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Robyn's Pond Newsletter September 2002

Last Updated: 2/14/14

Introduction and Miscellaneous:

If you have something pond-related that you want to share (information, jokes, web sites, something pond-related for sale), let me know, and I will add it to the next newsletter. What topics would you like me to cover? Do you have a question whose answer I don't know that I can pose to others in the next newsletter?

I would love to have some contributions to this newsletter so you don't just have to listen to me spout off water stories like a fountain. If you have a funny or interesting pond-related story or article, send it to me, and I will put it in the next newsletter. What's the strangest animal you ever found near or in the pond? What's the funniest or most strange thing that's happened to your pond? What are the biggest lessons you've learned? Or, just tell us about your pond. We're all curious!

My book has finally gotten a review. You can read it on under Robyn's Pond Book or at under gardening books.

Significantly Altered or New Pond Web Pages (explanations below, numbers match):

1. (URL changed to a new directory in 2014)
2. (altered from the original URL since I moved it)
3. [Link updated with frog page move.]

Additions or Changes to Robyn's Pond Web Pages:

1. I have added eleven new digital pond photos. There are two photos of a pair of fawns under other animals and then mammals (fawn1.jpg, fawn2.jpg). The first photo shows them by the pond on 7/18/02. We have lots of deer so it's not uncommon to see 4 fawns playing together 30 feet from the house but it was rare to get a photo of some by the pond since they don't sit still! The next four photos were all taken on 8/1/02, at dawn. A photo of my 2 gallon pot pond with tropical water canna and a fake pink water lily is under other ponds and summer 2002 (pot.jpg). The white/pink tropical night-blooming lily can be seen under summer 2002 big pond photos (nightlily.jpg). A picture of the entire pond can be seen under summer 2002 big pond photos as well (aug2002.jpg). A shot of many of the pond goldfish and one orfe can be seen under summer 2002 pond fish (pondfish.jpg).

On 8/3/02, I went crazy with photos of my one lotus flower I got this year in my 50 gallon lotus tub. The four first-day lotus flower photos can be seen under other ponds and summer 2002 (lotus1.jpg, lotus2,jpg, lotus3.jpg, lotus4.jpg). I took shots from afar, from the side with my hand for size, from above (tilted), and showing the flower with some leaves respectively.

The final photo I added was actually taken on 5/29/01 but I just developed the old roll of film it was on in my old camera. It is of a Colorific iris flower. It's really beautiful. Go to the spring 2001 section to see it as the third photo down the list (color.jpg).

[Note: You can skip the descriptions on the site and go right to the photo by typing followed by the file name in parenthesis like pot.jpg.]

2. I added a new section on hawks and owls. Lately, I have had two people say that owls fed at their pond. One person had a pair of screech owls that ate their goldfish. Another had a barred owl that mutilated and perhaps ate some frogs. I do not know if they actually say them in the act but owls may dine at ponds.

3. I added a section on fun amphibian facts. If you have one to add, let me know. A group of frogs is called an army. A group of toads is called a knot. I've seen half a dozen toads mating, and it does look like some big knot. Somehow though I can't picture frogs marching like an army!

Happenings at Robyn's Ponds:

1. My first and only lotus flower for this year opened on 8/3/02. It was in the 50 gallon lotus tub pond and started out a nice pink. The first day, it looked well (see photos) in the morning and then a storm hit and ripped it. By the next day, it was infested with Japanese beetles (they are really bad this year) and little bugs and falling apart already. By the third day, it had bleached out white from the sun. Last year, I had about a dozen flowers on three plants but this year, the lotus have not done well (as far as flowering). The three separate plants I have now are all from the same plant. The original plant's leaves are turning yellow and brown and most were cut off by September. They get proper fertilization so I don't know why. It's been unbearably hot this year with most days over 90 and many days near 100. The lotus should like that but maybe it's too much.

