Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Plunging in!

My pond.
I have taken the plunge...for my 50th birthday (last year) I asked for a pond or water garden with waterfall, though I wanted to arrange for it myself. I had started to dig the pond, oh, 8 or 9 years ago, but my then young son took it over for a bunker or fort to use in play. I guess that finally the weedy mess of an area got to me and 11 days ago, I had a pond installed. The top photo is the most recent incarnation, after I started adding some plants (water lettuce, water hyacinth, water palm, purple pickerel, star grass, lobelia cardinalis and l. syphilitica) but the other photos show the transformation. The first or second night a frog moved in and 10 days later we had tadpoles! The pond is about 14 ft long and 4 ft wide, almost 2 ft deep, and the waterfall adds about 4 feet in length.

There are several types of plants to have in a water garden. Floating plants help shade the garden and prevent algae growth (e.g. the water lettuce and hyacinth). Then there are marginals: these are the plants at the sides of the pond that are on a shelf higher than the full depth of the pond, at about 9 inches from the surface (these are the rest of the plants I mentioned by name above). But a pond also needs some oxygenating plants, which are not the beauty queens of the the pond, but hang below the surface and help keep the water clear. I need to find some oxygenators either at a garden center or on line. A few people have asked if I am going to have water lilies, but they need a still water situation, so, no, not in this pond. Same with fish, probably not, they need specific care, conditions and plants, plus they would eat the tadpoles!

This is opening up a whole new type of gardening for me and is a lot of fun. So, instead of looking longingly at the water plants on display at a garden center, I can have them in my garden! (And this will, hopefully, stop me from killing lobelia because I just can't find a wet enough spot for it in my flower beds!)

The pond is incomplete and obviously needs further landscaping. You know the old saying that, if you paint one room in your house, the rest of the house looks shabby? That is now true for my back yard. The pond is lovely (though needs retaining walls at the back and side and some more plantings), but the rest of the back yard looks bad in comparison (of course, I knew it was shabby, but did not care before). So, now I have plans for some large potted trees at the back, for a bog garden to the left and behind the waterfall, for a stone path in front of the pond. And we really need a new deck, and it should incorporate the pond view in its design, right?

I took the plunge all right!

Happy gardening!


Betsy said...

I think you will really love your pond. We created our small pond specifically for the wildlife and we see so many birds and other critters drinking out of it! We can't really stock it with fish because the birds and other wildlife eat them, but that's okay with us. We have a couple of fish that have survived a few years by hiding well!

Judy Thomas said...

Thanks Betsy- it has been fun to watch the birds use the gravel filter/waterfall as a bird bath and to see the tadpoles grow so fast!

Anita said...


And how nice it is to accomplish something that will give you serenity and joy, and even more of a connection to nature and gardening.

Caroline said...

It looks beautiful! I would need to do this in the back yard, which is pretty shady. Maybe a fountain would work better than a pond in those conditions?

Judy Thomas said...

Hi Caroline
It is my understanding that ponds do best when they are situated in the sun, but I have seen many lovely examples of ponds in shade. You would have to be careful about the selection of plants, choosing ones that thrive in part to full shade and make sure you get the best filter you can afford. My pond waterfall is actually part of a gravel filter, which I have been told is the best way to keep pond water clear. A fountain is less expensive, and easier in some ways, harder in others. If something goes wrong with a pre-built fountain's plumbing, it can be difficult to fix. One nice kind of fountain in which the water stays pretty clear is the kind built on a gravel bed or well, like a bubbler fountain.
So, that is what I have heard or know, but I am not a water garden expert- check out some books from your local library on water gardening to see what options are available to you.