When owner Jill Hartman began JMH Greenhouse and Water Gardens in 2006, only cattle and hay were raised on the 20 acres about 45 minutes south of Olympia, Wash. Cattle and hay are still part of what she does, but she has added greenhouses, peacocks, annuals, perennials and ponds with koi, goldfish and water plants.

“Anything can be a pond if it holds water,” Hartman said, gesturing to the various examples around her. “Even if somebody has two ponds, they aren’t going to be the same because of shade, sun, size, or the plants and animals you put in them.”

In addition to the pond plants, Hartman also offers koi and goldfish.

“They are both in the carp family,” she says. “If you don’t know which you have, the koi have barbles, kind of like catfish whiskers.”

Koi can get up to 36 inches long.

“In the summer, the pond plants multiply every two weeks. The pond plants are tropical. At the end of the season,” Hartman explains, “we just toss them out, as they won’t survive the winter. In Florida, they are considered to be noxious weeds. Here we treat them as annuals.”

Both 70-foot greenhouses are set up with huge tanks that demonstrate how the natural filtration system works.

“It is a continuous cycle. The fish fertilize the plants and the plants provide shady places for the fish to hide or spawn,” Hartman says.

JMH has many types of pond plants, two of which are water hyacinth and water lettuce.

“We have more pond plants than anywhere in Lewis County,” Hartman says. “Many are free-floating plants.”

She demonstrates by pulling a water hyacinth out of the water.

“Their roots hang down,” she says, showing the roots that look like long hair. “They use the extra nutrients in the water and help clean the pond.”

Hartman pulls up another handful of a different plant.

“This is water lettuce,” she says. “See how its roots also hang down? It works the same way as the water hyacinth when it comes to cleaning the pond’s water.”

In addition to the pond plants and fish, the greenhouses also house annuals and vegetables.

“Many pond plants can be garden plants,” Hartman says. “We keep everything as natural as possible — no chemicals. We want our plants to mimic nature.”

What got Hartman interested in such an enterprise?

“My mom had an old bathtub that sat in the yard,” she says. “It had water hyacinth, water lettuce, and goldfish. That’s where it all began.”

Hartman sold pond hard goods online for many years before starting her current business. She still sells calcium bentonite clay, kaolins, and diatomaceous earth.

“We are open year ’round, but most of our business is April through August,” Hartman says.

“A garden is never done. The idea is to have fun with it. You go places and get new ideas or share what you are doing with someone else.” Hartman smiles and adds, “That’s what gardens are for.”

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