they are absolutely delightful. Chairmans like them too.

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