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.
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.
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.
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.
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.