Water Gardening by Touch

Doug Rose, left, and Patti Rose, right. Patti

Last week’s interview was about people who live with blindness finding vastly expanded possibilities in their other senses. Here is an example in this guest post on touch and sound used for business and pleasure by Doug Rose.

My sighted wife and I have been water gardening as a hobby and as a business for years.

The sounds, sensations and odors involved with water gardening are unique. I never get bored with listening to water features and all the various sounds you can create. Originally I disliked the softer trickle sounds as opposed to the big rushing sounds. But I have come to acquire an appreciation for the gentle trickle. To me a waterfall sounds like a jazz composition. Even though the flow rate is consistent the water will create variations in sound. I have spent countless hours experimenting with the sound by placing rocks or other objects in the flow to create new water melodies. Hopefully the sound changes I make are also visually pleasing. Other sounds I have noted are the kissing sounds fish make when they feed or the distinct sounds of dragon flies as they move. Every summer night is filled with the courting sounds of frogs. But it is not just the sounds that make water features so attractive.

Water has a smooth flat surface to touch, and a relaxing therapeutic feel when flowing. Perhaps this is why fish swim into the flow off a waterfall. I am continuously fascinated by the feel of water lily leaves floating and their various sizes, shapes and sinuous constructions. The stems are hollow and make for good drinking straws. When I touch a dying leaf and stem it has quite a different feel.

In murky water, my sighted wife, Patti, often asks me to feel inside the pot of waterlilies and see how many growing points have developed.

Repotting a water lily is like uncovering a mystery. It is easy to divide waterlilies by touch. The anchor roots and the feeder roots can be distinguished with finger-tips. I can find new plants and separate them from the old root stock entirely by touch. The water lily flowers have so many different fragrances. From my above- ground pond I can pull a flower to my nose to savor the smells. My above-ground pond also makes it easy to access all the sensations of water gardening and it is ergonomically satisfactory for seniors.

Most marginal plants can be identified by touch or fragrance. Aquatic mint and acorus both have a distinct smell. Grasses are obvious and some have edges. Corkscrew rush curls and iris have strap leaves. Floating hearts might be a bit of a challenge because some water lilies have small leaves too, but their flowers are quite different.

 Braille labels are perfect! The braille dots on plastic are resilient. They never break down or become unreadable from a covering of algae. String algae are another venture into mystery land. In the spring it is mushy and doesn’t stick together. The summer version is where it gets its name. I don’t need sight to collect string algae but pea soup algae are a different story. I only know about pea soup algae after a sighted person reports it. But without sight I can still enjoy a green pond whereas sighted folks want to change it.

Much of the work of pond maintenance and pond construction can be performed without vision. I use a talking tape measure, beeping electronic level, talking weight scale, and talking thermometer to aid in construction and maintenance. As soon as a talking salt meter and talking water test kit come on the market I will have them.

The speech program on my computer gives me access to the same tools as a sighted gardener. I gather information about water gardening, calculate water volumes, receive weather reports, and function as president of our local water garden club.

Water Gardening is a very viable option for visually impaired gardeners done as a hobby or as a job. I welcome anyone interested in following-up on this topic to contact me


(707) 839-0588

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *