The Pond Walk- before and after shots

Near the house and out buildings I tend to make enclosed spaces I refer to as ‘rooms’ . The outside rooms are, I hope, a gentle transition from the rooms inside the house, to places that are outside but still give the feeling of enclosure. But as the garden moves further out,  I like to develop a  slightly more open feeling with plantings that have ‘a theme’ and that you can walk through on your way to another part of the garden or that take you out to the surrounding fields, and the wild beyond.  The names I have given to these more open, but planted and not yet totally wild areas are: the lilac walk, the daffodil walk, the pattern meadow walk, and the pond walk.  I am going to talk about the pond walk.

Before shot:  of proposed pond site

Before shot: of proposed pond site

Before shot: pond being dug. arctic willow

Before shot: pond being dug. arctic willow

The pond walk has evolved over a long period of time with the majority of the plants showing up after the pond was dug in 2005. The pond project was one of the most exciting projects to date and I could not have foreseen how beautifully it would evolve. Some of how the pond developed was natural, but there was also some interference as well! The first two years, bull rushes tried to take hold, but my wife who had seen other ponds taken over by the plant, set herself the task of removing them one by one each summer. And every August, I still spend 3-4 days removing the three varieties of golden rod and brambles that show up at the ponds edge. By selecting what grows we left room for native forget-me-not, iris pseudoacorus, daisy, boneset and asters mixed in with many varieties of sedges and native grasses to stake their claim. We never see bull rushes now because the real estate they like is already taken. Friends who built ponds who did not beat back the bull rushes have ended up with a pond full of bull rushes and not much else.

pond filled up 2 weeks after being dug

pond filled up 2 weeks after being dug

Laying alley of taxus- walk to the pond and new boarders

Laying out alley of taxus- walk to the pond walk and new borders

After shot: path leading to pond walk, plantings filled in

After shot: path leading to pond walk, plantings filled in

After shot: pond walk integrating native flag irises into plantings.

After shot: pond walk integrating iris pseudoacorus into plantings.

side house irises

Pond walk

The iris pseudoacorus seeds heads droop with the weight of their load eventually rotting and releasing the seeds that then embed themselves all around the  pond’s edge – which is both a spectacular sight in and out of flower and a wonderful habitat for frogs and other wildlife.

view across pond

view across pond- pond walk

Tips for a lovely pond.

If you mow right up to the edge of your pond, the grass clipping will end up in the water and break down as acid which creates the perfect conditions for pond scum. In the area I live many people have their ponds in the middle of a large lawn with no wildflowers or grasses.  I think these plant starved ponds look overly manicured and are sterile environments that miss the opportunity of providing an important habitat for all the forms of life that would otherwise be drawn to a pond. I leave a 4-5’ foot buffer of these native plants around the water’s edge.

But whether you have a buffer or not most young ponds go through many different developmental stages and I believe the appearance of free-floating algae is one such stage of the life of a pond. The PH in the water changes after several years. This problem can be resolved by adding barley straw to the pond during the warmer months. For a more in depth article about pond scum read Kaatskill – summer 2008 article-A Blooming Pond.

Besides being a wonderful place to swim, our pond is a retreat for several varieties of ducks, blue heron, American Bittern, butterflies, and dragonflies and many more.

Native Aesculus parvilora planted on bank of pond

Native Aesculus parvilora planted on bank of pond

The banks and outer area of the pond walk are planted with several variety of tree including Chionanthus virginicus, Malus Donald Wyman, Carpinus Betula, Betula Nigra,  Amelanchier  canadensis , Prunus autumnalis, Pinus strobes, Salix alba Tristis, Syringa reticulate, and a wall of Thuja techny.

Some of shrubs I planted on the pond’s bank include several varieties of Syringa vulgaris, Aesculus parvilfora, Salix purpurea nana, Salix britzensis, Cornus sericea, Philadelphus, and Hamamelis Virginia.

I really wanted the pond to look like it has always been part of the place and by letting the gentler native plants take hold I feel that has been achieved.

Blue heron sits in arctic willow- weeping willow behind.

Blue heron sits in arctic willow- weeping willow behind.

American bittern- wild life shows up at pond when area is protected by plants.

American bittern- wild life shows up at pond when area is protected by plants.

Native Boneset encouraged by removing golden rod- August

Native Boneset encouraged by removing golden rod- August pond walk

flag irise and other Native wildflowers encouraged along drive connecting to pond walk

Iris pseudoacorus, buttercups and bishop weed encouraged along drive connecting to pond walk

This entry was posted in Before & After shots, Garden Rooms & Garden walks, Native plants, Ponds and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The Pond Walk- before and after shots

  1. Deirdre in Seattle says:

    Marvelous! The buffer is definitely a good thing being functional and attractive. Did you have to do anything to make it fill with and hold water, or was making a low spot enough?
    What have you got against goldenrod?

