Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
May, 2005
Regional Report

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Sound, movement, light, and texture all come into play with a waterfall and the surrounding rocks.

Paradise Built

Water in the garden. Add some now. Big features, small features, anything. One or many. There's a reason I'm being direct, if not dictatorial. Water in the garden is transformational. The sound of it, the light on it, the birds and other wildlife it brings, all combine to create a magical effect. Like anything worthwhile, a certain amount of effort is involved, but much less than you might suppose.

I'm not just waxing badly poetic for this column. My home and garden are filled with upward of a dozen water features, including both tiny and large fountains and bubbling pots, an 11x16 pond and waterfall, and a quarter-acre farm pond. Each has its own particular charms and requirements.

Of all the water features, the one that has brought the most joy is the 11x16 pond built adjacent to a deck off the living room. This provides the perfect spot for a morning cup of tea for entertaining friends at dinner. Brightly colored goldfish come to the edge of the pond, anxiously awaiting food. Whether I'm outside or in, it's easy to observe frogs sunning on the lily pads, dragonflies flitting about, or birds taking a bath in the waterfall.

In Considering a Pond
When thinking about adding a small pond like this, one of the first things to consider is placement. Where do you spend most of your time when you're at home? Do you spend more time inside or out? Is there a spot where it can be readily visible from inside the home or from a deck, terrace, or patio? Although logic says to place the pond in a location where the ground is naturally sloped, the soil that is removed can be used to build a small hill for a waterfall.

I wanted my pond and waterfall facing the house but the land slopes away from the house. So even though the waterfall, in essence, goes uphill, the subsequent landscaping has blended it into the site, making it appear more natural than might be expected. Bottom line? Put the pond where you'll most enjoy it and use landscaping to integrate it into the garden.

The other important factor when considering a pond is equipment. For years, I avoided even vaguely thinking about adding a pond because of horror stories I'd heard and seen. Murky, high-maintenance nightmares, choked with unsightly clumps of algae, filled with stagnant water from debris-clogged pumps, unsightly black plastic liners, or leaks from concrete liners that cracked.

Then I became aware of new methods and technology that have a much higher success rate and require very low maintenance. Instead of exposed pond liners and pumps and filters that look like vacuum cleaners next to the pond, no equipment -- including the liner -- is visible. Even better, such systems are based on creating an ecologically stable system using five basic elements: mechanical and biological filtration that's hidden from view, beneficial bacteria, fish, plants, and lots of rocks and pebbles. Routine maintenance involves checking a skimmer basket for debris and emptying it when necessary, adding the bacteria, and seasonal plant care. An annual cleanout also is recommended.

Does the new-style setup really work? Because my pond is in full sun, string algae has been a particular problem. To combat this, the pond definitely needs to have the suggested ratio of at least 60 to 70 percent of the surface covered with aquatic plants. Plus, I have to remember to add the beneficial bacteria regularly (no major effort, I'm just forgetful). In addition, the manufacturer of my equipment offers two safe-to-use items that readily diminish the algae.

Don't Hesitate
If you've been thinking about a pond, don't put it off. Visit Web sites, request literature, study magazines, go on pond tours, learn all you can; then dive in, so to speak. Water gardens, more than any other single improvement, have the ability to transform a yard into a place of tranquility, relaxation, and renewal.

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