My Wildlife Pond in Springtime & Early Summer
I thought I’d share with you some photographs I’ve taken of my wildlife pond this spring and early summertime. I’m not sure if you’ve seen my pond before; this pond was created last year (here’s the first article I wrote about this pond). To guide you through the season, I’ve added my photographs to this article in date order. Some aspects of my pond have been more successful than others, and as you’ll see in my pictures, I have a tremendous amount of algae!
My pond is absolutely the largest possible sized pond for its location – it really is crammed into this part of my garden, which isn’t something I’d recommend! If I was designing a garden, I would have left a much wider area around the pond for planting – to soften the pond, add extra interest and create a larger, more substantial shelter belt of plants that would enable wildlife to enter and exit the pond, shielded by plants, away from the prying eyes of any predators.
So, why have I not followed my own advice? Why have I squashed too large a pond into my own garden? Well, the first pond we created in this garden was much smaller – I designed our earlier pond to my size specifications. So this time, we’ve gone for a larger pond – which I’ve designed to my husband’s preferred size.
Is this the finished result? No, it’s not. But, to be honest, although I can easily see the pond from my garden path, where the pond is rammed into this corner of the garden, it means that it’s incredibly difficult to actually move around the pond. The only way to get around this pond is to step from stone to stone, and then from a stone onto the logs from our log stack; so it’s far from easy to tweak the set up or move plants around. It’s worth taking time to consider how you’ll access your aquatic plants, if you’re considering designing a pond or water feature for your garden.
I’d really like to give my aquatic plants some fertiliser tablets to improve their flowering, but I’m anxious to avoid anyone doing this, just in case any newts or other pond creatures are accidentally squashed by stepping onto the stones and logs around the edge of the pond. So, for the moment at least, our pond is being left alone to allow the newts to breed and to let nature do its thing.
Anyway, let me introduce you to some of the aquatic plants that are growing in my pond….
Aponogeton distachyos is a strong growing aquatic plant from South Africa. This is not a plant to include in a stream or a pond or water garden that connects to another. It’s important not to grow Aponogeton distachyos in a garden that backs onto an area of countryside – every step should be taken to prevent this non-native, aquatic plant from escaping in the wild, where it could quickly become invasive and cause problems for our native plants and wildlife. Please only consider growing Aponogeton distachyos in a very contained pond and garden. If you decide you no longer wish to grow Aponogeton distachyos any longer, please do not discard this plant – it must be disposed of properly, to prevent this aquatic plant spreading.
It’s worth remembering, that promptly deadheading Aponogeton distachyos will prevent seed formation and self-seeding, which will help to contain this naturally vigorous growing plant. If you can’t (or don’t want to) reach out over your pond (and risk falling in!) to access your aquatic plants, you could use long handled loppers to deadhead your plants.
Although I’ve made a conscious effort not to grow invasive plants in my pond; I decided to grow Aponogeton distachyos, as this plant grows and flowers during cooler weather; plants are in growth from autumn, through winter and into spring, when the majority of my pond plants have all but disappeared from view. Then, as the water warms up and the other aquatic plants have started into growth, Aponogeton distachyos dies back and gives my other aquatic plants centre stage; the entire surface of the pond is theirs, until autumn, when Aponogeton distachyos awakes and starts into growth again. I hope Aponogeton distachyos‘s large leaves will provide leafy cover over my pond, shading the water and thereby helping to reduce the algae growth, early in the year.
I’m also particularly interested in the scented flowers that Aponogeton distachyos produces. I’m told the flowers produce a scent that’s midway between Vanilla and Hawthorn, and the blooms are said to be edible. Although, I must say that I’ve found it’s one thing to be edible, but being delicious is something else entirely!
So far, I’ve not tried eating any of my Aponogeton distachyos flowers; they’ve always had touches of algae coating part of the bloom, which has been more than a little off-putting! I am really hoping to try a Aponogeton distachyos flower next year. I can’t wait to taste one of these blooms; when I do, I’ll be sure to tell you all about the scent, texture, and flavour of this interesting flower.
I’m trying not to get my hopes up about how good Aponogeton distachyos flowers will taste, as many plants are edible, but they don’t all taste good enough to eat or grow again. When I first grew Asparagus Peas (Tetragonolobus purpureus) for the first time, (over twenty years ago) I was unbelievably excited to taste this delectable sounding vegetable, which the seed packet described as having a flavour that was part way between a pea and asparagus. However, I found the reality couldn’t have been more disappointing, as (in my opinion) Asparagus Peas taste absolutely revolting! Asparagus Peas have a flavour that’s nothing like either asparagus or peas. This vegetable tasted so bad that when I tried Asparagus Peas, whilst dining alfresco in my garden, I did something I’ve never done before – I spat it out!
Anyway, as yet I’ve still not eaten a Aponogeton distachyos flower. If I decide to take the plunge (quite literally, as it’s not easy to reach the plant in the centre of my pond!) and retrieve one of this plant’s flowers next winter, I’ll be sure to report back with a full description of this flower’s scent and flavour.
