Wa­ter won­der­ful world

With Diar­muid Gavin A pond adds an­other di­men­sion to your gar­den... but get the bal­ance of plants right E for main­tain­ing a healthy pond

Star Courier (Surrey & Hants) - - FRONT PAGE -

ver since Char­lie Dim­mock per­formed her magic on the na­tion’s gar­dens, or­di­nary peo­ple like you and me have suc­cumbed to the temptation of a wa­ter fea­ture.

Its at­tributes are ob­vi­ous – beau­ti­ful, nat­u­ral, re­flec­tive, gen­tle sounds, a hint of na­ture and a haven for wildlife.

How­ever, un­less they are done well, wa­ter fea­tures and es­pe­cially ponds can be­come a mess. Un­der­stand­ing what you want to achieve and mak­ing the right de­ci­sions for your pro­ject is very im­por­tant.

I’ve learnt this to my cost. For the past five years I’ve had an unfinished pro­ject – three ponds, meant to be linked to­gether with waterfalls, two of which leak. It’s my prom­ise to my­self this spring to get them in or­der.

I made a bad choice by be­ing con­vinced to go with a polypropy­lene con­struct which is very dif­fi­cult to weld to­gether and it’s prov­ing al­most im­pos­si­ble to find where the leaks are spring­ing from.

I’m go­ing to rem­edy this by us­ing black butyl liner, which in my ex­pe­ri­ence is the best way to go.

After sound con­struc­tion, a good combination of plant­ing is key for a healthy pond.

Oxy­gena­tors are nec­es­sary to keep the wa­ter clean as they suck the nu­tri­ents from the wa­ter which oth­er­wise en­cour­ages a blan­ket of green al­gae.

Horn­wort and the wa­ter but­ter­cup are a good choice here, but avoid Elodea – Cana­dian pondweed – as this is ex­tremely in­va­sive. Floaters are just placed on the sur­face of the wa­ter and pro­vide some ad­di­tional sur­face cover and food for fish.

Duck­weed ( Lemna) and Fairy Moss ( Azolla) tend to take over very quickly and car­pet the pool.

Choose in­stead na­tive plants, such as frog bit ( Hy­drocharis), which has pretty white flow­ers in sum­mer, and wa­ter sol­diers ( Stra­tiotes) with spiky fo­liage.

Don’t worry that th­ese plants dis­ap­pear in winter – they sink to the bot­tom of the pond to over­win­ter and will re- emerge.

Waterlilies or nymphaeas are the most de­sir­able of aquatic plants. Their large and fra­grant blooms are sec­ond to none and their leaves pro­vide su­perb cover for fish.

They will only flour­ish in still wa­ter so don’t con­sider them if you have mov­ing wa­ter, such as waterfalls, foun­tains or pumps. Plant in their bas­kets in a sunny spot in May or June and lift and re- pot after four years. Dwarf va­ri­eties are perfect for mini ponds or half bar­rels as th­ese can be grown in shal­low wa­ters.

If your lily pond has be­come over­grown and the plants are con­gested, you will need to lift and di­vide them as you would peren­nial plants.

Choose hardy va­ri­eties as the trop­i­cal va­ri­eties won’t sur­vive our win­ters. Marginals nat­u­rally grow in the shal­low edges of ponds so th­ese are ap­pro­pri­ate if you have a pond which slopes grad­u­ally or the pond has a shelf at the side which is around half a foot deep or so.

While they aren’t nec­es­sary for healthy pond life, they play a role in soft­en­ing the edges of a pond, cre­at­ing a nat­u­ral­is­tic ef­fect.

There are plenty of suit­able plants, such as yel­low iris ( Iris pseu­da­corus), the flow­er­ing rush ( Bu­to­mus um­bel­la­tus) and pont­de­ria, the pick­erel weed, which has cylin­dri­cal spikes of blue flow­ers.

For drama you can’t beat the white arum lily, Zant­edeschia.

Fi­nally, a note of cau­tion. Any amount of wa­ter in a gar­den that chil­dren have ac­cess to can be dan­ger­ous, so think very care­fully be­fore you in­tro­duce it.

It may well be that it has to be fenced off for a cou­ple of years or that it sim­ply isn’t ap­pro­pri­ate. And while your own chil­dren may be welle­d­u­cated about the haz­ards, a vis­it­ing child might not be – and it only takes a cou­ple of min­utes for some­thing ter­ri­ble to hap­pen.

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