Because there’s no permanent natural water on our place, the main aquatic habitat we can provide for wildlife is near the house (where, if we don’t collect enough rainwater, we can use city water–in fact, the water garden began with city water supply.) It has an upper, stream-like section (small pools with low “falls” into each other, all in the shade) and a bottom pool that’s a 10×20 foot lily pond–with wide shallow ledges around the edge and a deep “trench” in the middle for the lilies.
To provide some vertical plantlife for dragonflies, damselflies, and other insects that need emergent vegetation, we added in pickerelweed and water iris. The water iris turned out to be very aggressive. Periodically we have to cut it back, and that’s a huge chore.
The irises were both shading and crowding out the water lilies, taking up more than half the pond surface…in the picture above, Richard has started cutting them off at water level. The mat was dense enough for him to stand it’s supported below by the wide shallow ledge one foot down.
We don’t want to get rid of the irises completely in the lower pond–the dragonflies love to sit on the leaves; the spreadwing damsels oviposit in the stems, and the mass of roots below the water line is a fine habitat for tadpoles and odonate larvae. But we also like the waterlilies. We used to have three colors (white, yellow, pink) and we think the irises completely choked off the white ones (they were on the iris end of the group.)
And when the root-mat gets this thick, it’s attractive to more than the little critters we want–we don’t mind the occasional red-lined-ribbon snake, even if it does eat some of what the pond’s intended to grow, but the larger water snakes that move in when the irises fill up the place clean out the whole frog population for awhile–and that’s not good.
The long leaves cut from the irises gave me ideas–they ought to be good for something–and this morning I tried a simple weave of the full-width leaves (and by the way, I love the delicate purple at the bottom of the leave-bundle!):
I thought, being flat, they’d be more flexible, but they do “crack” somewhat. I’m not sure if they need to be pressed flat, or perhaps slit into narrower sections and dried, or what. This was only a first dry–I just feel that such lovely long leaves should be useful…they’re nearly waterproof, for instance, as the beads of water from last night’s storm showed.
Getting the root-mat out will be difficult. The rhizomes are thick and hard (a chain saw cuts them, and so does an axe, but the pool has a liner which cuts a lot easier.) And they’re *heavy*. If we can get a stout plank between the liner on the shelf and the root mat, then we could use the brute-force method of cutting up the rhizomes and haul them out one by one.
We need to get them back to 1/4 or less of the lily pond area, which will open up better habitat for the lily-loving species.
[Edited in the afternoon to add picture of Richard on the root mat.]