Medium-sized Garden Ponds

Formal ponds

A medium-sized garden can incorporate a larger pond and a more complex system of moving water involving streams and waterfalls. This type of design can happily form part of a larger garden, and here the design is concentrated in a squarish section that contains the water garden some 18m (60ft) square.

The use of regular geometric shapes helps to give formality to the design, whether it is a series of interlocking squares and rectangles, circles or a simple symmetrical shape. The water element can be raised above the ground to form a dramatic tower system gushing water; a low container that allows one to sit upon the edge; or even a below-ground-level construction that is meant to be viewed from above.

The use of different materials will help to provide visual interest. Railway sleepers set into gravel, paving mixed with brick, concrete with stone chips, or reconstituted stone with natural stone, can all give variety of texture and colour to set off the sparkle of water. Pond construction can be made of the same materials or contrasting with a random pile of natural rocks. Water can be moved through fountains or over waterfalls using different forms to give a dramatic or interesting effect to the overall design.

The pond in the Tuileries Garden in Paris, France.

Image via Wikipedia

Low-growing plants can soften hard paving or gravel; tall trees give instant height if bought as container plants or as specimens several years old; tubs of plants can be moved from one place to another to give variety whenever the owner chooses; and climbers trained up trellis or large plain walls can screen out unwanted views and provide a measure of privacy. Annuals, perennials, bulbs and shrubs will give a brilliant display in spring, summer and autumn, leaving the evergreens to continue through the winter (with their different shapes and wide variety of hues of green, yellow, blue and red foliage).

The cost of such a pond can vary considerably, depending on the materials and the amount used, but by choosing wisely you can make an exciting pond setting without too much strain on the purse. .

Medium-sized Informal Garden Ponds

The opportunities offered by having a medium-sized area of about 18m (60ft) square in which to design an informal pond are many. The main aim is to look as if a slice or section of nature has been lifted out and placed in your garden. This entails great care in the placing of the various elements that will make up the area. The shapes, particularly that of the pond, need to be casual in appearance and as un-manmade as possible.

For a special effect, the human touch can give a dramatic gesture, like a marble statue set in a natural-looking grotto. Use natural materials, and avoid concrete and regular patterns, especially for seating areas; use timber, stone, gravel and grass. The timber needs to be discrete, not raw, freshly sawn timber that stands out like a sore thumb; treat new wood with a preservative that is dull in colour, to make it blend into the overall design of the pond area.

Pond shapes should be curved, and the curves need to be gentle, as if worn with time. Keep any straight lines to constructions such as bridges, piers or landing stages. Large pieces of stone should be used in construction work as this helps give the garden a sense of scale. Large logs of timber will give the feeling of strength; and islands need to be big enough to sit on, or to grow a specimen tree for shade.

Planting should look casual and without order, some close together and others wide apart. Use the more natural plants to form clumps and groups, instead of exotic-looking specimens placed obviously at a focal point. The use of evergreens will cut down problems with the autumn leaf fall, and colour can be provided by using bulbs, annuals, perennials, flowering shrubs and trees.

Use any slope or variation in the levels to advantage, to make a more dramatic effect with mounds, banks and hollows or (with the use of stone) to make an outcrop of rock or a scree area. The spoil from the pond excavation can be used to build up a hillock for a cascade.

Medium-sized semi-formal garden ponds

To design a medium-sized garden with a water feature in a semi-formal manner will mean mixing elements that can look opposed in style. This can succeed if there is a balance: for example, a formal element can be treated as an extension of the existing formality of the house structure, and a terrace, deck area, patio or sitting space can use regular shapes and obviously man-made materials that echo those used in the house construction. This major element can then blend into or be placed next to an informal pond or planting space, where one can step from a rectangular area designed for entertaining onto gravel or pebbles laid in a random manner next to a curved stretch of water that contains a formal fountain and is surrounded by a mixture of wild and specimen planting. This mixture needs care and skill so that it does not look too confusing with everything vying for attention. The more dominant areas need playing down. With the right use of materials, such as timber and stone, the garden will look more relaxed and harmonious.

Pond shapes can be curved or straight, and edged with grass, paving or random boulders intermingled with pebbles, with water moving through fountains or waterfalls or a combination of both, Decks overlapping the pond can be used for barbecues, for sunbathing, or even as a site for a Jacuzzi. Constructions need to be in scale with the garden; avoid anything that is going to make the space look poky. It is better to have one large object -whether it is a rock, a statue, a water feature or a tree – rather than a collection of little ones.

Planting should be arranged to give interest in groups and variety in heights. There are plenty of trees with different forms that are evergreen, even a weeping cedar, which makes a fine feature by water, far superior to the popular weeping willow, which drops its leaves, and undermines the pond and any other building nearby with its roots. Use any natural slopes of the site or variations in level to make the garden and pool surround more sculptural and exciting.

Constructing Islands, Waterfalls and Fountains for the Garden Pond

There are obvious objects that can be constructed in the garden pond, such as islands and bridges; but there are also less obvious items such as decks, jetties, stepping stones, waterfalls, and bases for sculpture and fountains that border or intrude into the water area. These can be a problem when it comes to placing them into position. The most important problem is how to put them into place without upsetting, breaking or damaging the pond structure, whether it is concrete, plastic liner or a precast shell. If there is an adequate concrete base under the pond, there should be no problem; and of course it is better to think of this element before the pond is constructed, in order to make allowances in the foundation work, and add extra strength where there is to be extra weight. But if you inherit a pond or have a sudden desire to add to your own construction, it will entail certain precautions for success.

The best method, when you have a heavy weight that has to rest on something rather fragile, is to spread the load over a wide area; this means making the foundation cover as wide a space as possible. If you have a pond liner and you wish to build a pier to support a bridge, fountain or stepping stone, place a large flat stone (or even a couple of paving slabs) on the flat base of the pond to carry the weight. If the slab has sharp edges and corners these should be cushioned with a double layer of pond liner- a piece of the original liner that was trimmed off when it was being constructed will be sufficient. Upon this flat slab the structure can be built up with confidence.

If the pond is in use, remember that any cement or concrete work will give off free lime into the water, which can damage the livestock. All work should be treated with a suitable pond paint to isolate new cement work. To keep structures as light as possible, use hollow blocks and build with plenty of holes in the construction.

Where there is an undulating base that does not allow a paving slab to bed flat on the base, a layer of sand can fill out the hollows and give the slab something to settle down on. This will not work on a sloping base, where it is usually necessary to build up a foundation of wet concrete; this invariably means draining the pond to make a good job.

Constructing an island is a simple matter when the pond is originally being built with a liner; leave the soil in position and stretch the liner over it, anchor it and trim the edges as the ordinary pond edge. Where there is an existing pond, it is best to build a wall of brick or stone and infill with soil to make an island.

Timber can be used, but make sure that any wood preservative that has been used is suitable for the pond and livestock. If the timber has weathered well it can be used, but if in doubt cover the timber in a seal such as yacht varnish and allow it to dry thoroughly before placing it in the water. Bridges need to be safe: it is no pleasure to be suddenly dropped into cold water, either by the collapse of the structure or by slipping on a mossy surface. Check that there is adequate strength in the structure, as people like to congregate on a bridge to look at the water and livestock. Railings need to be more than adequate and securely fixed to the whole structure.

Waterfalls and cascades should be built so that no water can escape through leaks, particularly where there are overlaps in the construction. Liners work very well in this sort of structure, being discrete in appearance yet thoroughly reliable.

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07. September 2013 by admin
Categories: Water Gardening | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Medium-sized Garden Ponds


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