Water Gardening Friends

Josh on Josh

Text and photos by Josh Spece
Josh's photo by Helen Nash
Click on images to enlarge

My name is Josh Spece. I graduated with an AAS in Horticulture the spring of 2000 and I've been writing a column for Pond & Garden magazine entitled "Enabled Gardening" since January of 2001. I was born with a form of Muscular Dystrophy and use a wheelchair to get around. Obviously, being in a wheelchair makes many ponding activities a challenge, but I've come up with "short cuts" and my family is a great help as well.

Along with my mom, Sue, I own In The Country Garden & Gifts. Our business is located just outside of Independence, Iowa, on the family farm. We specialize in hostas, water gardens, and garden decor.

I've been fascinated by plants in general since I was very young. I now have hosta collection of over 300 varieties and three water gardens ranging in size from 1000 gallons to 3500 gallons. Not to mention numerous container ponds and many perennials.

We installed our first pond in 1990. It was a liner pond about 6x8 feet and 18 inches deep. Like so many first ponds, it was too small and not deep enough to reliably over-winter plants and fish in Iowa.

The following year we enlarged it to it's current size, 12x16 by 3 feet deep in one area. It is built into a small hill, so one side is raised by a wood retaining wall. This allows me to hand feed the fish and work with nearby plants from my wheelchair. At the opposite end is a small waterfall that empties into a small pool. A short stream connects the smaller pool to the pond.

We installed our second pond in 1999. A 40' long stream begins at the top of the hill near our gift shop door. The stream meanders down the hill, through perennial beds, and ends in an 8x12x1.5' deep pond.

We finished our third pond the spring of 2001. The largest at approximately 3500 gallons, it measures 12x20x3.5'. This pond is built into a hill and is framed by a lime rock wall across the back. Two small ponds in the garden above feed the 3 waterfalls along the back.

All of our ponds are heavily planted with hardy and tropical plants. The more unusual, the better! Many varieties of hardy and tropical water lilies, standard and miniature lotus, cattails, iris, reeds, arrowhead, parrot's feather, swamp coreopsis, several varieties of taro and cannas, pennywort, papyrus, mosaic plant, chestnuts, and several different floating plants...

I was first introduced to Victoria lilies at an Eastern Iowa Pond Club meeting. As I listened to Jaime Beyer tell the tale of his Victoria experience, the wheels in my head began turning. Could I really grow one of these monsters? Sure, I had seen them on display at botanical gardens, but I'm hardly a botanical garden!

After exploring the Internet and meeting many wonderful people, I realized it wasn't that far out of reach…for anyone! My first attempt in 2001 was unsuccessful due to uncooperative weather. However, I was successful in raising a close relative of the Victoria, the rare Euryale ferox. Our specimen reached a pad size of nearly 3 feet across and we were able to collect seeds for propagation.

Maybe not quite as impressive as a Victoria, but a step closer…

Victoria's Cousin (by Josh) 

Josh's Web Site

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