garden pond

A Naturalistic Pond in Your Garden

Over the last few years we have been primarily involved with designing and building contemporary gardens and therefore most of our water features have been very modern, involving water blades or curved stainless steel or glass. But we always enjoy being asked to create more naturalistic water features. There is a great charm to designing wildlife ponds, which look as though they have always been a part of the landscape.

We start the process of building a pond by digging a large whole at least 750mm deep (this is the depth needed for fish to survive the winters). We use a butyl liner over a protective membrane – these liners are very flexible and this means it is easy to dig any profile necessary to achieve maximum design effect. For example in the photograph below the softening of the water’s edge is done using pebbles to create a pebble beach effect, the pebbles cover the membrane to hide it (nothing is worse than leaving the liner showing as this negates any mystery that you have achieved).

Naturalistic pond with a timber walkway set in a Cheshire garden

Naturalisitc pond in a Cheshire garden design

The shallow edge of the pond allows small creatures to enter and exit the pond including frogs, toads, and newts and it allows birds to bathe in the pond as well.

Without a doubt the most important element of a wildlife pond is getting the planting right. The planting can extend to deep water plants, floating plants (oxygenators), marginal plants (which like to have their feet in the water), bog plants (which like soggy soil) and other waterside plants.

Profile of planting in a naturalistic pond

Examples of water plants

Deep water: Water lily (Nymphaea), Fringe lily (Nymphoides peltata), Water hawthorn (Aponogeton distachyos)

Floating plants: Frogbit (Hydrocharis), March Pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris), Water crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis)

Marginal plants: Arrowhead (Sagittaria japonica), Blue/Purple Iris (Iris versicolor), Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)

Bog plants: False fox sedge (Carex otrubae), Chinese Globe flower (Trollius Golden Queen), Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis)

So many ponds are visually unimpressive because there are not enough plants to soften the pond edge. Too often the pond edge is populated by rocks or crazy paving, this gives a harsh and unnatural look.

Keeping your pond looking good

The bigger the pond (the deeper the water), the easier it will be to keep the pond free of algae (such as blanket weed, etc). If you look at ponds and lakes in your local vicinity you will notice that generally speaking natural balance has been maintained. It is the small ponds, especially the ones that get a lot of sunlight, where a lot of algae can take over.

Ways to keep your pond balanced:

1. Build a big pond with a large volume of water
2. Create partial shading of the surface of the water (using water lilies, etc)
3. Planting oxygenating plants to help promote healthy bacteria and contain algae growth
4. Use a pond filtration system – there are two types – biological filters and ultra violet clarifiers or use a combination of the two to help oxygenate the water to support healthy bacteria growth and filter out harmful particles
5. Keep fish stocks low as they produce waste which creates nutrients (nitrates and nitrites), which create ideal conditions for algae growth

The importance of water in the garden

All Japanese garden designers insist on having water in the garden, even a small balcony will have a small water feature as you can see in the image below.

Pond in a Japanese balcony garden

Water is a great asset in the garden. It brings wildlife, pleasing sounds and a visual setting that is uplifting to the soul.