Garden Pond Styles
A small water feature could be a pebble fountain or a half-barrel with a trickling urn, both of which are ideal accompaniments to a tiny town garden or patio area. Garden ponds, perhaps 1-2m (3-6ft) across, are what most gardeners would like to create, and these can be wonderful to observe and nurture. At the top end of the scale you could opt for a lake or a large bog garden — if there is the room in your garden.
This diversity of choice illustrates the versatility and adaptability of water. Whatever your choice of design and style for your pond, be aware that it should not be too complex, with too many niches, nooks and crannies. These can be a real problem to construct, and then look over-fussy when completed. When in doubt, always opt for the simple approach — straightforward, simple shapes are usually more attractive than awkward, complex designs.
Formal ponds are either circular, oval or have straight lines, in the form of a square, rectangle or some other geometric shape. Formal ponds are particularly suitable where space is limited. They look best in more formal surroundings, such as near the house, or in conjunction with other features such as straight paths and patios. They can also be raised or sunken, which can add another attractive dimension to the garden.
For most of us, the perfect pond is one in which there is some form of moving water. It may be the trickle of a little fountain, or a big gusher with a larger water feature. Formal ponds lend themselves to fountains and waterfalls (where there is free-falling water, rather than the more informal ‘cascade’, in which case the water tumbles over rocks).
By contrast, informal ponds are irregular in shape. They may have soft, sweeping curves with few, if any, straight lines or sharp angles. This type of design looks at its best in a garden planted in a relaxed way — a sort of cottage garden, with flowers of all sizes and colours. If you like lots of plants, an informal style of pond would suit you best. For example, a bog garden can be created as an extension’ of the pond, and makes a perfect transition between pond and garden.
A still-water pond is the most basic type of pond, with no ‘sophisticated’ appeal, like a fountain or waterfall, and no mechanical filtration using pumps. This may sound rather boring, yet in many cases it is to be preferred if you wish to keep fish and grow many types of— especially waterlilies, which hate too much moving water around their stems and leaves.
Fish or ‘mixed’ ponds ‘Fish pond’ is the accepted term, but perhaps ‘mixed pond’ would be better, for although a selection of fish may be kept in it, you would inevitably find plants and pondweed, insect life and very probably amphibious life such as toads, frogs and newts in such a pond.
Regardless of the eventual constituent parts of a pond, it is the keeping of fish that many gardeners enjoy. The colours, general visual interest and serenity that fish can bring to a scene are unequalled. The only fixed rules about keeping fish in an outdoor pond are
(a) that the types of fish kept should be fully hardy and not ‘tender exotics’ which would come to harm during a cold winter, and
(b) that the amount and size of the fish you introduce depends on the dimensions of the pond, or more accurately, the volume of water in the pond.
Surveys have revealed that as many as 86% of people who own a garden pond maintain that their main reason for having a pond is to ‘watch and encourage wildlife’. They also agreed that informal ponds make the best environments for aquatic wildlife.
In theory, a true wildlife pond would be one that is built entirely from natural materials and contains only plants and animals native to the area. In reality, however, these preconditions are either difficult or impossible to recreate and so most wildlife ponds are artificial havens. And havens they are, for the hundreds of species that will be attracted to the pond, will themselves attract other non-aquatic animals, such as birds, bees, butterflies, hedgehogs, foxes and even badgers.
Any raised feature in an otherwise flat garden will help to add interest, but one that contains water is always special. Patio ponds are often raised so that you can sit on the edge and appreciate the pond life at close quarters. It may also be the only way of having a pond if, for some reason, the ground cannot be excavated. For example, where a very deep pond is required (such as for keeping koi), then elevating it to a raised position would mean less excavation, and so reduce the overall cost, which could be huge.
A raised pond can also be a disincentive to marauding creatures — predominately cats and herons, which can mercilessly decimate a collection of fish.
A sandy, muddy or stony ‘beach’, along one edge of a largish pond, can be quite eye-catching. It will set the scene for a completely different range of plants, and will be a wonderful attraction for wildlife. Boulders, pebbles and even shells can be introduced to give the effect of the foreshore.
The only negative aspect to having a home-made freshwater ‘beach’ is that algae might grow in the shallow water — which rarely happens in constantly washed seawater pools.
Depth and Area
Wherever your pond is sited, and whatever style you adopt for it, your pond should be 45cm (18in) or more deep at some point, to prevent the water freezing completely in winter. If the surface area is 2.4m2 (50sq ft) or more, and if you plan to have various types of fish, then a depth of 60cm (2ft) is better. For large ponds of several hundred sq ft, a depth of 75cm (30in) is desirable.
For a decent-sized pond, which can be expected to stay clear, you should aim for a water surface of at least 2.1m2 (40sq ft). The ideal ecological balance would be achieved by at least a third of the pond surface being covered in plants.