James Horne
Belleville, Ontario, Canada

By James Horne - Click images to enlarge

So how does a guy with both mechanical and electrical engineering degrees end up posting on a waterlily list? Welllll....The short answer is I'm curious about everything and learn as much as I can. The long answer goes like this....

My first interests in life were biology related. I lived and breathed animals and to a somewhat lesser degree plants. I was well set as a child since both my parents were teachers and one (my mother) was very interested in plants, always growing new and different things. My father has a biology degree. I was raised in the country on the shores of Lake Ontario so I had a ready supply of things to ask about and a ready source of answers to my questions. They instilled in me a strong curiosity and the skills to find the answers on my own when I progressed to asking questions they couldn't answer.

I caught and kept as pets a multitude of local animals including minnows, fish, frogs, snakes and turtles. I also kept busy running a local lawn and yard maintenance business and filled my spare time with sailing, camping and photography. I've sailed on everything from sailboards to a 53' yacht owned (and built) by our neighbour. When I was old enough to drive I got my first motorcycle.

I eventually went off to university where family pressures prevailed and I took mechanical engineering so I could get a good paying job. Biology got left behind... so did sleeping and everything else besides studying.

After graduation the world beckoned. I spent several months in Australia and then lived and worked on a farm in New Zealand where I rediscovered the joys of outdoor living and animals. It was there that I learned to ride "English" on stock horses in the very rugged hills of North Island, near the volcano of Ruapehu. Nothing like 8 hours a day in the saddle to make or break you as a rider. :-) Not flashy or anything, just plain old riding. Ok, well there was the time the neighbours let me ride their nationally renowned racing Thoroughbred. That was pretty cool. I wanted to give up engineering and become a trainer. Either that or get my immigration papers and take up the retiring farrier's offer and become his apprentice. After 60 years experience he thought it was time to pass his work on to someone else.  

I foolishly didn't take his offer and returned home with my fiancé to start work as a production and test engineer for a major international telecommunications and electronics corporation. After a year I was "downsized" so I went back to school and got a second engineering degree, this time in electronics. I worked for a couple smaller firms and then ended up back with the original company. During this time I got involved in dogs, specifically Alaskan Malamutes. I was on the first board of directors of the Alaskan Malamute HELP League, now the largest breed specific club or organization in Canada. The club website is located at http://www.malamuterescue.com. Seven years, two dogs, and one divorce later the only things that remain the same in my life is the dog club and my employer.

James & Copper


 The divorce signaled a big change for me. I took time from amassing wealth to looking at what I was missing in life. I bought a motorcycle again, started taking pictures again, built a boat in my family room and got interested in water gardening and water features, mainly because I missed the lake from my childhood and wanted to have some natural water in my yard. So I sold the pool stuff and was left with a big hole in my backyard that I planned to turn into a pond. About this time someone gave me "Water Gardening in Containers" by Helen Nash et al, and I fell in love with the pictures of the lotuses and waterlilies in the pots. That was nearly 2 years ago. I decided I would do that for my patio. I bought pots, an Imperial taro, and a lotus. Since then the obsession has grown.

I built an indoor "pond" with high intensity lighting, natural filtration and a circulation pump to keep my tropicals (and fish) alive over the winter. It has proved very useful in learning about controlled ecosystems and balance in fish/plant environments.


Imperial taro
Currently I have expanded my collection to one hardy hybrid, two N. odorata, wild collected from Northern Ontario, three tropicals, two lotuses, one Nuphar lutea. My one taro is now five through divisions, three of which I still have. Of course now I have designs on more plants... I'm seriously tempted by the Victoria Adventure.... How seriously? My outdoor pond is in the revamping stage to expand to accommodate both lotuses and tropical lilies especially to meeting the requirements for the Australian ones, as well as my fish.

N. 'Attraction'

N. 'Panama-Pacific'

N. 'Sioux'

The pond plans are set so it's only a matter of time now. Hopefully a big pond with additional smaller ponds, some creeks and marshland all planted to get maximum sun and create a microclimate will allow me do this, and stretch the limits of what I can grow in USDA zone 4 to zone 5 or possibly zone 6 by climate and by growing season. The pond works are now large areas of bare earth, in holes and mounds. The main pond is 30'x 26' with depths ranging from 4' to 2'. The Australian pond is 9'x12'x 16". They aren't lined or sealed yet, but are coming along.

I'm also in the planning stages of turning my basement into an all year greenhouse using ecological engineering concepts and my experiences with the indoor "pond". This will be an automated reflow system and support all levels of plant life and the food chain, from algae to lilies, from zooplankton to snails and fish.

I have been tremendously impressed with the people I have encountered in this field and through the Victoria-Adventure website. The depth of knowledge and the willingness to share, not only information, but plants and ideas, is truly wonderful. I look forward to being a part of this community and doing my bit to help.

Building an Indoor Pond for the Budget Conscious
Gallery - A month later

Lighting For Growing Plants Indoors

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