2. On 8/4/02, I re-did the back 18 gallon liner pond which is really just a drinking trough for the deer. Even with bailing water back there daily, the pond was down to nothing but mud. I hauled out the electrical cords and three hoses to shop vacuum it out, squirt it down, and refill with fresh water. I put in excess water lettuce and one water hyacinth from the main pond which the deer will eat. They don't like to eat the water lettuce though. I put in a mosquito dunk to keep them from breeding.

3. On 8/4/02, I squirted off the flosses and tidied up at the main pond. Due to a severe storm the day before, the cattails, hardy canna, lizard tail, dwarf cattail, and a few other plants had fallen over so I tried to right them. Hopefully, they'll stay put. I trimmed out more of the aquatic grass in the overflow that cuts up my hands. I regret adding it from a local drainage pond four years ago. It's really a vicious weed! (See below under rice cut grass!) The watercress in the waterfall was all brown and dormant for the heat of the summer so I pulled out 8 buckets of dead watercress and two huge burr plants with softball-sized root systems. Included in the stuff I took out was some 20 pounds of brown slop which was a mix of watercress roots and the tons of debris they collected while doing a great filtering job. I made sure to save the few green pieces of watercress which by fall will take off growing again, now with the room they need. New watercress will also grow from seed. The waterfall now looks empty. The impatien I planted in there a few months ago died (lack of sun under the watercress most likely) so I transplanted one of the terrestrial half-dead impatiens that the deer had almost killed into the waterfall where I hope it will bloom. (Note, it soon died too) The pond water was 81 degrees F with air temperature in the mid-90's. The water lettuce seems to like this as it's taking off. The water hyacinth is turning brown (not yellow) perhaps from too much heat and sun.

4. On 8/11/02, I got into the pond to remove the flosses to be cleaned as usual. I also put the Cyprio bio-things in a kiddie pool and cleaned them off. The water was 72 degrees F (I got in earlier in the day than usual). I uprighted the hardy canna pots which had fallen over out of reach earlier in the week. I removed a lot of the tropical night-blooming lily's leaves that were yellow and many healthy ones that were blocking light to the hardy lilies. Two hardy lilies were still putting out flowers. One put out about a flower a week. The red and pink ones still have yet to flower even once this year despite repotting in early spring. The red lily I put in two pots seems like it is almost dead now with only a few discolored leaves. I wish I knew why! These same lilies have clones in my 153 gallon pond and haven't bloomed there this year either. The raccoon pulled out the frog fruit again! I tried to stuff some back in. I also put two pieces in the waterfall overflow and the 20 gallon lotus tub pond to give them more chances. While tending to the fruit fruit, that nasty grass I got from the park cut me again. See pond tidbit #2 below for what this plant is!

5. I got into the pond on 8/18/02 to remove the flosses for cleaning. I also squirted out the main bioballs. The water was up to 80 degrees F and by the time I finished the pond work, the air was 96 degrees F. It was time to add fertilizer but disaster struck. Working alone, I dropped the bottle of pills into the pond. I pulled them right back out but they were soaked. I had to use up as many as I could. I tried to jam them into pots but there was, as usual, no room. So, I left some sitting in pots or put rocks on top of them sitting in pots. It remains to be seen if I will get an algae bloom from this or not (I didn't; thank you water lettuce for blocking out all light to the pond.). I over-fertilized all the pots I could to use up the pills while they were still intact. The remaining pills soon turned to mush, a loss of about $15. The pond was 100% covered due to water lettuce. I removed and tossed into the weeds, 4 buckets (or about 10 compressed gallons) of water lettuce. They were covered in aphids but still prolific. It's always a shame to throw out plants I could theoretically sell. Water lettuce must not taste very good as the deer and raccoon won't eat it. They both love to eat water hyacinth but my hyacinth is doing really poorly this year.

6. I forgot to mention something that I noticed at my pond. In early August, a nasty wind (with no rain, of course) from a dry thunderstorm knocked over a lot of plants in my pond including my hardy water canna (Thalia dealbata). As I couldn't reach them from shore, I let them stay knocked over for a few days until Sunday came, and I got into the pond to upright them. When I did so, I noticed that all the canna flowers/berries that were laying in the water had been stripped. So, apparently, goldfish, koi, and/or orfe like to eat hardy canna flowers or fruit (they were partly still flower and partly fruit). The bumble bees sure like the nectar too.

