House & Home

View from the Garden: Live a Little, Plant a Lotus in Your Garden

About 23 years ago, shortly after we bought our Sag Harbor house, I put one of those almost-kidney-shaped, small plastic ponds in my just-started garden. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an artist and a farmer when I grew up. I studied art in college so that part was covered and while I lived in the city for many years, I read about farming and gardening constantly. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable but I learned “in the trenches” that I had a very basic knowledge of plants and gardening. But I was ready to make that garden as soon as we got, as we say in Nebraska, “some land.” This term covers farmland and the land that is your yard. The dream garden included a pond. I bought one from a local garden center.

Having read about plastic pond installation, I felt confident installing it and then confident again when re-installing it three years later as it had “sunk a little” on the right. It still is lower on the right but looks stable so that is where it will stay. Over the years, a densely planted bed has been installed around it.

When I had had enough of The City and moved here full time, I was very fortunate to get a job
in a local garden center as a gardener—that reading paid off.

I have been living my childhood dream since then! And I still make art! How lucky am I?

About 15 years ago the man I worked for at that time gave me a fat lotus tuber and told me that it could grow in a pot sunk into the ground with wet soil—it did not need to be in a pond. I planted it next to the kidney pond in a 24” wide and deep plastic pot with no holes, in garden soil, and added water. In late spring the next year, leaves appeared. It made no flowers for several years but the leaves are so beautiful and I felt so proud of myself that I didn’t care. When it did finally bloom, I was thrilled and enchanted. It has produced one flower every season since then, except this year—it has two right now!

I might get more flowers if I followed the principles of lotus growing: Separate the tubers in the pot every 2-3 years and replant one (check out how to do this online, as it needs to be done with specific care) having replaced the soil with garden soil—ideally clay. This will yield more tubers for you or your friends. Fertilize regularly with lotus food. Keep 3”-4” of water on top of the soil.

Lotus grows at the edge of wetlands and can make very large stands. In a pot, the tubers grow around the pot, the new ones forming on top of the dead ones. Maybe that cycle in my pot fertilizes it.

About nine years ago, I built a large trough for lotus in a stone wall for a client. The trough was lined with pool liner. I ordered tubers online and planted them according to the included instructions. (I no longer assume that I know how to do it.) The trough is now filled with amazing, huge dish-shaped leaves on 4” stems and exotic and fragrant flowers, summer through killing frosts.

If you plant in a pool liner in soil, be attentive because the plant’s growing tips are very strong and can pierce the liner making underground leaks.

Growing it in pots works for me.

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067. jeanellemyersfinegardening.com

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