Monrovia Plant Savvy
design, inspiration and practical ideas from the plant experts. August 2012
the year of the dragonfly

Dear Savvy Gardener,


Time to pay homage to dragonflies – and their cousins, the damselflies (order Odonata). These double-winged creatures are fantastic skeeter eaters. They just devour all sorts of pesky insects, like mosquitos, ants, flies, gnats and termites. If you don’t already have these flying friends zipping around your yard, you might want to start attracting them to your garden. The colorful little guys are fun to watch...big red ones, little blue ones and iridescent green pond lovers. Dragonflies can fly forward at about 100 body lengths per second and backwards at about three body lengths per second; and they can hover in the air for about a minute.

Water is essential for dragonflies, but size of the source doesn’t matter.  If you don’t have an in-ground pond, consider making a water garden in a large container, like a half wine barrel.  That’s enough to bring dragons and damsels to your garden.  A mini water garden is an easy project  to tackle in hot weather and it will really pay off.

The presence of dragonflies and damselflies is likely an indication of a healthy ecosystem. Plus, they’ll eat plenty of unwanted bugs in your garden. 
attract dragonflies to your garden
  Miniature Cattail leafgif   plants to pond-er

While dragonflies are carnivores and don’t rely on plants for their diet, they are partial to foliage in and around the pond where they can safely hang out.  They need shelter, relief from the heat and a place to lay their eggs.  Like butterflies, they enjoy flat rocks near the water where they can warm themselves by basking in the sun. Plant Grasses, like Sedge, Sweet Flag, Cattail and Horsetail, around the perimeter of the pond.  Never mow the grasses; you want thick dense, lush plants to nurture our bug-eating friends.

  Variegated Japanese Water Iris
leafgif   splash of color

Layer in some color around your pond, starting with Siberian Iris. They are the water-loving Iris, unlike African types that are just the opposite. Plant around the edge of the pond, or keep in the container and submerge in the water.  Ruffled Velvet has huge deep purple flowers and Chilled Wine has pretty red-violet blooms.  Another one to try is Variegated Japanese Water Iris, which has bright purple flowers, and when not in bloom, still adds interest with bright foliage.  All are quite cold hardy, to zone 4.

  Tropicanna® Gold Canna leafgif   cannas for color

Cannas make a big statement with huge flowers in red, orange, yellow, white and rose…plus foliage ranging from green and gold to almost black.  Tropicanna® Gold has big leaves of green with gold stripes and vivid yellow-orange blooms.  Tropicanna® Black, with its dark chocolate foliage and bright red flowers, will provide great contrast against green and gold-leafed plants.  Tropical Yellow , with its huge yellow blooms flecked with rose, would be very pretty alongside purple Iris. Don’t forget Elephant Ears  for a lush, tropical look to a water garden. They are part of the Taro root family, eaten throughout Polynesia and tropical Asia.  They will spread freely in lush, damp soil.  Try the dusty-black, extra large foliage of Black Magic.

  Paprika Common Yarrow


dry conditions pond-side?

Those in drier climates might have a pond, surrounded by rocks and need more water-wise plants.  Yarrow is easy to grow, has long-lasting brightly colored flowers and lacy foliage.  Coronation Gold  and Moonshine have cheery yellow blooms; Paprika brightens the garden with red-brown flowers.  Tall Verbena thrives in hot, dry conditions, and its showy rose-purple flowers are long lasting.  Fountain Grass is another good choice for dry areas around your pond.  Fireworks has strappy variegated foliage of white, green, burgundy and hot pink. Little Bunny is a dwarf variety, reaching just 12 inches, yet full of fluffy white tassel-like blooms.