man-made duck pond
River stones line a catchment pool which cascades downhill into a man-made duck pond.

Informal Ponds & Pools

Unless the architectural genre of your house fits a formal garden style, it is likely that you will plant the garden in an informal manner. Even if your house is formal in style, you may still decide on a more casual or natural approach outdoors.

Informal ponds in gardens are typified by gentle curves and flowerbeds of irregular form; and the water gardens which accompany them may have the same kind of design. Straight lines and geometric shapes are out, symmetry is forgotten and rigid planting is frowned upon.

Although some people build informal ponds in the center of lawns, this often looks contrived. You will achieve a more authentic effect if you blend it in with the surrounding environment. It is essential to hide the material from which the pond has been constructed.

Bog plants and decorative marginals may be planted around the edge of the pool, overhanging the water here and there, effectively blurring the outline you have created. You can also place rocks and river stones along the edge and in the shallows.

If you have a natural pond in your garden, you will probably find it is sited at the lowest point. It may also be fed by a natural stream. It stands to reason, therefore, that a man-made pool of this sort should be similarly located – ideally in a spot which looks as though it could be a natural pond. Avoid hollows which will quickly fill with mud. If an adjacent slope is likely to erode and wash soil into the water, stabilize it with interlocking concrete terrace blocks which you can plant, or establish a rockery.

lily pond.
Water trickles into a lily pond.

Sloping ground also offers the opportunity to create natural waterfalls and cascades, with a series of ponds on different, terraced levels. This will take more expertise, and it might be necessary to get the help of a landscaper.

If your aim is primarily to attract wildlife to the pond or even simply to create a natural water feature which blends with your garden, there is no doubt that you will want an informal design. Whatever the size of the pond you are planning, the key to success on flat ground lies largely in the peripheral planting and edging chosen. One of the most successful ways to make it look natural is to plant right to the water’s edge. The only problem is that, for full enjoyment, you need to see the water. A raised platform or patio on higher ground will give you visual access, but you may find it difficult to get there through the growth. Here, a jetty, adjoining deck or a natural clearing are the obvious answers. You could grass an adjacent area, or pave it. If a hard surface is your choice, consider materials which look natural; crazy paving or reconstituted stone, for instance.

Although a timber edging of railway sleepers or cut logs can look beautifully natural, it is a good idea to intersperse the wood with ground cover or pebbles to prevent it becoming too slippery.

Pay careful attention to what you plant both in and out of the water to ensure a healthy balance of life. Equally important are the kinds of fish you introduce into the pond and the wildlife you attract to the area. Water lilies and floaters provide shelter, while various aquatic plants oxygenate the water. These plants also provide a haven for insects, frogs and many other creatures which inhabit water gardens.

Unfortunately, fish fall prey to many birds and this can be a problem, especially if you have invested lots of money in a koi pond. In some instances, the answer is to cover the pond with a suitable net. While this may detract from the general effect, if you can remove it at will, it may prove be a satisfactory solution.

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