"How should I landscape my pond?"
It’s a question I often hear, and there’s no patent answer. Each pond is unique, a work in progress, ever evolving. Unlike the boilerplate demands of pond construction (water requirements, seepage control, inflow and outflow systems), landscaping invites a dance with nature. And everyone hears a different tune. One man’s prize cattails are another’s nuisance aquatic weeds. Nesting boxes for wood ducks, or pink flamingoes?
Over the past few years I’ve found myself landscaping our thirty-year-old pond—in reverse. The monumental old yellow birch that commanded the north shore died and had to be taken down. Along the western embankment, a thick hedge of highbush blueberries quit bearing fruit and shriveled up; off they went. These unkind cuts radically changed the pond landscape.
I spent a lot of time fretting about how to replace the losses. I gazed at the shorn scenery, lamenting nature’s inconsiderate birth and death cycle. I walked the path around the pond, hoping for an answer to the question I’m so often asked. How do you landscape a pond? For sure, there’d be no replacing the century-old birch.
One day it dawned on me that with the blueberries gone, I could enjoy the restored valley view. Borrowed scenery, revisited. So instead of replacing the berries, I bought a couple of rustic cedar log chairs to take in the overlook. Then I added a second cherry tree at the south end of the embankment. A new view, a growing orchard, a vision of rebirth.
What about the yellow birch? I considered the bank of lupines under the missing tree. In the amplified sunlight they looked brighter, more vibrant. And so I held back the mower and allowed them to spread another twenty yards around the pond. The strong vertical accent turned horizontal. At the western edge of the lupines, I rebuilt an old beach with a truckload of washed white sand to establish a high contrast border (and improved swim access). A decaying landscape had been remodeled and renewed.
"How do I landscape my pond?" Look around: you’ve already started. Building a pond is landscaping. Put a new sheet of water on the ground and you’re landscaping big time. You could stop there, if you wished. An elegant, unadorned pondscape is nature distilled.
But that takes considerable discipline. It’s so much fun to play with nature. You might consider adding a spillway waterfall, not only for the rustic look, fluid kinetics, and planting opportunities, but also to switch on a liquid soundtrack. Or there’s that embankment terrace—an empty canvas primed for pathways, wildflowers, grasses, native plants, shallow-rooted shrubs and trees, or stonework; perhaps even a sauna, gazebo, tent platform, or summer cottage. And if you’re careful not to introduce invasive plants, there’s a waterworld of aquatic species to border the pond edge.
Landscaping Earth Ponds is full of general strategies and specific examples of various approaches to pond aesthetics. You’ll discover the pros and cons of various pond- and house-siting configurations to enhance your mise-en-scène; the unique landscaping characteristics of embankment and excavated basins; and plant, tree, and shrub selections for conditions ranging from moist edges to submerged shorelines. All accompanied by photographs and drawings to inspire you with examples of attractive design work. Translate them to your own territory, or let them kindle notions of your own.