7. I found my poor dead female shubunkin goldfish in my 1800 gallon pond on 8/23/02. She had been there a few days but the water lettuce hid her body. I had noticed her hanging out by my Cyprio filter's waterfall. She appeared to have dropsy or some other swelling problem. As it came on suddenly, it was different than what has afflicted other goldfish I had that swelled to enormous, asymmetrical sizes slowly over a few years. I only have two shubunkins left, a male and a female that was born in my pond in 1998 whose mother was probably this dead fish. I think I may get a few more shubunkins in spring. I haven't added any new fish to my pond since 1998!

8. I finally used my Victor No Poison Wasp and Hornet spray (see my web site section on dealing with bees, wasps, and hornets by the pond) on some paper wasps under my rabbits' hutch on 8/24/02. It worked great. The spray was strong, shot far, was easy to aim, and the mint-smelling soapy foam got the wasps to abandon the nest quickly. Since it's non-toxic, the spray didn't bother my rabbit, the bluebirds nesting 10 feet away, or I. This spray would work near a pond as well. Due to the soap, avoid getting it into the water but even if you did, it probably wouldn't prove deadly to fish unless the pond were tiny.

9. On 8/25/02, I squirted off the flosses and cleaned the Cyprio bio-things. I pulled up the hose to try to squirt into the filter box and collect the sludge that came out at the same time. I used to do this with my brother's help with me in the pond collecting, and he on land squirting water but he didn't want to help me anymore and often isn't around at the right time. Necessity is the mother of invention! The pond water was 78 degrees F. The weather has finally shifted! Highs are now in the 80's and not 90's! It actually rained half an inch on 8/24/02, our first measurable rain in over a month! My tropical orange canna bloomed! This was my first tropical canna to bloom (I've had about 3 of them; they never overwinter for me inside). It turned out yellow though! I took some photos which will be in the next newsletter. My white/pink night-blooming tropical lily has taken over the pond, along with the water lettuce. The leaves go out over 6 feet from the plant! I have to remove some that are smothering out the hardy lilies which are barely alive (except for my yellow Chromatella which is doing great).

10. On 8/31/02, I saw our female hummingbird feeding on first my red hardy canna (Thalia dealbata) flowers and then the tropical yellow canna! She was sucking away at the flowers but I don't think she got much nectar.

11. On 9/1/02, I got in the pond and removed the flosses for squirting. I tidied up, removing a lot of water lettuce and most of the remaining lotus leaves which were yellow and brown (the other two lotus in the tubs which are from the same plant are still thriving but not flowering). The pond water was down to 68 degrees F as we had a few cloudy, rainy days.

12. On 9/2/02, I repotted the three iris in my 153 gallon pond and also the sweetflag and one of the water lilies in there because the yellow flag iris had grown into it. All five repotted plants went into (too small) one gallon pots due to space limitations in this pond. I moved about 100 pounds of excess iris to a low spot along our road where water collects when it rains. In the past, I've moved extra iris, lizard tail, hardy canna, and water willow to that area, and they're all still hanging in there. The deer keep chomping on them but the lizard tail and water willow still flowered in this non-ideal location. The yellow flag iris had grown from its one gallon pot and took over two other one gallon pots. I had to pull the whole mess out at once. It must have weighed 30 pounds and covered at least 6 square feet! This was still not as big as the one I repotted in my 1800 gallon pond last fall. It had grown at least two feet out in all directions from its two gallon pot. Needless to say, yellow flag iris is invasive and not native to Maryland. These five repottings took about two hours of hard labor and left my fingernails stained black (as always when I root in the yucky mud found in old water plant pots!). There was absolutely tons of hornwort and ramshorn snails. I probably accidently missed some that got stranded on land but figure there was so many, it won't matter much to the pond (but I'm sure to the strandies!). It must have been the tons of ramshorns who've been eating most of the water lily leaves this year in this pond. I put in a new barley straw pad and holder into this pond while I was at it. The old straw's in there somewhere!

