Garden Ponds: Assessing Your Garden
Your garden is unique in the opportunities that it has to offer and the constraints that it might impose. So before you install your water feature, you should assess what features are already there, and how they might affect your plans.
If you are planning a feature that is more complex than a basic hole in the ground filled with water, then it would be wise to produce a scale drawing or plan of the area. This should include all of the garden’s ‘fixtures and fittings’: the house; greenhouse/shed; immovable and desirable trees and shrubs; paths and driveways; paving and walling; drains and sewers; electricity poles; and so on. Consider also whether you will want to extend your home at some stage in the future; you do not want to install a major water feature only to dig it out 18 months later when a home extension is built.
It is possible that there are some items in the above list that can be altered or moved to accommodate your water feature. This becomes a matter of preference, but there is a lot to be said for designing your water feature into your garden whilst minimizing the overall effort. But the golden rule has to be: do not compromise the garden just to save on effort. If the pond really needs to go where the greenhouse is currently sited, and there is somewhere else for the greenhouse to go, then do it.
The best way to start a paper plan is to conduct your own ‘survey’ of the garden. Walk around the house (and any fixed outbuildings) and make a large sketch of the layout, in plan form but not to scale.
A long, flexible measuring tape is useful, and a good starting point is a particular part of the house, say the back door. Measure the distance from the door to your proposed water feature. This gives you a mental picture of distance combined with an actual measurement.
You could even prepare a plan and then move cut-outs of different shaped and sized ponds within the layout until you are happy with a particular grouping. Alternatively, there are a number of excellent garden design software packages which will offer you much versatility in drafting a plan.
Lastly, lay a hosepipe on the ground, as an outline to your proposed pond site. Live with this for a few days: you will then be able to make adjustments, and satisfy yourself entirely that it is the best place, size and shape for your water feature.
The first thing a gardener usually wants to know when they move to a new home is in which direction the garden faces. In the northern hemisphere, a southerly facing garden gives the least amount of shade; therefore, by default, in the southern hemisphere a northerly facing garden is the least shady.
In addition to the direction, you will need to have knowledge of where the sun shines at different times of the day, and how (and where) the house, any outbuildings, or large trees and shrubs will cast shade.
To reach its full potential, a pond should be positioned where the sun can shine upon it for at least half the day —this does not apply to very hot countries; in places like the Mediterranean and north Africa, some shade is positively beneficial.
Waterlilies only give of their best if they receive six hours or more of sunshine per day, so in the countries of Northern Europe, for example, where the sun does not get very high in the sky, a pond containing them really does need to be in the sunniest position possible.
Each garden is different, with its own specific, prevailing conditions to take into account. When designing your own water garden, you will almost certainly need to take some of the following factors into account when planning your water feature.