When you are planning a water garden, have a plan when selecting aquatic and surrounding terrestrial plants. Think carefully about each spot in the pond and how it could be appropriately accented. Draw a sketch and let the design evolve as you consider the following:
Use a style keeping with other elements in the garden. A naturalistic setting will look best with an aquatic plant arrangement as you might see in and around a lake or pond. On the other hand, a formal style might look best with a symmetrical aquatic plant arrangement.
Leave the view open. Select lower growing plants for areas from which the pond will be viewed. Use the taller ones for upright accent along the sides and background of the water garden.
Aim for an open, uncrowded appearance. Leave about one-third of the water surface uncovered by foliage. When initially ordering plants, check on ultimate size to make sure plants will not outgrow the pond. If you must have a specific plant that grows large in a small pond, try potting it in a smaller container to restrict its growth.
Avoid lining plants up in a row on a shelf. Pick a few sections of the shelves where you can concentrate several containers filled with one kind of plant and leave other spaces on the shelves open. If the shelves are too narrow, create more breadth by grouping two containers on the shelf and put one more in front of them raised up on bricks. Interesting shelves can be built right into the pond during excavation to include space for thick masses of bog plants.
Echo colors, textures, and forms. Achieve unity by repeating a color, texture, or form both in the aquatic and terrestrial plants.
Contrast colors, textures, and forms. Have one or a few bold accent plant(s) when appropriate. This can be a specimen variety which draws attention to the very fact that there is nothing else like it in the landscape. Surrounding plants can be simplified to bring it greater attention.
Repeat plants in masses. Use multiple bog plants in the largest possible containers that you can fit for a full effect or group several smaller containers of the same plant variety together for impact. As they become crowded, propagate them and establish more of the plants (if there is space). This most closely resembles nature’s design: few varieties in masses and repeating them.
Terrestrial Plantings Complement terrestrial plantings with your aquatic plantings. There are two different approaches to planting the area directly surrounding a water garden.
When surrounding plantings are widely varying in color, texture, and form, the attention will be drawn to them. In this case, keep the planting inside the pond simple. The overall effect becomes too busy when it contains quantities of widely varying plants. For example, when the landscape around an aquatic garden includes a multitude of colors, textures, and forms, try growing just water lilies in the pond and make them all one colors.
When surrounding plantings are masses of more uniform looking plants, these will make a nice framework for colorful water gardens. In this case, you might want to use a greater variety of aquatic plants (although a simple design might also be appropriate). For example, when the landscape around a pond contains mostly evergreens and few other variants, try growing a mixture of water lily colors as well as some masses of bog plants for accents/
Aim for seasonal variation. Aquatic plants might be grown for foliage effect, flower blossoms, or both. Different varieties bloom at different times of the year (although there are currently no evergreen aquatics grown for container use in ponds). The earliest blooming bog plant is iris. Iris do not continue to bloom throughout the summer so are considered a foliage accent plant after blooming. Pickerel Rush, on the other hand, has a later-blooming, longer lasting flower. At the beginning of the summer, it is a foliage accent. Plan the landscaping around the pond deliberately so you end up with harmonious plant combinations. Pay attention to the blooming season and length of blooming listed in reference books. The garden might be designed so that specific terrestrial plants are dominant features during the time when aquatic plants are just coming out of or going into dormancy.
Keep maintenance in mind. Remember that you will need to fertilize and trim the aquatics plants. Locate them where they can be easily reached.
Don’t forget the oxygenating plants! These will be barely visible and can be placed on the pond bottom, wherever they fit. Plant one dozen bunches in one “mini pan” and stock on “mini pan” per ten square feet of pond surface area. In larger ponds, plant several dozen bunches of submerged plants in tubs to avoid the cluttering of many smaller containers. These plants thrive on the same nutrients that algae do and when planted at the above rate, will compete with and starve out the algae. This balance improves water clarity.
Use these points as guidelines to create a lovely aquatic planting design that blends in nicely with other plantings in your garden.
Keep a lookout for the following plants which will make great additions to your Colorado water garden:
- Hardy Water Lily:
- Nymphaea “Denver” – Double cream blossoms with a hint of yellow. Good for small to medium ponds.
- Nymphaea “Colorado” – 5 ½“ single salmon/pink bloom slightly fragrant
- Day Blooming Tropical Lily:
- Nymphaea “Albert Greenberg” – Light orange to apricot flowers with mottled light green foliage
- Tropical Water Plants:
- Nymphoides geminata –greenish-brown mottled lily-like leaves with fringed yellow flowers.
- Hardy Water Plants:
- Carex Riparia “Variegata” – Variegated Sedge, 3’ tall, a good plant for spring and early summer. Unusual Black flowers.