Interesting Animal Sightings:

1. The bluebirds out back hatched around 8/11/02. The mother didn't need to incubate half the time or brood as the temperatures were in the 90's daily! Bluebirds aren't supposed to nest this late but they went for their third batch! Considering we never could get successful nesting of bluebirds until last year (after 25 years), this is amazing to me. They're also at the edge of woods, not really near open fields like they are supposed to prefer. On 8/13/02, a squirrel was trying to chew her way into the bluebird feeder which is about 5 feet from the bluebirds' house. While the bluebirds haven't touched the expensive bluebird foods in there, the squirrel was jamming her head in and eating her fill. But while she was doing this, the male bluebird was dive bombing her! He was actually making contact and knocking her around but she was not deterred in the least! The four babies fledged by 8/25/02.

2. We have a bee house that is essentially holes drilled deep into a block of wood. This year, there are six cells that are capped. I do not know if they are orchard bees, mason bees, or some other solitary bee or wasp. These stinging insects rarely sting and do not have hives. They are good pollinators. I didn't think the house would work but it did. Here is a site with photos of some houses (I don't think the software is working to buy from them though):

3. Speaking of stinging insects, I cannot believe how many were at my main pond! The drought has been so bad. We were 17.1+ inches below in rain for the last year (9/1/01 to 8/28/02). Some reservoirs were nearing 25% capacity which should be about 75% this time of year. The trees are dropping leaves like it's October in August. Plants are dying left and right. The beautiful 20- year-old weeping cherry next to my big pond is half dead. The weeds are wilting and dying, even Japanese bittersweet vine which is a horrible invasive. A newspaper columnist joked that the snakeheads were hitching plane rides back to China but they were poisoned on 8/18/02 and 9/4/02. The deer were drinking 10 gallons of water a day out of the back pond. I couldn't bail it fast enough. Almost all the natural bodies of water, some containing a million gallons before, were empty. How many tadpoles, fish, dragonfly larvae, etc. dessicated in the 90-100 degree F heat that we've had virtually every day for two months (the newsman said over 49 days above 90)?! If you were to have visited my pond between 11 am and 7 pm on one of these 90+ days, you would have sees literally hundreds, maybe thousands of wasps, hornets, bees, dragonflies, and other bugs all over the pond, using my hundreds of water lettuce as landing pads to get a sip of water. The raccoon has been eating the water hyacinth so it is doing poorly. The water lettuce is growing like crazy and covers most of the pond. Frogs are using the tropical lily leaves which are strong to sit on. I wonder if they try to eat stinging insects? Ouch! When I work around the pond, I could no longer bother to try to avoid the stinging insects because there were so many. I just moved slowly and hoped they got out of the way. I only hope that they are so grateful for water that they continue to not sting me! Now I know what those of you in desert regions go through in a normal year! After almost a year of drought, they finally issued mandatory water restrictions in our area (like it's going to help now!) but only that we shouldn't wash our cars (I don't do that anyway!), squirt off our driveways (why in the world would I do that and waste water under any conditions?), run fountains (only in fine print does it provide an exemption for recirculating systems but I've never even heard of a non-recirculating system!), and water our lawns (what lawn? I think I've mowed twice in the last 3 months and then it was just a dust cloud; this is one bonus of drought!). Since we're on a well, we try to save water by not flushing toilets unless they really need it, letting most of the plants outside finish dying, and try to use less water for daily chores. But, I try to keep the ponds topped off by adding water daily. I was losing about two inches a day at the worst except in the ponds the deer drink out of which I was ready to give up on. Of course, I knew if I didn't keep some water in there, they'd be into my 153 gallon pond, putting weight on the edging and ripping out anacharis as well as dropping the water level four inches in one day like they did in the past. Enough talk of drought and heat! I can't wait for winter! I'm hoping we get some snow to fly this year! We got like one inch last year. The weather finally changed on 8/24/02 with a little bit of rain and normal temperatures! Then, on 8/28/02, it rained all day! Hooray!! Bring on the floods! We got almost 2 inches, the most rain in one day since September 2001. Heck, it's the most rain we've had total since last spring! It does come at a price. Tadpoles overboard! The rain caused the 20 gallon lotus tub pond which had 100's of green frog tadpoles to overflow. For two days, twice a day, I rescued stranded tadpoles floundering in the mud and tossed them into my 1800 gallon pond instead of back into the 20 gallon tub pond.

