A trip to Soni’s Garden

pond with waterfall
The pond I created with a small waterfall, filled with water hyacinth, lilies, parrot's feather, lizard's tail, and little goldfish that traveled in egg form from Soni's place.

A week and a half or so ago, we traveled south to Eagan to Soni Forsman’s water gardening retreat. It was a Minnesota State Horticultural Society sponsored event and brought together a great, motley crew of northern gardeners.

Garden get-togethers are great times to shoot the compost with your fellow dirt mavens and also get inspired by a passionate plant person, such as Soni. Soni is queen of all water plants. Her acreage in Eagan is home to several large-sized ponds, countless water containers and her pond plant business. If you are going to water garden in the North, connect yourself to Soni. A Google will get you her contact info.

red wing crock water garden
Red Wing crocks make great containers for water gardens. This one is home to water hyacinth and a 'Helvola' water lily.

A visit to Soni’s place will get you reasonably priced plants of all varieties, a ton of great advice and a heap of inspiration. Soni is a great teacher. You can ask her anything and she never lets you feel as if your question was a stupid one. In her world of let’s learn and water garden together, there are no stupid questions.

water hyacinth
Water hyacinth are prolific, branching creatures with a beautiful flower.

After visiting Soni last summer when I was working on an article on container water gardening for Northern Gardener magazine, I really got hooked on aquatic plants. I started creating containers around the garden, dotting them here and there, filling many with the water hyacinth that procreates like rabbits.

This season, I jumped into the deep end and dug two small ponds in the way back portion of my garden, one with a small water fall and the other, a still pond. Most of the month of May was devoted to plotting, digging, adjusting, exchanging pumps for more robust ones, and of course filling with water and garden accessorizing.

I used flexible liners for my two ponds, instead of the pre-formed plastic liners. I was working in a tight space and needed the flexibility of creating my own design to fit into the particular space. Also, I imagined it being an easier process than digging a hole to perfectly fit the size and shape of the molded liner.

gloriosa water lily
Water lily 'Gloriosa' is a prolific bloomer.

My advice for digging is to break it up into several smaller sessions and enjoy the 1,000s of calories that you are burning. Having a plan for the displaced soil helps, as well. I topped of my raised beds in the vegetable gardens and also created the mound above the pond, that holds the waterfall. Speaking of, my waterfall consists of two ready-made “streamlets,” easily found at home improvement stores and garden centers. Cleverly placed rocks mask their plastic edges nicely.

I had overwintered three water lilies, a lizard’s tail and a sedge grass. I visit to

water lettuce in watering can
Even a head of water lettuce in a watering can makes a splash.

Soni’s place this spring produced a lotus, a horsetail grass, a rosea, parrot’s feather, water hyacinth, and fertilizer tabs.

I think water gardening gives one the sense that you can have it all. You create your own little paradise in your backyard, and no water the size, a water garden always has a certain “wow” factor.


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