    • Don Statham says:

      The pond is 16′ feet deep and we have heavy clay soil here so no I didn’t have to do anything . It completely filled in under 2 weeks from run-off . It’s also spring fed deep down.
      I have acres of golden rod and love it in the wild meadows, but it’s not welcome in my garden. I may loose the battle to keep it out. You would not be able to see the asters or boneset if I had let them stay- that chrome yellow should be seen at a distance. Sorry- Deirdre- I am a painter first ( fine arts. )

  2. amazing job! looks so natural and the flag irises are just perfect.
    The native aesculus is a gorgeous plant, didn’t know it…

  3. Joan Martorano says:

    Gorgeous! I’m building a small pond on my half-acre in Beacon, but I’ll have to use a liner. I’ve been thinking hard about the plants I’ll use in and around the pond, so your post is timely for me. Thank you for letting us see your beautiful property!

    • Don Statham says:

      Joan- I think each setting (suburban/ rural) of a pond can invite a very different approach to the plantings. I remember seeing Rosemary Verey’s small pond and being blown away by her bold planting. Lots of large Siberian iris, Marsh marigolds. ferns. How exciting to figure out what you want to plant in this new area.

  4. bittster says:

    What a scene, it looks great and so natural and the chairs on the dock would keep me occupied for hours. Were you ever tempted to plant water lilies? The blooms would be nice, but I also love the reflections.

    • Don Statham says:

      I did plant two pots of water lilies more of (a hybrid variety) and they only lasted about 3 years. They were beautiful but in the end I ended up with plantings that were more native. There is a beautiful native waterlily you see on many of the large lakes here in upstate New York. But they need a lot of room- they tend take over small ponds. My pond was made really as a small swimming pond. I do have watercress which grows all the way around the edge of the pond now. We harvest the cress in spring in fall when it produces the best cress (cooler weather.)

  5. Deborah B says:

    Stunning! I love the varied plantings you used. Our new pond is so heavily visited by deer that most of the plantings we have tried there so far have been eaten to the ground repeatedly, not just in winter but all through the year. Even the Joe Pye weed and Siberian irises. Only the grasses have survived. You didn’t mention deer in your article. Have they been a presence? Here they would make quick work of most of those shrubs you mentioned.

    • Don Statham says:

      Hi Deborah, Yes the pond is mostly visited in the winter by deer. I see their tracks all winter, but not in the spring or summer months- so they really do not bother the plants! I would think having a big buffer say 5-6′ feet around the pond with native plants would work. I do put tree wraps around the trunks of young trees. Most of the shrubs are native and there has been no damage.

      If I recall your pond is off in a wild setting so it may be a problem – but I think the way to go is using native plants.

  6. Brian in Roxbury says:

    You have such a beautiful garden–the pond is wonderful, and I do love that big leaf room! I confess–I’m a long-time lurker. In fact, I first became aware of your place when you were in the NY Times years ago with a little piece titled “Houses With Garden: Every Yard Can Be a Laboratory.” (In fact, I’m looking at it now–it’s on my bulletin board.) We had just bought a house in Delaware County (Roxbury), and i was ready to get serious with a garden (there was nothing), so it was really fun to see the picture of your nearby house and garden and read what you had to say.

    I noticed that the Garden Conservancy’s Open days was doing a Delaware County day, and I was hoping that your garden would be included, so I’m happy to see you’re there!

    • Don Statham says:

      Hi Brian-
      Welcome to Rooting For Ideas.
      Thank you so much for your kind words.
      I really appreciate the lurkers’ sensibility! I am taking part in the Franklin Garden Lecture series and will be speaking about the making of my garden-
      ‘Making Rooms in a Garden’ on June 1St at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Franklin from 7 to 9 pm.- otherwise I hope you will introduce yourselves if you make it to the Open Garden Day.
      Look forward to meeting you soon.
      Best, Don

      • Brian in Roxbury says:

        Hi Don
        We are definitely coming for your garden day. I would love to get to the lecture but I think we’re going to spend that day at the Columbia County Open Garden Day–Margaret Roach et al. If we don’t head east, we’ll head west to Franklin. Looking forward to meeting you and seeing your beautiful place.

  7. Pingback: Before & After: An Impressive Pond in New York State —studio g garden design ad inspired outdoor living Studio G, Garden Design & Landscape Inspiration

  8. commonweeder says:

    This is a fabulous post about a beautiful garden. I wish you had explained where the water came from. We have a ‘fire pond’ that was created by the previous owners of our property, on the site of a spring and small stream. It is currently home to beavers, but that is another story. I would be awfully careful of those iris! In our neighborhood anyway they are wildly invasive, spreading by wind blown seed as well as roots.

    • Don Statham says:

      The water in the pond comes primarily from runoff from the upper fields. There are a serious of swales that catch the water running off the fields and directs it into the pond. I believe there are also some underground springs in the pond that also bring water to the pond. It rarely drops more than a few inches even in a hot summer. I know the Iris can be problematic in a suburban situation but I am surrounded by lots of land. Part of the project was to regulate what naturally comes into the area. I did not want to buy plants for this wilder area. I am already pulling 4 types of golden rod and bramble canes every year from the pond’s edge.

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