One of the big themes at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show was biodiversity; how to maximize the variety of plants in your garden and attract more wildlife. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to add a pond. Birds and small mammals need water to drink; Frogs, toads and newts need it for breeding; and many insect larvae spend time in their life cycle underwater. Dig a pond or repurpose an old Belfast sink and before you know it you have a little nature reserve on your doorstep.
Many gardeners believe that a garden without a pond is not a garden. There’s also something inherently calming about looking at water, and research has shown that ‘blue rooms’, like green spaces, have a positive effect on mental health.
The natural ponds in the woodland garden at Acorn Bank in Cumbria are an ideal place for quiet contemplation. It is one of around 20 National Trust properties to have participated in the Silent Space movement, in which gardens provide areas for visitors to unwind. At Acorn Bank, visitors are encouraged to put down their phones and just ‘be’. “This is a totally wild area, just rushes and flag irises,” says senior gardener Heather Birkett. “And of course it’s not really quiet. The stillness is in your mind, creating space to enjoy the dappled light cast onto the water by the surrounding trees.’ The property’s smaller formal lily pond is popular with people and wildlife alike. Crested newts breed among the lily pads and retreat to the nearby dry stone walls for the winter.
Even if you only have a small courtyard garden or balcony, you don’t have to miss out on the joys of a pond. Emma Robertson, of pond plant specialists Tor Garden Plants in Devon, makes mini ponds in anything that holds water, from old fire buckets to galvanized tubs. “It’s all about using the right size plant for the container,” she explains. Whether you’re digging a large pond or growing a water lily in a half barrel, both you and the local wildlife will benefit.
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What every pond needs
1 A shady finish when things heat up in summer. This can be a tall pond plant that provides shade, or a wall or fence – rather than a tree or hedge, which can throw leaves into the pond and affect water quality.
2 An escape route. A partially sunken branch or rock near the edge allows animals, such as hedgehogs, which are not good swimmers, to climb out. In a larger pond, incorporate a shallow pebble beach or swampy area into your design.
3 Plants that provide cover along part of the pond edge to allow newts and frogs to leave the water – and small mammals to approach the water – without being taken by predators.
4 Tall plants that grow out of the water to allow dragonfly larvae to climb out when ready to metamorphose.
Make a low-maintenance container pond in no time
You need a waterproof container, e.g. B. an old zinc tub 30 cm deep (try junkyards or junk shops); a pile of stones; Gravel; underground or poor soil; Plant baskets, flexible plastic pots or ordinary plant pots.
Emma Robertson’s selection for year-round interest
The Corkscrew Rush (Juncus spiralis) and colorful cute flag (Acorus gramineus variegata) are evergreens. For spring color, Emma suggests marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) with yellow flowers. Plant them in a mixture of soil and gravel with a gravel pad to keep the mixture in place. These are marginal plants that grow at the water’s edge. Use the rocks to build a ledge so the tops of the pots sit just below the waterline. You can even add a water lily. Nymphaea ‘Pygmaea Helvola’ is only 5 cm wide and has water lily flowers. It needs deeper water, so place the pot on the bottom of your container pond. These plants can also be grown in a large pond. Tor Garden Plants sells plant packages for container ponds.
What wildlife will I see?
As most gardeners who have created ponds will tell you, wildlife just shows up. The charity Froglife advises against collecting frog spawn as it spreads diseases (frogs are susceptible to viruses and fungal infections). Once your pond is established, keep an eye out for dragonflies, dragonflies and mayflies. These attract swallows and swifts, and bats as dusk falls. In the water you can see water boatmen, diving beetles and water scorpions – harmless, only vaguely similar in shape. Newts can be difficult to spot among the plants. The light brown smooth newt is widespread. Finding a great crested newt in your pond is cause for celebration as it is a protected species. Grass snakes may visit in search of newts, frogs and tadpoles. Don’t add fish – they will eat the pond dwellers and silt up the water.
Plants for different depths
Border plants for shallow water
Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris A spring flowering native species with rich yellow flowers. H30cm.
Brooklime Veronica Beccabunga This has starry blue flowers in spring and summer. Its pliable leaves are ideal for newts, which lay their eggs one at a time on individual leaves and then fold them up for protection. H: 10cm.
Smooth iris Iris laevigata Delicate purplish-blue flowers with exquisite feathery markings of white and brown. The pretty sword-shaped leaves die off in winter. Not a native plant, but irresistible. H:1m
For shallow water up to 15-20cm
Arrowhead Sagittaria sagittifolia Another British native with, as the name suggests, arrow-shaped leaves and white flower spikes with contrasting purple spots. Flowers in late summer. 1m.
Blooming Rush Butomus umbellatus Much prettier than it sounds, with grassy leaves and tall stalks of pink flowers that look a bit like Allium. Another native species. H:1m.
For deep water up to 75cm
Nymphaea ‘Gonnere’ A classic white water lily full of petals and sweetly scented. She was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit as a reliable plant. Another Nymphaea ‘Masaniello’ fragrant water lily with pink flowers and contrasting yellow stamens.
Little Spearweed Ranunculus flammula Buttercup-yellow blooms take over in summer when marsh marigolds finish flowering. 1H:1m.
Submerged oxygenating plants
Hornwort Ceratophyllum demersum In addition to supplying the water with oxygen – you can see it bubbling on sunny days – the hornwort provides a habitat for diving beetles, boatmen and mud snails. It does not need to be planted as it is free floating.
Did you know your pond is covered by Saga Home Insurance? To get a quote call 0800 092 3188 or visit saga.co.uk/insurance/home-insurance