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     Pond Tips
 Garden Design and Your Pond

GARDEN DESIGN

Certain considerations will pay off handsomely. Here is a list of suggestions in planning the landscape to accompany your pond:

1. NOT FLAT: use berms, graduating levels, retaining walls, rocks to plan a natural looking pond. A pond does not look natural no matter how lovely it is, if it doesn't look like it belongs in the yard. Japanese gardens are planted on many levels to "keep the spirits" away from the house. It is believed that spirits can't climb and will only use flat ground.

2. SIZE: Use proportionately sized plants for your yard. Most suburban homes are small lots with a house and probably a garage. To make your space look bigger, use dwarf and slow-growing plants. Plants which grow horizontally instead of vertically will also make the space appear larger. Some of these could be the miniature evergreens, dwarf daylilies, low-growing shrubbery such as Bar Harbor juniper and certain cotoneaster varieties. Moss adds color and interest. Smaller varieties of fern fit nicely. Conifers such as mugho pine do much better than white pine in limited space. Even in larger properties, small plants add so much more opportunity with less work.

3. YEAR-ROUND INTEREST: when trees, shrubs are bare, rocks, dried grasses and statuary will enhance the fall/winter scenery. Certain small trees and shrubs are notable for their decorative bark, such as Red-Twig Dogwood. White birch is slow-growing and decorative in winter (and a favorite of mine.) Other pines, spruces and evergreens will make a pleasing statement. If you have the room, look into larger specimen trees and shrubs.

4. NATIVE PLANTS: Moss, fern, sedum and buttercup (a first-class weed in most places) do very well and look more natural. Rather than the hybridized plants, check with the local Cornell Cooperative Extension for local plants which are hardier than imports. In my yard, I have incorporated the small-leaf holly with mugho pine, dwarf Japanese Barbary, and dwarf daylilies. All grow with gusto but remain small in stature. I believe every garden would benefit from the lovely 4-6" Liriope (lily turf) which does well in either sun or shade. One of the show-stoppers in my garden is the mounding buttercups (ranunculus). This is a plant my father spent many days fighting to rid the area of and one I couldn't wait to reintroduce.

5. SPRING PLANTING: to have a really nice reception in spring following a long winter, under plant with naturalizing bulbs, such as narcissis and species tulips. Other naturalizing bulbs include Spanish or English bluebells, early snowdrops which come in single flowering or double, and the myriad of crocus species. The greenery which lasts into the summer can be hidden by ferns, Siberian Iris, and hosta varieties. Once they begin to fade, remove the above ground segments.

6. COLORS: companion planting makes the difference between a nice garden and a beautiful garden. Plants with spiked leaves, such as variegated yucca, go wonderfully with spreading juniper, gold rush juniper or sedum and even looks great planted with coleus varieties for a dash of color. Think about the colors, muted with dazzling, and shapes, spiked with soft, and take note of what really strikes you in someone else's garden because it is probably not going to look as nice in yours unless you plant it with the companion plants shown. Plant grey-leaved plants with soft mauve flowers for a calming effect.

7. WATER PLANTS: to bridge the gap between the surrounding garden and the pond, use bog and water-loving plants. Water lilies do nicely to shade the pond and expand the garden area. This also serves to make the pond "part of" the garden rather than something stuck in as an afterthought. In the warm seasons the floating plants can easily take-over. It is best to have at least 1/3 of the pond surface uncluttered by plants. If you have koi in your pond, plants probably won't ever live long enough to take over. My experience with the ever-favorite Iris Pseudocorus is that it doesn't belong in a pond. It does very well in dirt and won't grow to gargantuan proportions in a single season, which is generally the case inside the pond. Outside the pond, the foliage doesn't overwhelm the small yellow flowers. I personally prefer striking foliage to pleasing flowers, so the water lilies have mottled or bronze-colored leaves. When seeking proportional-sized plants, steer clear of the larger water lilies and lotus (yes, there are dwarf varieties of both) unless you have lots of room. I also suggest bog gardens which are not located inside the pond. They can be installed a few inches above the water surface where the water enters from the filter return and flows over the edge and back into the pond. This keeps koi out of the plants and in the pond where they belong. Fish swimming in shallow areas such as a bog are much more vulnerable to predators and predatory insects. Water celery works wonderfully in a raised bog and will overflow the edge to soften the look of the pond. The fish will keep it trimmed for you.

 

- Carolyn Weise

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