Garden Ponds and Water Plants
Healthy pond plants not only make a pond more beautiful, they are also very important because a garden pond cannot function properly without plants. In addition, such a pond will provide a habitat for much fascinating wildlife which will gradually appear as visitors or residents in and around your pond.
If you set out to establish a garden pond with a great variety of healthy plantlife and a large range of pond creatures you will be providing for our own pleasure as well as creating a never-ending source of interest for your children and a means of having the magic of nature within your own garden. When designing and building your garden pond, and later on too, correct planting will ensure that many water beetles, dragonflies, frogs and other pond fauna take up residence in your garden pond. For example, tall clumps of reeds will provide a refuge for creatures which require a hiding place. Creatures which like a sunny environment will need areas with low-growing plants. Correct planting will also help to provide good quality water.
A plant friendly design for a garden pond
Even in the early stages of designing your pond, you can make sure that a great variety of water and marginal plants will flourish. The most important criteria for the well- being of all pond plants are the position of the pond, the ground underneath it and the quality of the water in the pond.
The various vitally different areas within a pond — the different zones — can be achieved quite easily through creating various angles of slope of the bank and different depths of water in the pond. A range of different zones will ensure that you can introduce a variety of plant species.
Tips on the positioning of a pond
Light is absolutely essential for the growth of all pond plants. One basic rule applies: the more daylight a plant receives under adequate conditions of nutrient supply, oxygen content of water and water temperature, the better it will grow. Obviously, however, when choosing a position for a plant, the light requirements of that particular plant still have to be considered.
Sun: Sunlight all day long is not absolutely necessary for a garden pond but a minimum of five hours of sunlight per day is considered to be crucial.
Shade: If a sunny position is not available, you can equally well design a “shady pond” with plants that like shade. This means that you will not enjoy as many flowers as you would do if you created a sunny pond. You will also have to plan the design much more carefully in order to use the available light to the best advantage.
Be careful under trees: When choosing a position for the pond, much can be done to ensure good quality water in the long term. In general, avoid a position under trees, to prevent the water from becoming polluted by falling seeds or leaves.
Size and depth
No matter how large, any body of water is an improvement in a garden as it offers possibilities of introducing plants other than regular garden ones.
The minimum depth for apond (up to about 6 m/20 ft in diameter) will need to be about 80 cm (32 in); in the case of larger ponds, depths of up to 1.5 m (5 ft) may be attained. The size and depth of the pond will determine the choice of plants.
There is little sense in packing a small pond with large plants or, conversely, stocking a large pond with species that remain small.
The floor of the pond and water quality
The floor of the pond will affect the environment of the pond plants quite considerably, no matter whether the chosen material covers the entire bottom of the pond or is used only asin plant containers. When choosing between different substances, both the nutrient content and the particle size of the material are important factors.
Use material with few nutrients for the floor of the pond, the best being a sand-loamgravel mixture (from a gravel pit —not garden). Special pond material can be obtained in the gardening trade. Do try to make sure that it does not contain any peat as the exploitation of natural peat bogs destroys the natural habitats of many rare plants. If you introduce many nutrients to a pond through using rich soil etc., you will only succeed in discolouring the water with algae. Nutrients from this soil will dissolve in water and be pounced on by algae before the get a chance to use them.
Degree of acidity:
The type of substance used for the floor will also influence the degree of acidity (the pH factor) of your garden pond and, with it, your choice of plants. Any unusual pH requirements of individual plants are listed in the plant.
Fish in your pond:
If you decide to keep fish in your pond, depending on the number, you will not manage without a few technical appliances such as a filter. In a pond without any technical gadgets or devices, the following rule applies: the fewer fish, the better. If you really wish to have a fish pond rather than a garden pond then you should consult specialist literature on this subject.
Without any technical aids, the wellbeing of both fish and water plants might be affected.
Areas of life in a pond
Four separate natural areas of life (biotopes) can be distinguished in a garden pond, all of which must be taken into consideration when designing and planning the pond. Each biotope offers rather specific conditions lions to plants, therefore many particular plants are available for each different area.
The marginal zone
A large number of plants and fauna can be established in the marginal (marshy) zone, provided the pond is large enough and is situated in the sunniest part of the garden.
Measuring from the surface of the water to the pond liner, the marginal zone should be flat, have a depth of 0-25 cm (0-10 in) and be covered with approximately 10 cm (4 in) of material (e.g. sand-loam-gravel mixture).
The shallow water zone
The transitional area between the marginal zone and deep water should not be too steep as otherwise the floor material may slide downwards. Slopes of up to 30 degrees can be covered with fine material; coarser material (e.g. stones with a diameter of up to 15 cm/6 in) is recommended for steeper areas.
Deep water zone
A deep water zone in a pond (of a depth of at least 80 cm/32 in) is essential for some plant species and also for any creatures that will overwinter in the pond. An extended, flat marginal zone in a smaller pond will take up a lot of room. Right at the start, it is a good idea to build a small part of the pond with a steep side so that the required depth can be attained.
The edge of the pond
If the pond liner has been laid properly along the edge of the pond (see p. 9), this area will be just as dry as the rest of the garden. This means that you can plant garden plants here too. The most suitable plants are those which would naturally grow near water but can still cope with some dryness, e.g. hemp agrimony, yellowand creeping Jenny. If your lawn extends to the edge of the pond, a wide band of stones or gravel will prevent the grass from growing into the pond. Access to the pond is vital. This means placing fewer plants in some places — particularly on a sight-line, or making part of the edge of the pond suitable for walking on by installing flat stones or paving slabs. A broad, pond-edge zone stocked with lots of plants, should also be designed. Conveniently spaced stepping stones will also facilitate the care of plants in areas of denser growth.
Use only nutrient-poor soil for the edge of the pond. Heavy rain might easily wash soil into the pond and this could cause the water to acquire too many nutrients. Plants which cannot manage on nutrient-poor soil should have some garden soil added round their roots when planting to start them off.