If there’s one element of a garden that will get the most attention then for me it’s always a great pond. It’s irresistible to adults and children whether it’s a formal pond, and informal wildlife pool or even a stream. Over the years I’ve built all of these and there are some key factors to take into account when designing your first pool and some top tips for maintaining it successfully.
As a first step take a look at your garden and decide what size and style of water will suit your garden best. If you have a small courtyard garden then a small formal pond is the answer, maybe utilising a wall for a waterspout that splashes into a pond below. If you’ve got a larger garden and it’s a little wilder then how about an informal natural pond with even a small stream? One thing to note straightaway is that at all times you need to think of safety so if children will use the garden, make sure you think about using a safety surface in the pond that allows someone to climb out (there are suppliers online) or install a bubble fountain without any great depth of water.
An open, sunny position is the best place for a pond although I must admit that I have installed ponds in areas with a little shade and, once they find a natural balance, they stay clear and are a great home to plants. And to protect those plants don’t site it in a frost pocket. One final location tip – a wet, boggy area will always stay like that and water can force a liner up from below so sometimes its advisable to lay drainage underneath the pond in those circumstances. Don’t be fooled by a dry summer when you know your garden gets boggy in winter!
One of the great things about a pond is its ability to reflect the sky and the rest of the garden. Trees look great reflected in a pond but you might have a piece of sculpture that will also work well. Natural ponds in particular are good if you have a still surface but you’ll need to plant it sufficiently to make sure that oxygenating plants provide a way to keep the pond clear and clean. In sunny weather, submerged algae can turn a pond green in no time at all but oxygenating plants compete successfully for the nutrients that algae thrive on so they are essential if you are planning to keep fish in a pond.
It’s actually the fish that are the hardest part of maintaining a pond but also the reason why so many of us do so. In my own garden I have a very simple 3 by 1m pond with a depth of 1m that is essential for keeping heron out because they like to stand in the water to fish. Whilst the first generation of koi carp have gone now, their children thrive and goldfish multiply at such a rate that I’ve lost count. Just remember though that with all those fish there’s a real battle for food so make sure you are regularly feeding them and keeping them healthy. And of course its not just fish that love water. If you’ve ever been kept up at night by the sound of toads mating you’ll know that there are plenty of animals that are attracted to your garden because of the water. And if you’re a hosta fan like me then you’ll appreciate the frogs you’ll get alongside your pond eating all the slugs. But all those other insects you’ll attract are great for encouraging birds into the garden as well.
If you’re thinking of building a pond or need some help with a pond you’ve inherited then get a good book – the RHS sells a number through their bookstore at Wisley. Ultimately maintaining a pond is easy as long as you follow some simple rules about circulating and oxygenating water, planting the right plants in the right place and taking time to just sit back and gaze on all the activity that goes on right under your nose.
Andrew Fisher Tomlin