You’ve seen the house before. The one that sits in the middle of the block looking like it stepped outside with no clothes. Trees haven’t been planted so there’s no leafy fringe to shade it from the sun. It’s void of any landscaping that helps tie the home to the yard. It just … sits there. Uninviting and uninspiring.
Now turn your eye to your pond and give it the same critique. Is it void of plant life and simply looks like a big rocky hole filled with water? Or maybe it’s only half-dressed and could use a few more leafy adornments? You’ll want to use both aquatic and terrestrial plants to make your water garden look as though it occurred naturally in the landscape.
When you installed your pond, you hopefully designed it so the waterfall faces the viewing area, such as a patio or deck. Similarly, when you plan the aquatic or terrestrial plantings in and around your pond, you should have the same point of view in mind. You want to create maximum appreciation for the pond so it looks its best from the most important view on the property.
Mother Nature Has No Hands
In nature, marginal plants are typically found along the perimeter of ponds, lakes, wetlands, and streams. In a man-made pond, these plants soften the hard edges of the rocks, and provide a smooth transition from the water in the pond to the grass and shrubs beyond.
There are some basic ideas that might help you in your quest to mimic Mother Nature. First, remember that Mother Nature has no hands. Her style is guided by the wind. Taller marginal plants, placed as a backdrop, would naturally catch the flying seeds of other plants. The seeds would then drop to the bottom of the pond and at least some of them would live again as a new plant where they landed.
When you’re looking to imitate nature, placing taller plants like reeds, cattails, and cannas near the back of a planting cluster works well. Then, add to the look by placing medium and shorter plants on the viewing side of the taller ones.
Playing with Colors
Random placement of plants with different textures and colors will give your pond a complete, yet unstructured, appearance. Choose the colors that you like best and let your creativity take care of the rest. It’s always a good idea to emphasize primary colors with larger plants, and complete the look by adding some daring contrasts of texture and other colors around the edge.
Play with the color of foliage, too. It’s easy to understand when someone says there are many different shades of green out there, but foliage comes in many other colors besides green. Getting creative with the colors and textures of foliage will help create a lush and inviting look.
Flowers, and the multitude of colors they come in, make easy work of naturalizing the water garden canvas, much like Monet mixed the various dots of color in order to bring the canvas to life to the eye of the beholder. You should aim to create something very similar with the various colors of your water gardening plants.
The Height Factor
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the mature size and habit of the plants that you include in your plan. Since you don’t want to hide the shorter plants by placing them behind taller ones, it’s important that you place the shorter plants in the foreground and gradually work your way back to the taller ones. It’s much like how a photographer lines up a group of people in order to get all faces in the photo. In this case, you want to get all the faces of the plants in view.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when planting a water garden is failing to realize how large some plants will grow or spread. When this mistake is made, the result is an overgrown jungle that requires much more work to keep them from taking over the pond. If you want to create a truly low-maintenance water garden, have a good idea how large a plant is going to grow before you plant it. And when you actually plant it, give it sufficient room to grow.
Tying it All Together
In summary, the more fully you take all of these factors into consideration when designing and planting your water garden, the better the results will be. Your pond will be fully dressed and will tie naturally into the rest of the landscape. You’ll also have an enhanced view of your pond with even more features and colors to delight your eye.
Article and photos submitted by Aquascape, Inc.