Garden Diary - July 2012

Wednesday, 25 July 2012
A Visit to Aquascapes


It is really remarkable how many horticulturally interesting places to visit may be found within an hour or two of the Tohickon Garden Club's usual meeting place in Stover's Mill. Today we're off to visit Aquascapes Unlimited, a wholesale water plant nursery in Pipersville, Pennsylvania. To quote from their web site they provide "native wetland plant material for restoration, conservation and storm water projects to landscape contractors and non-profit organizations nationwide." They also grow and deliver ornamental aquatics to local garden centers and designers. A June order went to The New York Botanical Garden for the sizeable pond in their restoration of the native plant garden. Begun in 2010, this multi-year project is scheduled to open in 2013.

It's a perfect day for a garden visit, with not a cloud in the sky, low humidity, and even a nice breeze.

The 20 acre site is a certified National Wildlife Fund habitat featuring vernal pools, wet woodlands,
open meadows, and several ponds. Heated greenhouse space, outdoor wet beds, and various ponds
provide diverse growing situations for a wide range of plants, many of which are raised from seed.

Their water lilies, both hardy and tropical, are propagated by division. Aquascapes also provides cut water lilies,
lotus, and sarracenia to wholesale florists and distributors. This sunny water lily is Nymphaea 'Joey Tomocik'.

The lotus looked especially magnificent, and people were asking if any were available for sale. Alas not. "We know,"
Randy Heffner explained, "how many divisions we can get from each plant of what cultivar and what we need
to keep for stock plants." Understandable, and an example of their meticulous record-keeping and efficiency.

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As well as the true aquatics, the nursery also produces and sells emergent for the water's edge,
submergent, underwater plants, and floating plants such as this water lettuce, Pistia stratioides.
A thug in milder, more southern regions where it is illegal to sell it, our winters keep it in check.

Kicking off one of his Croc shoes Randy steps into the wet to show off - no it is not
marijuana - a vivid red flower of Hibiscus coccinea, a southeastern native perennial.

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But the real passion here at Aquascapes is for insectivorous plants, especially sarracenia. In an effort to reduce the demand for wild collected specimens and increase conservation awareness for the habitat in which they thrive they began by breeding all of the naturally occurring hybrids. They now have in place a hybridization program aimed at the development of ever showier cultivars. There's a drawback though. It takes 4 or 5 years from seed before plants are well enough developed to judge their quality. And greenhouse space over that length on time is all expense, no income. Cleverly, Aquascapes found another product to bring to market.

Aquascapes provides exotic aquatic cuts, including water lilies, lotus and Sarracenia, to wholesale florists and distributors.
Grown in outdoor wet beds with minimal winter protection but no heat, the pitcher-like stems are cut, bundled 10 to a
bunch and sold in minimums of 20 bunches to wholesale markets from New York City across the country as far as Texas.

They're exotic, attractive, and most last upwards of ten days (Sarracenia flava less.)

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It is gnats, midges, and flies that sarracenia "eat", this butterfly is perfectly safe.

We had an entertaining and informative lecture, followed by a terrific tour of the nursery. But we're not finished.
About half of our group have signed up for Randy's build-a-bog workshop. But that's another story. See here.


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