Friday, July 17, 2009

The pond garden

Not in the pond, but nearby. I couldn't resist posting anyway.

The view from the top

I installed the pond around ten years ago. It's roughly 7 x 11 feet, with a filter and hidden pump at the left (hidden under fake rock cover) which pushes water through a buried pipe back into the bottom of the waterfall reservoir. This way the waterfall appears natural, spilling over. The reservoir is a black plastic tub fronted with rock.

On the left side of the waterfall I planted a shrubby thing that gets white non-pareil flowers in the spring. It does a good job of hiding, and it hangs over the water. The birds use it and the nearby apple tree as perches and security while they hop in and out of the waterfall on hot days.

The right side of the waterfall doesn't look too good. I planted a white beach rose, not realizing that it would grow into a tree. It stands on tall legs, like an ostrich, the foliage and wonderfully scented flowers six to eight feet off the ground. You pretty much need a step ladder to smell the roses. Oh well. (Hey Joanne, if you're reading, any ideas? Can I prune it? I don't want to move it, and benign neglect has been my approach so far, and it's healthy...)

Waterfall, peppermint, sedge in background

The pond is terraced. The first shelf is just deep enough for cat litter pans used as planters for floating heart, sedge, mini-cattails, some kind of rush grass, and the whacking huge yellow flag iris. The second shelf is around twenty inches deep, I think. The water lilies sit here, four of them, in two (three?) gallon pots. The final level is small, 2 x 3 feet, and 42 inches deep. Deep enough so that the goldfish can winter over.

Cattails, peppermint, and pushy iris


This is the best picture I could get of any of the fish. Even though the photo isn't clear, I do like the reflections of the plants in the water. When I cleaned the pond this spring, the census count was fourteen goldfish. Some small, some black ninjas that might as well be invisible, and some decent size orange ones. I believe these fish are self-limiting--they might grow larger in a larger pond. Here, they seem to max out at around six inches long, but they have beefy 'shoulders'. All these fish were born here, as were their parents.

I stocked the pond with six colorful shubunkins and a couple of fantails ten years ago, and then added a carnival goldfish a few years later. At one point we came back from a vacation to find almost no fish. I think a heron must have got them. But there were still some, and these were the ancestors of the current fish. I think the fancy colors breed out and revert to plain black and orange over generations.

I don't care for the fish in any way. No food, no special winter care. I just clean the pond once a year in the spring, and net it in the fall to keep most of the leaves out (they rot and foul the water). No more than once a year I may add solar salt (not the yellowish kind--that's got a chemical that will kill the fish instantly). Salt isn't good for the plants, but is a cure-all for fish.

Occasionally I add water with a garden hose, making sure to run the water cold and clear first. I set it on a rock near the surface, so that it sprays in and aerates the water. Years ago we had a runty fantail fish we called "Whitey" and he loved the hose. He'd surf the current, swim around, and go again, for as long as the hose was in the water.

Massive yellow flag iris (note pond filter intake lower left)

Like most of the plants, the iris is as old as the pond. It started off as a single green shoot that arrived mail order, it's bottom in a little baggie. I thought "Hmm, five bucks. What a rip off." Not so. We've split this thing two or three times now. The chunks we've planted away from the water in other parts of the garden are doing well. Some of it I've just composted, as there's so much. The plant as you see it here is rooted in a single cat litter box, but only as a formality. It's broken the pan and most of the root system is just hanging in the water. The fish love to play in the cave created by the overhanging roots.

It has beautiful yellow flowers, as you can see, but it blooms very sparsely. It went seven years without a single flower. This year we had a bumper crop: two flowering stalks with three flowers each, plus one on one of the transplants away from the water.

Close up

Pond in early morning light

There are four water lilies. The one nearest the waterfall never blooms. It doesn't like the motion of the water, I'm told. But it still covers a good portion of the surface with it's pads. The pads covering the pond help control string algae. The water doesn't get enough sun for it to grow. String algae is nasty stuff and can make your pond a slime pit. For really bad infestations I'll use solar salt (see elsewhere in this post for warning). It kills plants, but the algae seems the most sensitive, so if I dose it right, I kill the algae and not the other stuff.

Water lilies

Two blooms at once on the same lily! This is a first. It's also my favorite water lily (don't tell the others). I love the clean, contrasting colors.

Peeking through the peppermint at another lily


Shadowblade said...

Seriously that fake rock has to get identified somehow. I almost crushed your entire circulation system.

Renee said...

I enjoy stopping by your blog and tonight what a beautful sight to behold. Thanks for a joy it must be for you.

Joe said...

Hi Renee:
Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the pix. I know you've been having a rough go, so if it's any consolation, taking those pictures this morning *completely* wore me out.

...and Shadowblade:
Yeah, um, I'll paint FAKE in big black letters. Seriously, the only other being that's ever walked on it is the bulldog, and he too almost fell in :)

Joanne said...

Hi Joe
What a lovely pond I am so envious. We have a small puddle completely overgrown and a job for another year. I am trying to catch up on about 4 years neglect plus two previous with limited mobility so I can't do everything at once. It is great to garden properly again though.

As I was saying I love your pond. Regarding the rose I think I would be ruthless in favour of the overall effect of your pond. First try taking rose cuttings (July) about 9" long deep in long tall pot mixed compost slightly sandy about 4 round the edge of the pot and try a couple of pots leave a few leaves on at the top and take the main shoot off at the top. You can do in the ground but I have best success in pots.

Then in the autumn I would either cut back really hard or cut back not so hard and move to another site or leave.

All roses can be pruned it's just how much, if there is some recent wood they will definitely shoot again but if you go back into all old wood you could loose it.

Tricky question sitting on the fence is the best answer.

I love the way you write about your pond/garden and your photos. Have you ever considered joining Blotanical, link on my blog, where you can look at lots of other garden blogs. I warn you though it can be very time consuming but makes a nice change from Lyme Forums.

Joe said...


Thanks for the advice! (It's like having my own personal expert - have you all SEEN Joanne's roses?)

Exposing my ignorance, where should I take the cutting? On this year's shoots? A few years old, but not really old wood? And do you mean the whole thing is 9", thus most of it in the pot with just a few inches poking up? Or longer, with 9" poking up?

Once I've potted them (this month), then am I supposed to plant them in the fall? Winter them in pots indoors?

Thanks again for responding. Your roses (and the one or two clematis :) are beautiful.

Joanne said...

A 9" pice of this years growth if possible. having removed top flimsy growth and lower leaves plung into a long pot to the bottom if necessary leaving4/5 inches above soil. Over winter in cold frame or greenhouse and don't plant out until the following autumn. Roots don't always form until the spring so need the summer to develop. It's worth a shot although most success I have had is with climbers and roses that are particularly vigorous as yours seems to be. Good luck.

Joe said...

Hi Joanne:

Thanks so much for the rose tutorial! I think I'll take some cuttings of that beach rose (rosa rugosa, I think) next week, assuming I have the energy. I googled around and it seems I can darn near cut all ten feet off--lop it to the ground--and it'll still come back strong. I may back off that a bit, but will do as you suggested and prune it *hard* in late fall.