Unusual gifts for water gardeners

A water gardener compiles a wish list of practical gifts she'd love to receive.

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    These are the sort of practical products that any water gardener would love to find her his or her holiday tree.
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Has this last year’s experience with your water garden been naughty or nice?

Naughty includes when the raccoons make a mess of your pond, or all the water splashes out of your fountain, leaving your pump to run dry — arghhh!

Nice would be a quietly burbling water container near your outdoor dining spot, or a water feature that automatically turns on lights to softly glow as twilight progresses—aahhh.

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As a writer on water gardens and a member of the Garden Writers Association, I’m often given products to test out. Below are a few nifty gizmos that have helped me solve water conundrums.

Perhaps these holiday gift ideas will assist you in your own giving. Or you could put them on your hint-list in case family or friends are asking what you’d like for Christmas. And maybe these ingenious products will allow you (or someone you know) to move more of the naughties into the nice category, just in time for next spring’s water gardening.

So, here's my water gardener’s wish list (batteries not included):

Low water shut-off pump with light

I like to create large (at least three feet in diameter) containers of circulating water filled with plants. But often, I will lose enough water, either through evaporation or vigorous splashing, that the pump is in danger of running dry. Many companies (such as here and here) and make low-water shut off pumps. The one I have is by Smartpond. Rated at 200 to 300 gph, it can easily lift water four feet. The bonus — it’s sold with an LED spotlight for showing off your water feature at night.

LED rock accent lights

This is another nifty idea from the same company. Two-inch LED lights are embedded in round concrete cast stones with just enough patina that they blend well among river rocks. The package contains three lights. They may be submerged in the water or placed around the edges. A light sensor turns them on at dusk and off at sunrise.

A ScareCrow to deter wildlife

This motion sensor is shaped vaguely like a crow’s head — you can add paste-on paper eyes that come with it -- but to me, that seems over the top. Several can be installed as permanent guardians around ponds to foil fish predators—I’ve known pond owners who had multiple ScareCrows and have never lost a fish to a heron. But I simply hook up a single one to a hose, and change locations every night.

Activated by movement even in the dark, this water-gushing sprayer really came in handy when a deer broke through our fence (we have several acres supposedly deer-proofed) and wandered around my garden for two months, drifting back into the woods between forays. The fact that I had a ScareCrow meant I didn’t lose all my roses. And when I turned it toward the arbor, it did an excellent job of surprising the grape-marauding raccoons.

WaterDog for your four-legged friends

It is the giving season. How about making sure your pets have outdoor water all summer long without the hassle of a water bowl? The raccoons at my place used to love wetting down their food in the dog’s dish. Plus, here in Oregon, water dishes grow a brilliant green algae.

WaterDog is another motion-sensor device that attaches to an outside spigot. There’s an additional bib thoughtfully placed on the waterer that allows you to continue hooking up your hose. When the dog walks by, water is dispensed in a fine stream.

Most dogs love running water, so getting them to use it shouldn’t be a problem. Initially, a dab of peanut butter might encourage them to investigate. I can’t tell you how it would work with cats, but felines are pretty smart when it comes to their own comfort. So far, the raccoons haven’t figured it out. Not frost proof, so it must be removed before winter.

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Mary-Kate Mackey blogs regularly about water in the garden for Diggin' It. She is co-author of “Sunset’s Secret Gardens — 153 Design Tips from the Pros” and contributor to the “Sunset Western Garden Book,” writes a monthly column for the Hartley Greenhouse webpage and numerous articles for Fine Gardening, Sunset, and other magazines. She teaches at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism & Communication. To read more by Mary-Kate, click here.

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