My Aponogeton distachyos is growing in a planter filled with a peat-free aquatic compost and topped with gravel. The planter rests submerged underwater, at the deep end of the pond; where the water extends down to about 70cm (2.3ft) deep. These plants aren’t too fussy, they will do well in areas where the water depth varies between 30-90cm (1-3ft).
Aponogeton distachyos thrive in full sunshine and partial shade. The plants can be a rather hungry, so remember to pop one or two specially developed aquatic fertiliser tablets in your planters, in August, to provide all the nutrients your plants need as they come into growth.
Caltha palustris ‘Alba’
I absolutely adore Marsh Marigolds! Most Marsh Marigolds are yellow, but this is a white form – Caltha palustris ‘Alba’, which I find is always an early flowerer, in my pond.
Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ is more diminutive than the standard Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), making this a superb choice of plant for a small pond.
This is a marginal plant, which is growing close to the edge of my pond. The water just covers the surface of my Marsh Marigold planters, so the plants are submerged in the water, but they don’t have very much water above them. Caltha palustris thrives in this position, in shallow water. I’d say that the water covering all of my Caltha palustris plants varies (due to rainfall and evaporation) from 0.5cm to 3cm (0.2 to 1.2″) of water over the top of these plants’ aquatic planters.
My Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ plants are growing in a curved, extended planter, which was specially designed to be planted with a number of plants. Unfortunately, although they weren’t planted in a straight line (I staggered the planting inside the planter), this planter gives the effect that my Marsh Marigolds are being forced into a tight and unnatural queue, which is absolutely not the look I was hoping for – I wanted something far more natural and softer looking.
If instead of planting my Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ plants in this single aquatic planter, I had planted these Marsh Marigold plants in multiple individual containers, I would have been able to create a much more natural effect and my design would have benefitted from more flexibility. I could have chosen to place the plants as a cluster of plants grouped together, or as individual plants, dotted around the outer margins of the pond.
All of the Marsh Marigolds in my pond are fully hardy, reliable perennials that grow back each year. I usually find that my plants produce three flowerings, the last blooming period occurs from late summer to early autumn.
Caltha palustris ‘Honeydew’
This is a softer yellow form of Marsh Marigold – Caltha palustris ‘Honeydew’. This was the second of my Marsh Marigolds’ to come into bloom this year. Caltha palustris ‘Honeydew’ forms a much more substantial plant than Caltha palustris ‘Alba’, the blooms are larger too.
I’ve added the picture of Caltha palustris ‘Honeydew’ below, to enable you to compare the yellow tone of ‘Honeydew’ flowers’ to that of the regular wild species – Caltha palustris – our native Marsh Marigold, in my photograph underneath. ‘Honeydew’ is just a couple of shades softer in tone, but both are beautiful plants.
I absolutely adore Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris); they’re one of my favourite flowers. This beautiful Marsh Marigold plant was a surprise gift from two of our best friends, which makes it even more special. Whenever I see this Marsh Marigold, I think of how much I love this superb plant and how much I love my friends, too. It’s a wonderfully uplifting feeling – almost as vivid as these vibrant yellow flowers!
You can see all three of my Marsh Marigolds in bloom in the picture above. The plants combined to create a spectacular flowering display this spring; their blooms were so sunny and cheerful! The Caltha palustris plants complimented each other perfectly in their colour, tone, and size, but also by extending the pond’s interest and flowering, at the beginning of the spring growing season and creating a magnificent mid-spring flowering display.
This spring, my pond has glowed with positive yellow Marsh Marigold flowers! I felt full of gratitude each time I saw these Caltha palustris plants in bloom.
As the Caltha palustris flowers faded, their shimmering petals dropped into the water (where they were collected up by my Oase AquaSkim 20 pond skimmer). Even at this late stage, the plants possessed a loveliness that I felt very grateful to witness.
Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis) is one of life’s true joys; this is a truly superb aquatic plant. This is another UK native plant that can be found growing in waterways in the wild.
I’ve watched many damselflies emerging from the water around these Ranunculus aquatilis plants. Often, a damselfly will climb up a Ranunculus aquatilis flower, as the insect prepares to lift off and fly for the very first time. It’s a lovely thing to watch, so relaxing and inspiring.
This spring, Ranunculus aquatilis generated an exquisite covering of flowers that grew up over the water in the pond. I adore this Ranunculus species’ simple but nonetheless magnificent and very beautiful flowers. The blooms possess a delicate quality and a fragility that enhances this flower’s appeal.
I observed many hoverflies visiting Ranunculus aquatilis flowers this spring. I’ve found this to be both an attractive and really useful plant for a wildlife pond; many insects are attracted by Ranunculus aquatilis flowers.
When planting my pond, I’ve tried to combine plants so that when one plant fades another aquatic plant is waiting in the wings ready to take centre stage. As my Ranunculus aquatilis was starting to fade, the waterlilies began to produce their first flowers of the season.
By the end of May 2020, the splendour of these Ranunculus aquatilis flowers was fading. I’m already looking forward to seeing this plant in bloom next year.
