Utah Stories

Oasis in the Desert – Desert Water Gardens

Millcreek’s Desert Water Gardens offers everything necessary to build and maintain an aquatic garden.


Craig Smith, a retired civil engineer, was walking along 900 East one day and came upon Desert Water Gardens. He stopped to take a look, started helping out, fell in love with the business and then bought it three years later.

Desert Water Gardens offers the largest inventory of aquatic plants in the state, as well as pond design and construction and pond cleaning services. Sterling Herrmann started the business around 28 years ago in Bountiful. It moved to its current location, in Millcreek, in 2000.

Desert Water Garden Manager Sheida Hajarian in her greenhouse
Sheida Hajarian – store manager and botanist

Sheida Hajarian is the store manager onsite botanist. She is in charge of starting, growing and monitoring the 187 different types of aquatic plants that Desert Water Gardens offers. She loves the store and interacting with the customers, but her favorite part of the job is working with the plants.

Plants are either potted in a clay nutrient soil in order to anchor the roots or are bare-roots and placed directly in ponds. Sheida explains that aquatic plants get their nutrients to grow directly from the water.

There are an amazing variety of aquatic plants.  Utah native plants include marsh verbena, horsetail, and aquatic golden rod. Some of the medicinal plants are heal’s all and St. John’s wort.  Umbrella palms, papyrus and lotus make up some of the tropical and exotics. There are even edible plants in the form of watercress, taro and bloody dock.

Sheida starts all of the plants in the greenhouse except for the water lilies. The lilies grow in the ponds at the back of the business and are separated by color. Though many of the plants are winter hardy the tropicals have to be taken inside during cold weather or they will die.

Ponds can fit into any landscape and any budget according to Sheida. The upkeep depends on the plants used along with other features. Some plants will filter the water through their roots leaving no need for a motorized filter. Even a barrel or planter can be turned into an aquatic ecosystem.

The ponds at the entrance to Desert Water Gardens are inviting. Walking past, visitors can’t help but be tempted to stop and enjoy the variety of plants, the sound of running water, the cool breeze, the dragon flies flitting along the surface and the goldfish swimming along. No wonder Craig Smith didn’t want to leave.

Giant Aquatic Sensitive plant

Desert Water Gardens is at 3674 South 900 East


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