Ponds and Water Features
The subject of ponds and water features can be quite extensive, so I will try to keep this as basic as possible. First of all, if you don't already have a pond or water feature there are several options available, but for this article we'll stick to the two basic kinds, the pre-formed mould type and the flexible liner type. The pre-formed mould type is a plastic or fibreglass mould which is available in several different shapes and sizes. Personally, I would go for the flexible liner type, ultimately though it's about personal choice and what suits your garden. Some of you may be lucky enough to have a natural body of water in your garden, which makes for a great feature providing it's hasn't been taken over by any native plants.
Start by placing the mould in the area which you intend to site the pond. It’s useful to allow for enough space for you to be able to walk around your pond. You will appreciate this when it comes to maintaining the plants, edges, pumps or fountains over the coming years. next place bamboo canes around the edge of the mould at regular intervals then place a rope on the ground around the outside of the canes, this way you will have the shape of the mould on the ground and can move the mould until needed. Be careful not to damage the mould when you are moving it around as they can be quite fragile. Now that you have the shape on the ground start digging out the shape. Some pre-formed moulds have different levels of depth so be sure to dig the hole taking this into account, don't worry if you go to deep as you can use builders sand to correct any levels. Once you have dug the hole you will need to add a layer of builders sand across the levels of earth on which the mould will be sitting, this will provide a smooth and sturdy base. Be sure to remove any stones as this could cause the mould to crack once filled with water. Once the pond is in place be sure to backfill any gaps around the mould with any remaining sand or removed soil. Now you can fill with water and place any aquatic plants in the pond, for some helpful suggestions – read on!
The flexible liner type is superior to the pre-formed mould type because it can be used for pretty much any shape or size pond you can think of. Start by digging out the hole to any shape or size you like, make sure that you’re not too close to the edge of your garden or any obstructions that could make installation or maintenance difficult. If the location allows for it you could even get a little ambitious and try for some small waterfalls or a short watercourse! Next use building sand to cover the base and sides, additionally I would recommend including a layer of loft insulation on top of the sand for an additional layer of padding. This is more important for flexible liner ponds as it helps avoid tears or damage. Try to avoid standing on the liner once it's in place. Make sure you have a good amount of liner around the edges of the hole, when you fill the liner the weight of the water will pull the liner in. Next fill with water and remove any excess liner from around the edge, leaving a small amount on which you can build some edging, be it block paving, slabs or another edge of your choice. This might be the perfect opportunity to find somewhere nice for the shells and stones you (or the children) have collected from walks and holidays!
Pumps and fountains
It wouldn't be a proper water feature without a fountain! There are a huge range of fountains, pumps and filters available. Take the time to choose one that is appropriate to the size and depth of your pond, bearing in mind if you plan to add any fish. A small pond with no fish would only require a small pump/fountain with a inbuilt filter. Even if you decide to add some small fish at a later date an inbuilt filter would still be sufficient. A larger pond with fish and perhaps a waterfall would require a suitable pump/fountain and a separate filter. It is also worth noting that if you plan on having fish you must oxygenate the water. You can do this with a fountain or aquatic plants such as Callitriche hermaphroditica. Plants will also provide cover, helping you fish to feel happy in their new home. Even if you choose not to include a fountain or pump that doesn’t mean you won’t attract any wildlife. Ponds with aquatic plants are a welcome addition to any wildlife garden, given time all sorts of invertebrates will move in and you may even see frogs!
Shallow (6in/15cm) aquatic plants:
• Calla Palustris, these can be used in bog gardens as well as placed in shallow water, they have a lovely white spathes with upright lush green leaves in summer and beautiful red berries in Autumn. This plant is very similar to the Peace Lilly.
• Hydrocleys Nymphoides is similar to a poppy so much so its common name is water poppy. It blooms in the summer producing a flower that is white on the outside and turns yellow in the centre. It has flat green leaves that fan out over the water.
• Iris Laevigata is a water Iris. It produces a vivid purple flower (sometimes with a bright yellow in the centre) in spring / early summer and has narrow green upright leaves which sometimes have white variegation.
Deep (12in / 30cm) aquatic plants:
• Hottonia Palustris has very similar leaves to that of the Acer tree, which makes for a different feature in an aquatic plant. The leaves are dark green in colour and the plant produces white / pink flowers on the end of a tall stem around late spring.
• Alisma Lanceolatum has broad upright dark green leaves. In the summer it produces very small pink flowers at the end of long, thin, branching stems. This is a little different from your typical aquatic plant, making it an option for a unique feature.
• Typha Angustifolia is a plant which you may all have seen but not be familiar with. It's that plant you see with what looks like a long brown hotdogs on the end of tall think stems! Those are actually this plants flower which it produces in summer and, like the other two plants in this category it's something unique. Though it may not appeal to everyone, this plant spreads quite considerably so it's recommend for quite large ponds or natural bog areas and even then please do keep on top of making sure it does not spread out of control.
Try to keep the pond free of weeds as much as possible. Blanket weed is one to watch out for, this can be removed easily with a fan shaped rake (springbok). As with all plants, it’s important to keep on top of removing dead growth. Be sure to clean your filters regularly to prevent break down and help guarantee good water quality for fish and wildlife. I would recommend at least once a year draining out the pond to remove any sediment/rotted material which will have gathered and settled at the base of the pond.
If you need further advice I'd recommend visiting a place called Shirley Aquatics, they should be able to help you out as well as having a good selection of plants, equipment and materials you may need.