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Water gardens grow in popularity as prices drop

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by Ann Bucy

SBJ Contributing Writer

After a hard day's work, a growing number of people are finding serenity in the water gardens they've put in their apartments, homes or backyards. As these gardens have increased in popularity, so have the variety and sizes of water gardens sold.

Donna Elliott is the water garden manager at Wickman Gardens. She said the advantage to today's water garden is that the average person with a more moderate income, can have one because it doesn't cost that much.

"You can have one on a small scale for $100 or less," said Bonnie Johnson, Wickman's manager of tropical plants. "It doesn't have to be costly for you to enjoy it."

Elliott said Wickman's customers like to buy the hearty plants because they will grow every year.

"We have water plants we winter over, and we have some we bring in from different parts of the country," Johnson said. She said 95 percent of these plants are winter-hardy. "They will go through a dormancy period. Then in the spring, we bring them out, separate them, repot them and put them in ponds that will go into the retail area of the store."

Elliott said Wickman's sells everything for a water garden, from fertilizing water lilies, to stepping stones, pumps, liners, bog plants, tropical plants that don't need to be potted and statuary.

"People often start out with a small pond and add on to it later," Elliott said. "You can start with a pre-formed pond, which is a type of container like a bowl or a barrel. The advantage to this is that they're mobile and you can move up to something bigger any time."

Part of the water garden equation is maintenance, including control of algae. New water garden technology, however, is making that easier. "In the future, the user will light a UV light with a filter attached. Then they'll never have a green pond again," she said.

Ron and Cindy Murphy own Murphy Water Gardens In Clever. Ron Murphy said they sell everything it takes for a water garden from the plants, to the pumps, liners, filters, statuary and spitters for fountain heads. A spitter is used for decorative purposes and is usually a small statue, such as a fish or an animal that has water "spitting" out of its mouth.

Ron Murphy said the couple's biggest sellers are their plants and fish, usually Japanese koi.

The Murphys started the business six years ago after having trouble finding the supplies they needed to start their own water garden. "We had to start ordering everything by mail, and the business began from that," he said.

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