Small Garden Ponds: Formal and Informal
If aof some 12m (40ft) square is to contain a pond and a formal arrangement, it needs careful planning. The formal shape requires a pattern that can be either symmetrical or not, but usually incorporating straight lines and regular curves in the layout. It can be classical in concept, like part of a Grecian temple, or just an arrangement of definite squares, rectangles, circles or half-circles of paving, planting or areas of water, put together to provide a complete scene to suit your taste.
With such a small area and usually with restricted access it is wise to forgo a lawn and use paving instead. With the variety of different types and colours available now, there is no need for an area of paving to look boring; it can be divided up into sections of contrasting colour or shape to give variety.
The pond can be simple or dramatic, sunk below ground level or raised up, with fountains or waterfalls to provide movement of water that is in scale with the size of the garden, and room for a few choiceand a small selection of fancy fishes. Constructions around the pond must harmonize with the garden style: simple paving-slab bridges and stepping stones fit into a formal scheme far better than their rustic counterparts, and planting in the garden needs to be fairly ordered and regular in shape and type. Conifers in pots will not drop their leaves in autumn, yet will give height and foliage colour all the year round. Bright colours can be provided by using bulbs for spring blooms and for summer and autumn brilliance, leaving the evergreens to carry their foliage through the winter until spring returns again.
Where there is a change in the level of the site it should be emphasized with steps and walls constructed in a material that links with other garden constructions and with the bricks or stone of the house, in order to keep the formal look to the garden.
Small Informal Garden Ponds
Ponds of informal design need to look very natural, as if they have just been picked up from the wild and dropped into the garden. This can be quite difficult to achieve in a garden that is only some 12m (40ft) square. One important factor is to ensure that the pond does not overpower the rest of the garden by its size, nor should it be too small and tucked away in a corner. The surface reserved for sitting and walking on should look natural and casual, with the use of as much natural material as possible. If it is necessary to use regular precast paving, then use it in a random fashion to avoid any feeling of formality. Gravel, sections cut from tree trunks and random pieces of stone can be used, separately or mixed, to give an informal air to the garden and the pond surround.
The pond can have a curved irregular shape, but keep it simple to avoid pockets of water becoming stagnant. Waterfalls also need to look as natural as possible. Constructions in the pond can be quite rustic in feeling; use wood to make bridges, and large lumps of rock or boulders to form edges and provide cascades for the water to tumble down.
Another way to keep a natural look and avoid the tailored effect of mown grass is to make an irregular shape close to the water that is close cut, but leave a surrounding section to grow higher; this will soften the appearance and help to keep a pleasant informal arrangement. Planting also needs to be kept looking informal, with tufts of plants and casual clumps of shrubs and trees. Try to keep to evergreens to avoid the leaf problem in autumn. Flowers look happiest if they are dotted casually around the garden in a disordered way, like a meadow of wild flowers.
Slopes or irregularities in thelevels can be used to advantage to make mounds and small outcrops of ‘ stone, to emphasize the natural feel of the garden. The spoil from the pond excavation can be used to good effect by building up a small hillock, and this gives some height to what may be an otherwise flat garden site. Do not let water drain from such a new rise into the pond, though.
Small Semi-formal Garden Ponds
The semi-formal garden often has the best of both the formal and the informal world. When used well the mixture of natural arrangement and ordered constructions can be most effective. It is less hard-looking than the formal garden and yet is not wild enough to be classed as informal, having the appearance of a piece of man-made construction surrounded by nature; this echoes the house structure surrounded by or neighboured by nature in the garden.
Paving may be regular or irregular in shape, man-made or natural. Walls can be brick, stone or timber, and the planting may take the form of either natural disorder or a more restricting order. But whatever style is followed it is important to strike a balance. To design this semi-formal type of garden in a small 12m (40ft) square takes some skill, but keep the pond shape simple, with either a fountain or a waterfall (of formal or informal concept, whether a natural cascade or a concrete structure) to give movement to the water.
Pond constructions can use a variety of materials: wood, stone, concrete or brick. It is wise to relate some of the materials to the house so that there is some connection between the two, whether it is bricks or stone that make the transition.
Plants can be neatly confined to containers, left to ramble along a boundary, or even grouped into irregular clumps. Planting in the water should allow the leaf and flower shapes to be seen clearly as well as the fishes in the water, which can be either fancy or not, according to the owner’s tastes. Choose evergreens where possible, to avoid leaves falling into the pond during autumn. Provide colour by, perennials, bulbs, shrubs and flowering trees, to give some interest throughout the year. In a garden of this size, the inclusion of a number of heavily scented flowers can give particular delight during the spring and summer months.