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Water gardening is still a very worthwhile effort! [II]
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

July 16, 2017

Above, using a garden hose to outline the small pond where the old strip of asphalt used to be; the black rubber liner installed showing the overlap onto the adjacent garden; the large pond partly dug out; Yves vacuums the carpet prior to installation of rubber liner; Large pond at end of May showing the layout of the flagstone soon after they were laid down. Below, spray fountain (latest addition) shown just after the flowering of the Marsh Marigolds had completed; the first water lily to flower in the ponds the first year; a slightly later-in-the-year view that includes a canna lily, black-foliaged elephant ears and the pinkish Schizostylis; and the large pond island taken in October—almost the end of the season but still lots of colour! Author photos.




Following up from last week’s item I will tell you about the two ponds we have here in Parksville.

Once we got possession of our house here (in June 2002) we immediately hired a very experienced handyman to begin the renovation to the house and out-building (which became my office). We also started thinking about the type of garden we would like to have. The previous owner had a reasonable garden but in the last few years goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) had been allowed to take over major flower beds to the exclusion of many other herbaceous perennials they had planted.

Beside the out-building was a strip of asphalt that had been used to park a car. The out-building had been converted into an artist’s studio (1/2) and a single garage (1/2). I decided I would convert the studio into my office and remover the asphalt strip and use that space for what became the small pond.

The plan was to dig the large pond midst the area where the previous owner had his goutweed-filled perennial bed, somewhat close to the old apple tree which we would have to prune severely in order that it not supply too much shade for the pond.

My partner Yves Geolier began the digging and we used some of the many pieces of old plywood to support the sides (keep in mind we are talking about a pure sand garden, hence the sides would easily cave in had we not supported them with plywood).

We distributed the dug sand throughout the lower garden areas!

Once both ponds were dug, we ordered a truck of concrete to pour the floor of both ponds. Yves also dug a 37 cm (15 in.) wide and deep trench across what would be the main path up through the garden in which we would place the 30 cm (12 in.) diameter Fiberglas tube that would connect the two ponds.

A week after the pouring of the concrete for the “floors’ of the two ponds I arranged for a concrete block contractor to come in and lay the cement blocks for the sides of the ponds. We used standard concrete blocks (16 inches wide by 8 inches deep and wide) That meant the ponds would be 24 inches (60 cm) high. That was the height that would be covered by the rubber liner material with an overlap of 30 cm or so at the top.

In case you wondered how we came up with the curvilinear design it was laid out initially through the use of a standard garden hose.

We wanted to have the least problem with the liner being damaged or cut so we did two additional things. First, we installed some fairly heavy Berber carpet all over the ‘floor’ of the ponds. This was old carpet we had removed from the great room of the house that was not suitable for use in other rooms. Second, we installed fairly thick cotton batten along the 90 degree edges of concrete blocks.

Once the carpet was “installed” Yves used our vacuum to run over the entire carpet in case there might be sharp stones or nails in it that would puncture the liner if they were walked on.

Then came the time to install the rubber liner! This turned out to be a bigger job than we had anticipated. Three of us (Yves and our house contractor, Wilf Hilmann) worked at it for over one half day. The problem was we were trying to get all the ripples and folds out of the liner and that was virtually impossible particularly along the sides due to the irregular shape of the ponds. Little did we know it did not really matter at all because once the ponds were filled with water it was impossible to see any of the ripples or folds because the liner was black in colour..

We left the job of sealing the liner to the ends of the Fiberglas tube to Wilf who had an idea of how to accomplish this delicate operation!

I had wanted to have an island for some plants in the middle of the large pond and managed to find a small pre-formed Fiberglas pond form that would work perfectly—its depth being the same as our pond itself. That was set just where we wanted it just before we began filling the two ponds.

The filling took many hours but the water levels worked out well between the two ponds mainly because our contractor Wilf had checked the base levels before the concrete floors were poured.

Within a few days of all this work being complete I happened to be going to the mainland for a meeting so I included a visit to the major stone supplier. I looked at more cuts and colours of flag stone than I even thought could exist, and finally chose a grey stone that turns black when it is wet and ordered a pallet which they would deliver to a company they dealt with in nearby Nanaimo. From there we had it packed up and delivered here. And, while I was in Toronto for the Canada Blooms show in 2004, Yves installed the flagstone as the coping all the way around all the edges which gave a much more finished neat appearance.

More to come yet—about the problems with a river otter, algae etc!


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