Every garden needs water to facilitate plant growth, but some gardens make more extensive use of this aquatic medium. Aquatic planting offers the gardener a whole new realm of plants to discover, to learn about and to enjoy. Water in gardens takes many forms, and every garden location offers unique opportunities for plant and animal life.
Water gardening specialists suggest that an open sunny area is needed for aquatic success, and it is true that some aquatic plants need several hours of sunshine each day if they are to thrive, waterlilies for example. However, most gardens include partially shaded areas, and in such inauspicious locations, a pond can still bevaluable. As environments for wildlife, garden ponds, no matter how small or shady, can enhance garden biodiversity at little expense. Plants for shaded ponds need to be selected with care. Marginal or water’s-edge planting can enhance any water body where watery reflections offer a new view of nearby foliage.
To demonstrate the merits of shaded water I arranged an experimental garden pond. The rainwater run-off from a garden shed’s roof was diverted into a discarded plastic barrel, sunk into the ground in a fullshade location. Some garden soil and loose tones weredropped into this improvised pond to adjust its depth, and to help any small creatures falling into the water toclimb back out. A perforated plastic sheet was buried under the surrounding soil to catch some of the pond overflow. Shade-loving ferns and spring flowering species were planted. Very quickly, the experiment produced results. Birds were attracted to drink, frogs appeared in the garden, and previously unseen water-creatures were observed swimming about. Many years later, the pond remains an evolving focus for local wildlife, and the garden’s frog population is increasing steadily. The gardeners enjoy frequent sightings of their volunteeramphibian assistants, who hop about the garden devouring countless slugs and small snails. Although there is little aquatic plant life in the full-shade pond, slug damage is now rare in the garden’s strawberry patch. Conclusion: a successful experiment.
Water in motion offers exciting dynamic opportunities for gardens, but with limited space available here, that subject will need to wait for another day…
Douglas Dalgleish, Garden Design 2011