“If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in the water”
Summer is my favorite time of year and I especially love the sultry days of August. The heat and humidity are dependable friends that linger through the night. It is on these long, steamy days, that I am drawn to water. Water in a garden adds peacefulness, a soothing pause, a mesmerizing focal point. It is an invitation to bring life into your outdoor living space. I have been attracted and delighted by ponds since I was a child. I remember going to the mall and being fascinated by their grand fountain displays. I would spend hours searching for Koi and Goldfish among the potted plants while my mom shopped. There are many ways to add water to your garden, from elaborate ponds with waterfalls to a simple tabletop fountain. Let’s look at the many options there are to incorporate life’s most treasured resource into our daily lives.
“How often it is that a garden beautiful though it be, will seem sad and dreary and lacking in one of its most gracious features, if it has no water” -Pierre Husson
Ponds are fun to create and install. My parents added ponds to virtually every house they owned, often making it their first project. I don’t think they felt at home until the water features and chickens were added. Simple construction begins with picking a site that receives ample sunshine. A great source for helping you determine all the basics about pond construction is at Lilypons Water Gardens, www.lilypons.com. They offer excellent information and are a supplier of everything you may need to build your water garden. I have used them for over twenty years for liners, water lilies, tadpoles and everything in between. That said I would like to share with you some of my own tips I have learned along the way.
1. I really like the ease of using the fiberglass preformed pond liners. I prefer them to the flexible liners when installing a pond in sand. It can be challenging to keep the sides from collapsing in such a soft soil. If you are choosing the flexible liner, thicker is better. In both cases, a layer of sand is needed.
2. I started building ponds in the north. Rocks and boulders were prevalent and were the choice material in creating the edge. Here in the low country, rocks are hard to come by and seem out of place in our landscape. Natural materials indigenous to this area work much better. Try shell, driftwood or sable palm trunks to secure the edge.
3. Fish are a lot of fun and a great attraction to the water garden. Plant material will help hide them from birds of prey and can also be a natural source of food. Liners, water (chlorinated), and fertilizers will need to be non toxic or treated prior to the addition of fish.
Plants for the pond come in a few different categories. Basically, there are plants you put in a pond and plants you can plant around the edge. Here are some of my favorites and how I use them.
Lotus: I love everything about this plant, leaves, flower, and seed pod. Droplets of water actually dance on these plants’ leaves. This beauty is large, needs to be submerged, and wants lots of sun.
Water Lilies: Another favorite of mine. There are hardy and tropical lilies, the latter producing an abundance of blooms held above the water line. They require sunshine and need anywhere from six to thirty inches of water above their crown.
Pickerel Weed: I see this plant along ditches in bloom with its pretty purple-blue spikes of flowers. I have planted them in and out of the pond.
Cannas: These are wonderful additions to the water garden with many cultivars to choose. They love the sun and equally do well around a pond or at the edge.
Blue-flag and Yellow-flag Iris: I use these plants not only for their bloom but for their sword-like foliage.
Papyrus: The Umbrella plant is very versatile and a great texture for the pond.
Alocasia (Elephant Ear): A tropical beauty with its huge leaves, I love the maroon varieties.
Water gardening is not just about building a pond in your backyard. Free standing fountains can be works of art and can be at home in both the formal or informal landscape. Blank walls come alive with the placement of a wall fountain and a trained vine that frames this sculpture. Containers of all sizes and styles can be used to create an array of water features. Bog gardens with Venus Fly traps and Pitcher plants can be placed on a deck. Small tabletop fountains create a getaway feeling to the outdoor seating area. Still need inspiration? A simple view to the ocean, marsh, creek or lagoon is Mother Nature’s answer to Water Gardening.