The basic principles to bear in mind when planning your aquatic garden is to ensure that you have a micro ecosystem.
Most pond plants require a sunny position to do well. A site that collects water after rain should be avoided as this may cause flooding into the pond and muddying of the water. An even water temperature is desirable so avoid a position which is subject to cold winds particularly in spring as this will delay growth. Leaves dropping into the pond will foul the water so avoid a position with overhanging branches.
Fountains & Waterfalls:-
The sound of running water is relaxing in the garden and can help to charge the water with oxygen, which fish breath. However, this is not essential to keep fish in a pond. Splashing water also increases the rate at which carbon dioxide is released from the water. Water Lilies particular and some other water plants resent splash or currents. Splashing water over the blooms of water lilies will waterlog the flowers. Therefore some thought has to be given as to the site of a waterfall or fountain in the pond, the strength of flow and whether and what plants are to be grown in it.
Choosing a Pump:-
The first consideration is what use the pump is to be put to i.e. a fountain or waterfall, high or low voltage.
It is necessary to know the height to which the water must be lifted and the volume of water. For waterfall installation a pump which produces volume rather than pressure is required, for fountains the reverse may be necessary. Submersible pumps are the most satisfactory and economic type for small and medium sized pools. They should be sat on a brick in the pool to avoid being clogged by silt or debris, and must be completely covered by water to avoid damage.
Low Voltage pump:- A Low Voltage pump may be more expensive and requires a transformer, but under many conditions, the safety aspect of low voltage pumps outweighs the cost consideration.
High Voltage pump:- A High Voltage pump will need an outdoor power, installed by an electrician. A fountain jet may be attached to the pump depending on the pump model or a hose may be attached to supply water to a fountain ornament. A submersible pump supplying a waterfall should be placed as close as possible to the point where water re-enters the pool to minimize disturbance to water lilies.
Selection Of Plants:-
The selection of plants is most important. They provide beauty but also in the correct mixture they will help to keep the pond water clear.
Water Lilies:- These plants provide flowers over a long period and also their spreading leaves help to keep the pond water clear by cutting off the sunlight and shading the water beneath. Removing old flowers and leaves every two weeks is advisable. Algae requires sun to grow and this is the main cause of murky water. Oxygenating plants also help to control this problem.
Hardy Water Lilies:- These grow in climates and flower from October to March. Most require full sun but some will tolerate semi-shade and still produce flowers. They mostly require a planting depth (height of water above the soil) of 20cm/8ins to 30cm/12ins. If planted more deeply they will not flower as frequently.
Tropical Water Lilies:- These start flowering later than the hardies but will continue until the onset of winter long after the hardies have finished. They mostly have more and larger flowers and are often fragrant. The colour range includes blue, purple, violet, lavender and greenish shades that do not occur in the hardies. There are also night and day blooming varieties. The leaves are larger than the hardies and are often speckled, splashed or boldly patterned with chestnut or purple. They mostly require a planting depth (height of water above the soil) of 20cm/8iins to 30cm/12ins.
PYGMY Water Lilies These are suitable for small ponds, tubs or shallow sections of large ponds. They require a planting depth (height of water above the soil) of 10cm/4ins to 15cm/6ins. Descriptions of these are below.
Aurora (Hardy) - the flowers open creamy yellow and change to orange yellow and to brick red on the third or fourth day; attractive mottled foliage.
Colorata (Tropical) - fragrant l0cm/4ins deep violet blue flowers with a yellow centre prolifically produced from January.
Pink Laydeker (Hardy) - rich rosy pink 5cm/2ins flowers deepening to rose red; small mottled leaves.
Pygmaea helvola (Hardy) star shaped canary yellow 5cm/2ins flowers produced prolifically; small mottled leaves; best divided each year.
Repotting Water Lilies Water lilies should be re potted every second or third year to ensure good flowering. 3 parts heavy loam to I part old cow manure should be used. The cow manure should be mixed with a little of the soil and placed in the bottom of the pot. A double thickness of newspaper covering the drainage holes in the pot will stop the mixture leaking out. Dampen the soil and cover with a layer of sand before slowly submerging. The sand will keep the soil from floating out.
Hardy Water Lilies These grow from a thick rhizome which gradually spreads over the soil. Cut away a strong crown with a few centimetres of rhizome. Repot this at the side of the pot with the growing point facing the direction which gives it the maximum distance to spread. Be careful not to damage the growing tip or allow soil to lie in the crown of new leaves. Repoting is best done at the end of winter.
Tropical Water Lilies. Tropicals grow from a tuber. When repotting the old tuber may be cut in half and the lower section discarded. Try to save the root ball with some soil. Small young tubers may be found close to or attached to the parent plant. These make good new stock to grow as the old tuber will eventually rot.
