Water enhances a garden with graphic reflections, sparkles of light, and
a whole range of diverse plants that thrive in and around ponds and
pools. Combine colorful deciduous plants with a few evergreens for
year-round interest. Here are a few ideas for making water features a part of your garden design.
Add Formal Elegance
Choose just one or two plants to add interest to a raised pool, rather than cramming in a whole range of different types. Match the flat pads and elegant flowers of water lilies with the dramatic vertical leaves of horsetails or miniature reeds to create a sophisticated design. Alternatively, use a basket of beautiful spear-shaped foliage, such as Pontederia cordata to create a focal point in an otherwise clear pool.
To keep the water in your formal feature clean and free of algae, try adding a black dye, which that will inhibit the growth of weeds and accentuate plant reflections; some shade from the leaves of water lilies will help too.
Make a Home for Fish
Fish help to bring a pond to life, but many feed on aquatic plants, so choose tough greenery that will regenerate after being nibbled. Good choices include grassy, clump-forming Acorus calamus, marsh marigolds (Caltha), and pickerel weed (Pontederia), which will also provide cover from herons and other predators. Position plants carefully in aquatic baskets topped with well-washed pea gravel.
Plant a Beautfiul Bog
Bog and moisture-loving plants include a compelling range with brightly
colored flowers and dramatic foliage. A natural pond will be edged with
the damp soil these plants require. If your conditions are too dry,
make a bog garden by digging out an area and lining it with perforated
plastic to help retain moisture. In the spring, edge your pond with a
range of flowering plants, such as primulas teamed with a carpet of
low-growing bugle (Ajuga reptans ‘Multicolor’). If space allows,
spectacular displays can be created by mixing the massive leaves of a
Gunnera with vivid red or pink Astilbe and purple-leaf Filipendula
Beautify Small Spaces
You don’t have to do without a water feature if you have a small patio or balcony garden. A watertight glazed container filled with a dwarf water lily or an arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) will add a touch of class to a modern garden design. You can opt for a more informal barrel pool, easily constructed from an old barrel lined with plastic. Plant it with a selection of compact aquatics, such as ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) and marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris), opting for a good mix of foliage and flowers, being careful not to overwhelm the feature.
Create a Wildlife Haven
Any amount of water will attract wildlife, including insects, frogs and toads, birds, and small mammals. To create the most attractive and safe environment, ensure one side of your pool slopes down into the water so that creatures can get in and out easily, or use containers in and around a raised feature to act as stepping stones. Protect aquatic creatures from predators with marginals for cover, and create a refuge for land animals by edging at least half the pond with bog plants. Although native aquatics will give your pond a natural look, some, like Iris pseudacorus and the bulrush Typha latifolia, are very invasive. Instead, look out for better-behaved compact varieties, and add oxygenating plants to keep the water clear.