4. A juvenile great blue heron was sighted by my mother one night in mid-August. I never saw it. It was too fritzy to stay or even try to reach any fish and left.

Web Sites of Interest:

1. Want a good laugh? See for stupid warning labels. Here's another one not on that site that I saw elsewhere that at least involves water (as this is supposed to be pond related!): "When this sign is under water, road is impassable."

2. Have no time to spare? Then, don't play this neat aquarium game. It's addictive!

3. Here is a site with information on mosquito control and the West Nile Virus at
These guys are in a neighboring county to me. The information seems okay especially since they don't say to get rid of ponds like many experts do. They say just to add fish and/or aeration/circulation. Yet another good site for information on the West Nile Virus is An interesting fact: An American is more likely to die from falling in a hole, falling down the stairs, taking antibiotics, or a cave-in than from West Nile Virus.

4. The site has a lot of pond stuff on it.

5. The Game Commission in Pennsylvania has ordered that all orphaned wild animals there (except endangered species and migratory birds) be killed by being shot, bludgeoned, or other "humane" methods instead of going to the over 50 wildlife rehabilitators in the state. See the story at

6. This interesting National Wildlife article on Hawaiian bugs includes a section on some interesting damselflies found there. See

What's your favorite pond-related web site(s)?
Do you have a web site you want me to mention here?

Pond Tidbits:

1. There are many plants that can be planted at the edge of the pond that will cascade over the rocks and into the water. We have tried creeping thyme, creeping sedum, mint (invasive, will root in the pond, between the edging too), carpet juniper (spikey!), and cotonester. Many grasses and irises also work well. There are many "creeping" plants from which to choose. By having plants cover some of the rock work, it "softens" the edges and makes the pond look more natural. For those ponds with exposed liner, it also helps hide and protect that exposed liner. Our juniper by the outlet covers a large steep area of rock. I have to cut it back a few times a year with thick gloves. Inside the pond, putting marginals near the edge as well as floating plants can hide the pond's imperfections and soften the edges.

2. On 8/11/02, we went to visit a plant expert to see her millions of plants and many ponds. Her Mrs. Perry D. Slocum lotus was in bloom and was gorgeous. This was the variety I bought but got some pink lotus instead with a label for Perry's Sunburst which is yellow! My pink lotus put out just one flower this year. This lady has muskrats and beaver in her two ponds that are almost an acre each. They are full of water lilies which were all shut when we got there at 3 pm. Anyway, I brought along my nasty grass that has taken over part of my pond and slices my arms up. She identified it as rice cut grass or Leersia oryzoides. Apparently, it is common and considered good in this area and in the plains. Down South, it's considered a weed. It is also native to the UK where it is endangered. Here are some web sites I found on this plant: - look up Rice Cutgrass on their search system. They say "Getting caught in a patch of rice cut grass with bare legs is an unpleasant experience." That's an understatement! I barely brushed it, and my arm and hand have cuts all over them. - they sell it as seeds or in flats or plugs for prairies!

3. It is possible to sprout new water iris from seeds. Most often the plants grow so well that division of the rhizome (root) is enough to provide the ponder with many more plants. I once divided a yellow flag iris that was in a 2 gallon pot but extended in a circle of about five feet so I could have gotten 20 some pieces for 20 pots if I had room. Anyway, you can harvest iris seeds when they are brown and the pods start to split open. Store them inside over winter in a paper bag. They may last for several years in that state. When ready to plant, some people suggest nicking the outer shell as with lotus but I've gotten some to sprout without doing so. Put the seeds down into wet mud, just below the surface or with a little of the seed showing. I've had seeds sprout in my shallow gravel covered overflow area and on land next to the pond. I had scattered some seeds around a number of years ago and some came up. Not many, but a few. To get more to sprout, grow in seed flats and keep the dirt nearly soaked. I have many water iris now on land from extras during repotting and a few from seed. They survive but none has flowered. That may be due to lack of water and/or nibbling deer.