Other Surfacing Plants:-
These are small plants with floating leaves and flowers which can be planted between water lilies or in any vacant spot in the pond. They should be planted in small pots containing soil with a sprinkling of cow manure added and topped with a layer of sand. Planting depth (height of water above soil) should be between 15cm/6ins and 20cm/8ins.
Nardoo - Marsilea quadrifolia - an Australian native with leaves that resemble a four leaf clover.
Water Poppy- Hydrocleys nymphoides - yellow poppy like flowers and bright green leaves through late spring and summer. Best in sun.
Water Fringe - Nymphoides peltata yellow flowers with fringed edges which resemble a miniature water lily and heart shaped leaves during late spring and summer. Best in sun.
Water Hawthorn - Aponogetum distachycum - white scented flowers with black centres in late winter and spring and bright green floating leaves; can tolerate shade.
SUBMERGED OXYGENATING PLANTS
The main benefit of these in a pond is not that they release oxygen into the water but that they grow rapidly and absorb dissolved mineral salts directly through their leaves. They thus compete directly with algae for food. Thus with water lilies to cut out the light and oxygenators to take the food the algae dies and the pond water stays clear. They are a must in a pond. They also provide a spawning area for fish, a hiding place for fry and food for goldfish. Use the same potting mix as for other surfacing plants.
Floating plants provide shade and harbor for fish in outdoor ponds. They feed through their roots which are suspended in the water. By shading the water and using the nutrients in it they help in suppressing algae. Fish use the root masses of some types as spawning mats.
Duckweed - Lemna minor - small bright green floating leaves; good food for large fish.
Fairy Floating Moss - Azolla caroliniana - fine ferny leaves - green or red at different times of the year.
Water Lettuce - Pistia stratiotes - the plants do resemble lettuce with velvety leaves; they will not survive in heavy frost areas.
Pond plants that stand in shallow water with the pot just covered and lift their stems and flowers above it are referred to as marginals. They are best confined to individual pots. Use the same potting mix as for other surfacing plants. Some varieties may be planted out of the water in damp positions and are marked with an “*”.
* Fishbone Water Fern - Blechnum nudum - an attractive fern which slowly develops a trunk. Soft green fronds; grows in shade.
* Iris Flag - Iris pseudo-acorus - yellow or orange flowers in early summer up to 120cm (4 ft) Vigorous growth; best in a sunny position.
Japanese - Iris kaempferi - large purple, crimson or white flowers in combinations during November and December. Grows best in a sunny position. Grows to 90cm (3 ft).
Siberian - Iris siberica - large light or dark blue, purple, violet or white veined flowers in late spring. Grows to 60cm (2 ft). Best in a sunny position.
Lizard's Tail - Saururus cernuus - heart shaped leaves and creamy white flowers during summer. Best in sun.
* Lobelia cardinalis - lush green foliage and brilliant scarlet flower spikes in late summer. Grows to 90 cm (3 ft).
* Lythrum vireatum "Rose Queen" rich pink tinged purple flower spikes during summer for a sunny position. Grows to 50cm (20 ins).
* Marsh Marigold - Caltha palustris - golden yellow flowers from early to late spring held above the kidney shaped leaves for a sunny position.
* Monkey Flower - Mimulus guttatus - beautiful red or yellow flowers in late spring. Mimulus is generally treated as an annual, and grows to about 20 cm (8 ins).
* Papyrus - Cyperus papyrus - The Egyptian Paper Plant - a tall variety which grows to 2m. If planted in the garden it is best contained. Best in full sun.
Cyperus alternifolius - Umbrella Grass - bright green umbrella like foliage on 50cm stems. Best in full sun.
Cyperus papyrus 'Nana' - Dwarf Egyptian Papyrus - similar to the tall variety but grows to 50cm. Best in full sun.
Cyperus elegantissima 'Variegata' - Variegated Umbrella Grass - a dainty variety best in some shade. Grows to 35cm. Parrot's Feather - Myriophyllum intermedium - upright green feathery stems. Best in a sunny position.
Pickerel Rush - Pontederia cordata - heart shaped leaves and heads of bright blue flowers freely produced during summer. Grows to 75cm. Best in sun.
Primrose Creeper - Juissea diffusa - an attractive creeping plant for a sunny position with yellow flowers through summer.
River Buttercup - Ranunculus rivularis - bright yellow buttercup flowers in spring, with attractive foliage. Best in a sunny position.
*Sedge - Carer morrowii 'Bressingham' - slow beautiful growth. Best in some sun. Attractive variegated foliage.