I adore Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) flowers; they’re so lacy and intricate. A thing of beauty, Menyanthes trifoliata is another UK native plant that I’m growing in my pond.
These Menyanthes trifoliata plants haven’t flowered anywhere near as well this year, as they did last year. The plants have only produced a couple of blooms this spring, which is disappointing. I’m certain that this plant’s lack of flowers is connected to the fact that the aquatic plant fertiliser tablets I purchased are still in their packet – they haven’t been added to my plants’ aquatic planters!
This is just purely a logistical problem – to be able to add the fertiliser tablets to each aquatic planter, someone needs to step from stone to stone, or from stone to log, around the pond. Frogs, toads, and newts all hang out under stones. I’m increasingly anxious about any of these lovely creatures being crushed as the aquatic plant fertiliser tablets are added to the compost; so for the time being at least, none of the plants have received any fertiliser tablets.
Next year, these Menyanthes trifoliata plants will be more substantial in size and with fertiliser tablets added to their compost, I’m sure they’ll produce an improved floral display. Hopefully, I’ll have devised a way to add the fertiliser tablets to each aquatic planter by then!
Usually referred to as the Flag Iris, Iris pseudacorus is another UK native plant with cheerful yellow flowers. This is a naturally strong growing plant.
My Iris pseudacorus is growing in an aquatic planter that’s sitting on the marginal shelf, around the outer edge of my pond. The water level is just covering the top of this plant’s aquatic planter; these irises will be content with anywhere between 0.5-20cm (0.2-8″) of water covering the surface of their planters.
Like the other plants in my pond, Iris pseudacorus is planted in a specially designed aquatic planter, which I’ve lined with a sheet of hessian and filled with aquatic compost, which was then topped with gravel.
Iris pseudacorus have a somewhat fleeting flowering period, but they are full of joy whilst they’re in bloom.
Algae or Blanket Weed
The other ponds I’ve created in the past have never really suffered with algae in the same way that my current pond has. Although, the smaller pond that I created a few years ago (this pond was installed in the same spot where my current pond stands) did have an algae bloom in late spring, it was not in any way comparable to the algae that’s threatening to strangle my pond, now. If you’re interested in this topic, I’ve written a longer article all about algae, with information on the products I’ve trialled to treat the algae in my pond and lots of helpful tips, to help you avoid the problems I’m currently experiencing with algae – here’s a link.
Planting around my pond
My pond is really crammed into this small area of my garden. There’s just a very narrow border around the pond, and a few boggy pockets we created when the pond was constructed; so there’s not nearly as much planting room as I would like.
This is Narcissus ‘Lancaster’, an elegant daffodil that’s growing in the thin strip of regular soil, around the pond.
I love daffodils; so I’ve also planted Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus – an absolutely gorgeous scented daffodil, in the narrow border around my pond. These daffodils aren’t growing in a bog garden or under water – they’re just planted in the soil. The soil in this border around the pond is all very free-draining, sandy soil.
We’ve experienced an exceptionally dry spring and an extended drought this summer, with record temperatures and heatwaves. Narcissus and other bulbs need to receive plenty of water and nutrients while the plants are growing and dying back, as they need to obtain sufficient energy to allow the bulbs to flower next year. Bulbs that go without the moisture they need during the growing season often produce leaves the following year, but no flowers; as gardeners we refer to these bulbs as ‘blind’. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that my daffodils will bloom again next spring!
I love growing fruit and vegetables, I plant edible plants wherever I can! I’ve got quite a few rhubarb plants growing in the border around my pond; every plant is growing in light, sandy and free-draining soil – they’re not planted in wet soil or in a bog garden. I think that the rhubarb really fits in to the look and style of pond planting.
NB. Please only eat plants that you’re 100% sure are edible – if you’ve not grown a particular edible plant before, label it and grow your edible plant separately from your other garden plants, as many garden plants are poisonous. Please also remember, that it’s not always true that every part of a vegetable will be edible; for example, rhubarb produces edible stems that we delight in consuming, but rhubarb leaves are not edible and this part of the plant could make you unwell if you ate it.
Erigeron karvinskianus is such a happy little plant, it’s a great choice for free-draining soils and containers. My Erigeron karvinskianus plants that you can see in this update, are all growing in the sandy soil around my pond. Don’t let the fact that this plant is growing around my pond confuse you, Erigeron karvinskianus isn’t a bog garden plant – nor is it a plant to try and grow in water – it’s a useful drought tolerant plant, ideal for free draining soils!
Another pretty daisy that’s growing in this area is Leucanthemum vulgare – the Ox-Eye Daisy. This plant has been in bloom for a while; the first flowers opened in February! Jostling for position is Verbena bonariensis, which has just one modest flower in bloom, at the moment, but hopefully there will be many more flowers to come.
To see photographs of the wildlife I’ve spotted around my pond, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you………….
To see all of the articles I’ve written about my wildlife pond, please click here.
For tips on super plants to grow for bees and butterflies, please click here.
For information on why I recommend using peat-free compost and to find out about my Compost Trials, please click here.
For advice on how to create a successful meadow, please click here.