Aquatic plants such as water lettuce provide greenery, while the minimal maintenance required to keep them alive is perfect for the lazy, green-thumb types.

Just lazily floatin’ along

Aren’t ponds supposed to be small? The reason I ask is that I’ve never quite understood the phrase “across the pond”. To be honest, it would probably only make a modicum of sense to a native of the UK. We tend to use the expression to describe the section of ocean that separates us Brits from our strange neighbors several thousand miles to the west.

You’ve got it – South Canadia; otherwise known as the good ol’ US of A. The expanse of ocean water serves an extremely useful purpose – it keeps us apart very effectively. Not that they actually realize that there is anyone else outside their borders.

Bless them. They’re just so eager. Well “yeehah”, I can almost hear 290 million slightly rotund people whooping and giving each other enthusiastic ‘high fives’ without having any reason why as they chew on their hamburgers and Twinkies. Not that I would ever dream about generalizing about an entire nation, of course.

I have to be honest; I don’t know how to shake hands with many Americans. It gets a bit confusing. They start off with this multiple finger-pulling/clicking maneuver, then they hit each others’ fists, first front then top to bottom, and follow it up with a strange forearm-bashing, tribal kind of thing. The latter move seems to be optional.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few of the procedures, but that’s my point; I never really know what I’m supposed to do. Our South Canadian neighbors just don’t seem to understand that those of the British persuasion simply aren’t very good at this kind of thing. We’d far rather just, well, shake hands. It’s a lot easier, and what chaps do, after all.

One American trait that I admire is the quest to make life as easy as they can for themselves. And why not? In fact, I’m all for it. Why not spend your life doing as little work as possible if you can? It sounds like a solid plan to me, and I try to live by that doctrine daily.

I like to think that I am able to get out of the car to visit an ATM, or twist that pesky can opener by hand using good, old-fashioned wrist action, but if I had any real degree of motivation I’d be sprinting off to the gym every morning for a quick swim and a workout. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve promised myself in the evening that’s exactly what I would do the following morning, but somehow it just never seems to work out.

There’s always a somewhat plausible subconscious excuse; “I’ve got a monstrous hangover”, “I think I feel a slight twinge in my right knee”, or the all-time classic, “I really can’t be bothered this morning” as I roll over and get an extra hour of sleep rather than indulging in all the exercise nonsense.

I started this meaningless ramble thinking about ponds, believe it or not. Coincidentally, they’re the ideal addition to a garden whose owner really can’t be bothered. They’re perfect. Do you have to water plants in a pond? Obviously not. Do you need to turn the soil or worry about insufficient drainage? You get the point.

And there are plenty of choices when it comes to what to put in ponds in this part of the world. Water lilies are a great start, especially for a decent-sized pond. In fact, larger ponds produce larger and more abundant flowers. They’re not particularly difficult to get going either.

Fill a container up to two inches from the top with rich garden soil, and plant the lily upright in the center of the pot. Firm the soil around the roots leaving the crown (where the stems and roots connect) level with the soil line. Add a couple of centimeters of gravel to hold the soil in place.

Gently lower the completed planting into the pool to a depth of about 20 centimeters over the top of the pot. This depth should be increased to 30 or 40cm once the plants are established.

Lotus flowers are possibly one of the unofficial emblems of Thailand and are equally easy to grow. These things grow from tubers – those chunky sections of roots. Bear in mind that the tubers are very fragile and should be handled carefully.

Plant the tuber horizontally, and do the gravel-adding thing, in the same way as the lilies. This time, once lowered into the water, it should only be about 10 to 15 centimeters over the pot. Lotus flowers crave full sun, so make sure that they’re put in a pond that’s in the sunniest part of the garden.

Then there are the floating plants and oxygenating plants. These things are hardly the most difficult plants in the world to grow, but here are the step-by step instructions for anyone who’s unsure:

1. Take plant out of box or plastic carrier bag; 2. Put on the surface of water; 3. Open a beer; 4. Sit down and consume beer at your leisure. Any questions?

There’s no real art to them – they just kind of float around the pond. Water lettuce are perfect. In fact any plant that meanders around floating on the surface will inevitably help to keep the pond water clear and clean too. They might even provide a bit of food for the fish.

Even though the pond might to start to look a bit grubby after a while, it’s not a good idea to drain the pond frequently to clean it, as this disrupts the natural ecosystem of the pond. The key to keeping a pond clean is to stock it properly with the right kinds of plants from the beginning.

Equally as important is to not overstock your pond with fish, or over-feed the ones that are there. Too many fish will result in not enough oxygen to go around, and rather murky water, as they all swim around in their own…by-products. The bottom line is that a properly-stocked pond will prevent those rather nasty algae blooms before they ever get started. Once your pond gets going, the less you do, the better.

Going “across the pond” in Phuket is a completely different experience from the Atlantic. It won’t take anywhere near as long, you can do so with Heineken in hand, and you’re not quite as likely to be greeted at the far side by a loud person whooping and trying to slap his palm against yours in mid-air while muttering phrases like “good jahb”. Americans are a strange lot.

P.S. Mr Heineken Phuket representative – the Gazette office is open from 9am to 6pm for complimentary beer deliveries for the gardening columnist.



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