*The Sweet Flag - Acorus gramineus 'Variegatus' - attractive striped green and creamy white leaves to 20cm. Can be grown in shade.
*Water Cress - Nasturium officinale - small white flowers with quick growth. Can be eaten. Best in a sunny position.
Water Milfoil - Myriophyllum elatinocher - grey green feathery foliage with a creeping habit. Best in a sunny position.
*Water Mint - Mentha aquatica - strong mint scented leaves on red purple stems and blue flowers. Best in a sunny position.
There are many plants suitable for growing in damp positions by ponds. Those marginals marked with an * fall into this category as well as the plants listed below.
Ajuga - Bugle flower - there are several varieties with different coloured leaves and blue flower spikes. They are useful as small ground covers and to fill in. Best in semi-shade.
Astilbes - Goat's Beard - there are a variety of colours from palest pink to red. The flower heads appear from late spring until late summer. Best in semi-shade; dies down in winter.
Blazing Star - Liatris spicata - deep purple or white flower spikes in summer. Best in sun. Dies down in winter.
Creeping Jenny- Lysimachia nummularia - a useful small ground cover for semi-shade. A gold variety is sometimes available.
Day Lilies - Hemerocallis - many colours are available from yellow through apricot and orange to red. Good in semi-shade. Dies down in winter.
Ferns - there are many types of ferns that enjoy damp shady areas: maidenhairs (Adiantum), bird's nest and hen and chicken ferns (Asplenium) and some Pteris varieties are particularly suitable.
Flax - Phormium tenax - there are several varieties of these New Zealand natives with red and variegated leaves. They are attractive accent plants for sun around a pond.
Hostas - Plantain Lily - there are many different varieties some with variegated foliage. Lavender or white flower spikes in summer. Best inm total shade or light morning sun. Dies down in winter.
Mint- Mentha - several mints will grow in boggy soils i.e. Eau de Cologne mint, Pennyroyal, Corsican mint and Apple mint.
Monkshood - Aconitum napellus - spikes of deep blue flowers in autumn; best in semi-shade. Lavender Shower - Thalictrum - soft grey green foliage and masses of lavender flowers in late summer; best in semi-shade; dies down in winter.
Scaveola - there are several varieties which flower with blue flowers through spring and summer; they are Australian natives; best in half sun.
Solomon's Seal - Polygonatum multiflorum - arching stems with white bell like flowers in early summer; best for shade; dies down in winter.
Plants for the Pond Surround.
This should be in harmony with the pond and accent it. This may be a matter of personal taste however, there are some plants that particularly suit this purpose. They are listed below. However, in addition there are many types of rock plants too numerous to list that can be used to fill in around ponds, trailing over the rocks to enhance it's beauty.
Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia reginae. Blue Grass - Festuca glauca. Calla Lilies - Zantedeschia - several different coloured types. Canberra Grass - Sagina - gold and green forms. Cannas - dwarf flowering varieties. Conifers - dwarf and prostrate types. Dissectum Maples - Acer palmatum 'Dissectum'. Dwarf Red Hot Pokers - Kniphofia galpini. Fountain Grass - Pennisetum rupellii. Kangaroo Paws - Anigozanthus - several varieties. Lemon Grass - Cymbopogon citratus. Mondo Grass - Ophiopogon Sacred Bamboo - Nandina domestica - and the dwarf variety. Variegated Ribbon Grass - Holcus bulbosa 'Variegata'. Zebra Grass - Miscanthus japonicus 'Zebrinus'.
After the plants have been placed in the pond it is best to allow them at least two weeks to get established. This is particularly necessary for oxygenators which many fish will nibble.
Goldfish or their relatives the Comets, Fantails, Moors or Shubunkins can be established in the pond. Be careful not to overstock. A maximum of one fish to every .2 square metre of surface area should be satisfactory for the varieties of fish listed above. Fish will eat algae and insect larvae, and by doing so, help to keep the water clear and reduce the mosquito population around the pond.
Some additional feeding may be necessary about 24 hours after the fish have been released in the pond.. Fish in search of food are active, but, when they have had enough to eat they sink to the bottom of the pond.
When introducing fish to the pond allow the plastic bag they are in to float in the water for half an hour before releasing them. This will allow the water temperature to adjust slowly and minimize the shock to the fish, which may make them vulnerable to disease. The pond should be kept topped up so that it is not necessary to add large amounts of water at one time, causing damage the fish and plants.
Koi Carp are magnificent fish, however, if they do well few plants will survive. They have quite specific needs and should be kept in a separate pool to plants. A specialist should be consulted if you wish to keep these fish successfully. Aquatic snails may also be added to eat the algae. However, if there are too many they may attack your plants.
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