Just add Water
I’m a firm believer that gardens should be enjoyed not endured. One particular feature of a garden, the garden pond, can bring us constant enjoyment at this time of year especially if you have the time to observe closely. Since the human race started to garden, water has been an important element firstly out of necessity for the nourishment of plants, and secondly for the provision of habitat for plants and the vast array of fauna which is naturally attracted to the aquatic landscape.
Whether you have a small tightly packed garden, or plenty of spare space, even the smallest of watery holes can make a garden more interesting and attractive. Wildlife such as toads, newts and dragonflies, which wouldn’t otherwise be interested in your dry terrain will miraculously find your specialist stop-off point and before long they’ll be calling it home and raising their families. Amphibious creatures will come and go through the seasons and many of them make good pest controllers in the garden. Bird life will value the shallow edges for drinking and bathing, as will small mammals.
Us humans benefit too from the presence of semi-natural water settings in the garden; ponds, waterfalls and fountains offer a place for contemplation providing a mirror to the sky and surrounding landscape. If you also add in moving water, by means of a pump or if you’re fortunate, a natural stream, then you’ll enjoy the pleasing sound of water trickling its way along. Assuming all risks have been assessed, children in particular will be intrigued by water in the garden (especially if it’s accompanied by waterfalls, fountains or streams) which is often on their scale anyway. They’ll love temporarily capturing ‘mini-beasts’ and observing their behaviour before releasing them back again. For children and adults alike, somehow, water can stir the imagination and have a calming influence too.
A water feature is not just about the water itself though. Associated planting is essential for broadening the range of animal species your feature can attract. The kinds of plant which thrive in the shallow areas around the edges of a pond are referred to as ‘marginals’. In a natural pond these root down into the banks but in a man-made pond we need to provide ‘baskets’ of suitable growing medium, which sit on integral ‘shelves’ incorporated into the structure of the pond. The marginal plants often have long strap-like leaves and attractive flower. It’s this sort of growth which attracts Dragonflies and damselflies in particular. Beautiful flowers in ponds aren’t restricted to marginals though as the popular Waterlillies prove. These can be spectacular and act to provide shade for fish and amphibians as well as helping to keep the water cooler in summer.
So if you want to add a new dimension to your plot, think water. Decide on a suitable location first; some shade is beneficial but not where too many leaves will fall, plus a spot where you can have easy access is important so it’s less likely to become neglected. For garden-scale ponds there’s a choice between flexible liners and rigid pre-formed shapes. In either case, line your hole with sharp sand so it can be moulded as you want it and eliminates the risk of sharp stones puncturing the liner. For large scale ponds, clay can be formed to provide a more natural type of pond but this can be quite a project. Whatever size or form you end up with, you won’t be disappointed with the new array of life coming to your garden.
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