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Planting The Pond – Hints And Tips
by David Wharton
July 13, 2014

A pond is a wonderful addition to any garden. The sound of water flowing over a waterfall and gently splashing into your purpose built lagoon is fantastic to listen to. But building a pond poses a new set of challenges for any gardener – none much greater than what plants to use in and around the pond.

Healthy ponds require the right amount of shade and light. The general rule of thumb is to not build a pond in too little sunlight e.g. under deciduous trees or behind a wall. Light allows plants to flourish especially plants such as water lilies. However two much light on the water itself can cause a build-up of green algae, which, whilst it can be combatted with algae treatments, is detrimental to your plants and wildlife.

A pond needs marginal oxygenating plants and also floating plants. So before rushing out and buying a whole load of water lilies which look very pretty, it is best to consider the edges of your pond first. The best marginal plants are the ones native to your region, though carefully selected non-invasive non-native plants are also great. One of the best perennials that I use is Schoenoplectus lacustris tabernaemontani or Zerbrinus. It needs dividing annually but the green and white horizontal variegation of its leaves is particularly striking. One of the best oxygenating plants is Callitriche verna which forms a mat of foliage over the pond surface which is great for tadpoles in Spring.

Pond planting is not as simple as garden planting. Plants need to look great, stay firm and not lose their soil into the water. It is best to plant marginal in a plant basket containing a sheet of hessian. The hessian will stop the soil escaping. You can then plant as you normally would but ensure you put a layer of gravel over the top to help retain the soil once submerged. It is best to plunge your new basket into some water before putting it into the pond. This gets rid of any air pockets which would otherwise explode the soil out into the pond. Once fully soaked the baskets can be lowered carefully into the pond to prevent any soil getting displaced.

Ideally you should already have a pond pump and filter in place in your pond, which are readily available from most aquatics stores such as Swell UK, but the edition of plants such as water irises help to naturally filter the water. This is obviously beneficial in prolonging the life of your pond filter. One of the best irises I have found is Iris laevigata Variegata. It is a pretty iris with small blue flowers and a variegated white and green leaf.

Water lilies are the most colourful and vibrant of the plants that can go into the centre of a pond. They also have the added advantage of creating lily pads that shade the water below and prevent algae from growing (see not just useful for setting up your own version of the frog chorus!) There are of course other deep water plants such as water hawthorn and Pontederia lanceolata which provide a wonderful contrast to your lilies. Deep water plants require a lot of plant feed so bare this in mind when planting and splitting or dividing.

For plants away from the waters edge the best ones are those that prefer damp and shaded conditions. Plants such as hostas and hemerocallis grow well together on the edge of ponds; though do check to make sure your variety is going to get the right amount of sunlight. In general hostas that are yellow in colour like the sun whereas the bluer varieties prefer partial or full shade.



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