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Formal and informal garden ponds

When making a decision on the garden pond you also need to consider formal garden ponds versus informal garden ponds.

Formal garden ponds

Formal ponds can be classical depending on the style and architecture of the house and the available space. One characteristic of formal garden ponds is that the construction material used normally consists of durable materials such as bricks, cement and tiles. (Due to the popularity of garden ponds these days you also get formal and classic garden pond moulds.) When designing formal garden ponds you need to remember to:

  • Keep the design simple and uncluttered.
  • Follow geometric lines and pay attention to symmetry.
  • You may add a focal point like an ornamental garden statue or garden fountain.
  • A garden fountain can be multi-tiered, placed symmetrically for a classic style or asymmetrically for a modern take on formal garden ponds.
  • You require a well-defined border or edging for formal garden ponds.
  • Enhance the look of the formal garden pond with either symmetrical plantings, columns, arches, trelliswork or containers.

Informal garden ponds

The informal garden pond is not bound to form and can thus be free-form with gentle curves and no straight lines. You have a limitless option regarding size of informal garden ponds as long as it does not dominate the garden landscape. Informal garden ponds also tend to be more affordable than formal garden ponds in that you do not require the expensive cement-construction. Instead due to the plethora of products available from garden centers and nurseries these days you can make use of black plastic sheeting, pre-fabricated plastic or fiber-cement moulds. Examples of informal garden ponds also include natural garden ponds, the bog garden, a garden fountain, and of course pre-fabricated garden ponds with or without waterfalls. Water features and focal points in informal garden ponds can also include millstones, rock-pools, glazed pots, and so forth. Most of all no visible borders, the waterfall or bog garden must look as if it has been lifted out of nature and carefully placed in the surrounding plants and rocks, and the like, in your garden.

Planning your water garden

Plan your water garden using some basic principles. Do take into account the following basic points when making a decision and your ability to cope with the maintenance work that goes hand in hand with having a water garden. Small garden ponds are best for small properties. A container on a deck may be all that is needed and add just the right feature for your space. Water features like waterfalls, rockwork, lighting and garden fountains depend on your budget, style of your landscape, and purpose of the garden pond. All garden ponds regardless of size will need maintenance throughout the year. With proper planning you can ensure a healthy balance between living and decorative features of a water garden that can almost care for itself with simple maintenance inputs from you.

Location of the garden pond

Choosing the correct position for your garden pond is perhaps the most important decision that needs to be made when designing a water garden. The majority of water flora and fauna, such as fish need plenty of sunlight. A site that gets a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight would be best suited. One should also take care not to select a site that is too close to tall shrubs or trees. Above all the position of your garden pond will depend on its style and function. It just seems pretty obvious that you would want to show off your garden pond and you would thus choose a site that is clearly visible from where you spend most of your time, and if you want to hear the sound of water you would prefer to have your water feature near your living area, or if you want to attract wildlife to your water garden you will most probably choose a secluded, low-lying and sunny area in your garden.

Style of the garden pond

The style choice that you make will also depend on the size of the garden water feature that you want and the purpose that the water feature is to serve. Your garden dimensions will also dictate the size of your garden ponds. This is mainly because garden ponds must complement the garden and not dominate it. Questions that you will need to ask yourself would be: Do you want formal water features, natural water features like a bog gardens, or a small water features like a millstone? In all these cases the available space and the style of the house and the garden will play a determining factor.

Garden ponds and the availability of water and electricity

Periodic refilling of the container and a garden hose should be easily accessible to counter the effects of evaporation. If using a pump to power a fountain, waterfall or filter, a household circuit plug (110 volts, 20 amps) made for outdoor use should be near the garden pond. The local regulations that govern your neighborhood can also play a major role. Before installing an in-ground garden pond, check with your local building department for restrictions and the possible necessity of having a permit. Always consult your local utility companies for the location of underground lines before digging.

The microclimate of the garden pond site

The microclimate that exists in your garden needs to be taken into consideration. Does the intended site for your garden pond get full sun or is it in the shade - Sunlight conditions. Most water plants need a spot with 5 to 8 hours of sunlight. A shadier spot can be used, but it will limit your choice of aquatic plants. Garden ponds with a water holding capacity of less than 380 liters (100 gallons) do better with afternoon shade.

Is it very hot or cold? If you want water lilies you will require a minimum of 6 hours of full sun. If you want to keep Koi you will require some shade in addition to full sun.

The soil on the intended garden pond site poses a few limitations in terms of water drainage. If building a garden pond, the soil in the site should be well drained to avoid shifting or settling that can crack or break the lining. Low areas with water runoff from the surrounding landscape should be avoided.

Another limiting factor that should be taken into account is trees. You should reconsider if the site of your garden pond is under overhanging trees. The falling leaves in case of trees that are not evergreen can decay in the water, harming fish and plant life. They may also clog pumps and filters. Placing an in-ground pond too close to a tree may damage the tree's roots.

Which features to add to the garden pond?

When making a decision on water features that will enhance your garden pond, the site and function of the pond will help to determine whether you choose a statue, waterfall or a garden fountain or simply just water plants. A natural slope will lend itself beautifully to waterfall type of water features that flow into one or more garden ponds.

If you choose readymade water features then you should also take your budget into account. There is a quite a wide range available from small to medium sized water features. There are also small pre-cast ponds, garden fountains, wall features or waterfalls that are made out of materials ranging from plastic to realistic looking concrete. These are all usually very easy install and often come with all the necessary attachments to make them work. On the other hand you can also dispose of these easily if you tire of them. Larger water features are more complicated and will require very careful planning to avoid mistakes.

Maintenance requirements

Any garden pond, regardless of its size needs to be maintained at different times of the year even though it is easily thought of as a self-contained ecosystem. This maintenance will include clean-up in the spring, periodic removal of debris and replenishing of the water, plant care, protection from leaves in the fall and preparation for winter. Decorative water features will need to be periodically cleared of leaves or other debris.

When choosing aquatic plants, keep in mind that the plants should cover no more than fifty to sixty percent of the water surface. There are many types to choose from. Some are free floating while others are marginals to submerged. Selection depends on the size of the water pond and the kind of look you want. Water lilies can add drama and fragrance even in small tubs. Some plants provide oxygen and help keep the pool healthy. Fish can be a beneficial addition, because they are good scavengers, cleaning up debris. They also can help control mosquito larva, and other insects.

Monetary consideration

The amount of money, that you have available to spend, will also determine the type of water feature that you install in your garden pond. It is simple: the more complex the feature, the more it will cost. Complex water features that include a waterfall and garden fountain will obviously cost more than simple plastic lined natural garden ponds. Also take into account hidden costs such as electricity to keep the pump running and increased water usage to keep the reservoir of water features full.