4. Someone asked if I was ever going to create a page on indoor ponds. I thought about it but can't seem to determine what I could put on the page that wouldn't be found somewhere else on my pages about aquariums and ponds. About the only new thing would be links to sites about indoor ponds. An indoor pond is part aquarium and part pond. It's an aquarium because you can control the "weather" and "wild animals" which should not be present in an indoor pond. It's also easier to control water quality and water changes since it never rains inside (you hope!). It's a pond because you can grow live plants, you view the fish from the top and not the side, it's generally larger than an aquarium (but not necessarily), and fish can jump out. I have an indoor 20 gallon tub pond in winter only (see I've found that the biggest problems with indoor ponds include the following: getting enough natural or artificial full-spectrum lighting to keep the plants alive (if natural sun is inadequate, a bunch of fluorescent plant lights or better yet expensive metal halides are needed), keeping the fish from jumping out which they seem more apt to do than when in an outdoor pond (I use hardware cloth over where the water splashes down which is where most fish try to swim upstream and jump but a net may be needed if fish are extra jumpy), and doing water changes. Water changes are usually a challenge as most indoor ponds are in the basement or lowest level so you cannot use gravity to vacuum the water out. I have to bail about 3-4 gallons a week to do partial water changes. I hate bailing! I've seen a few lovely indoor ponds that were amazing. You can go all out and make an indoor tropical paradise. Indoor ponds can have regular pond fish but they can also have almost any tropical fish since they don't get cold in winter. Local aquariums and zoos often have indoor amazon river exhibits that drive us aquarists and ponders crazy with jealousy!

5. Ray provided these tips in response to the list of problems that I've had with my pond's tubing. He said to get PVC onto a tight connection, heat it with a lighter, moving the flame constantly, so it gets soft and then slide it over the pump fitting. I don't think I would attempt this in my case. A metal ring is holding my pump's tubing on. Now, it only pops off a few times a year instead of twice a week. I put the same metal hose clamp on my Cyprio filter too as it was popping off daily. This year, it hasn't come off yet. Ray also said to clean out PVC pipe, you can cut the metal part off an old hose, put the hose in as far as it goes, and turn on the water to try to flush it clean. We've tried that already but the builders put a nearly 90 degree turn in my tubing only a few feet from the inlet which nothing will go past (except whatever water gets pumped through obviously). And, at the outlet end, it's 4 feet down the biological filter barrel so we can't manipulate much into that smaller opening either. To reduce friction and increase flow, avoid turns in tubing wherever possible. The people I hired could have easily made the turn more gradual. I never noticed until it was over. No, I can't fix it really. The tubing goes out at the liner level under tons of rock and then 4 feet under the ground covered with more tons of rock. I dread the day when the tubing starts to leak. I guess I'd have to install an above ground filter that would be hideous. Due to bad soil, drought, and deer, nothing grows well on land so hiding things with plantings basically won't work.

6. Apple snails love to eat plants. Connie recently asked me what was snapping and cutting off her lily leaves near the base and leaving them floating around. When she said she had apple snails, that triggered a memory that I had the same thing happen in my 1800 gallon pond in 1997. That first year, I put in some apple snails, and they did the same thing. I did not realize they were tropical at the time so they all died over winter. The females also left their classic yellow crusty egg patches on my sweetflag a few times that summer.


"The stakes are high. Once the wild places and the wild things that live there are gone, we Americans will lose our sense of uniqueness; we will have no place to go to test our knowledge of ourselves as individuals; and we will watch our genius for discovery atrophy. Wilderness is as American as apple pie food for the soul. We need all of it that is left, for without it we will surely starve." - Karen Shepherd.

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