California Gardens - The Year Round Gardening Site

Spring Fed Pond

We thought a few of our ideas on water garden design would be helpful in making your water garden a greater success.

We had a large area of mud caused by water flowing out of the pipes from drainage system that was protecting a house. We felt that all of that water should go to some better use than to make the weeds grow. The new pond is roughly the shape of the mud hole at the end of the Summer. I used the wet zone as a rough gauge of how much water was being provided by the local aquifer.

I marked a natural looking shape and called some friends with tractors. We cut a basin about 6" deeper than our intended depth of the pond. We made a shelf around the outside of the pond that we intended to use as a foundation for our stone edging. The two foot wide shelf is at a depth of 9" below our expected waterline. The finished bottom is 18" deep. The sides above the shelf were tilted at an angle that made it so the sides of the pond would not slide. Four ramps were built into the pond. Three are now planted with sedges and are used by the ducks as beach entries to the pond. The fourth is cut significantly lower and is being used as the outflow. A second smaller basin was cut to make the entry point for the water more intimate. A bamboo bridge was built over this smaller alcove. We used a pond liner in the larger area and made a concrete waterfall for the alcove. The concrete was underlain by a section of the liner to make sure that if there was leakage in the concrete all of the water would end up in the pond.

Due to the large size of the pond and expansiveness of the soil I chose a pond liner. Clay expands when it is wet and shrinks as it dries. This will crack a concrete basin in short order unless it has a large amount of reinforcing steel in it. I protected the pond liner from the sharp rocks underneath with a 4" layer of sand. Newspapers or old carpet can also be used. I protected the liner from the UV rays with a second layer of sand on top. Then I laid rocks around the margin to keep the sand in place when there were waves and because I liked the reflection of the rocks on the water.

The pond site is in a natural drainage. I diverted the flow of the local runoff around the pond so that we would not pick up excessive sediment and nutrients from an adjoining pasture. This pleased the downstream neighbors because the water had been threatening their garage during high flow periods in its previous course and we were able to release the water into a drainage system on his property.

It has been amazing to see how attractive this pond has been to the local wildlife. We have regular visitations by a Kingfisher, several Blue Herons, Great Egrets, a Green Heron Family, Mallards, Black Phoebes and a near constant swarm of Cliff Swallows in the Spring and Summer. We have planted Lotus, Water Lilies, Flag Iris and Hyacinth in the water and a range of flowering plants around the margin. The copper arches were an inspiration caused by a doubling in the cost of redwood. I am only too pleased that we paused long enough for this bit of inspiration. The arches have proven to be a great addition to the unique nature of this landscape. I have used them to support lights, chocolate vines and the evergreen clematis.

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Last modified: July 4, 2015