An Update from my Wildlife Pond in Springtime
Hello and welcome to my wildlife pond in springtime. Spring is a fascinating time to observe a pond and watch wildlife, as the water is literally teaming with life; amphibians are mating, and new insects are emerging and appearing every day! Whenever I’m in my garden, I’m always drawn to our pond – on the look out for newts and insects, and eager to see how my plants are developing.
Savouring the first flowers of the year, as my insect-friendly aquatic plants spring into bloom!
My Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ plants have been in bloom since the beginning of March; it’s always such a joy to see these charming plants in flower. This is a compact and rather demure Marsh Marigold with sweet little, dainty flowers. I hold a deep affection for Marsh Marigolds, they’re one of my favourite plants. I grow three different varieties in this pond. Double-flowered Marsh Marigolds are also available, but I avoid these forms, as their flowers aren’t accessible to bees, butterflies, and other insects.
I personally prefer the look of single-flowered forms of almost all plants – although I must say that I do also admire double-flowered roses as well as single-flowered forms. With roses, I find that deliciously fragrant forms are harder to resist – I am always looking for single-flowered roses with beautiful fragrances, that also attract bees and butterflies.
I’ve never managed to get close enough to Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ or any of my Marsh Marigolds whilst they’re flowering to discern whether any of these plants produce fragrant flowers. I assume that Marsh Marigolds don’t produce a scent that we can detect – but this is just an assumption I’ve made.
Pond algae – blanket weed – update
As you can see from my pictures, unfortunately, there is still a considerable amount of algae in my pond. Although I’ve not noticed any improvements, I’ve continued adding weekly treatments of Ecopond Eco-friendly Barley-Bio Algae Control throughout autumn, winter, spring, and summer, as this product is reputed to control algae. As I’ve already paid for this product and I’m assured that it’s natural and safe for wildlife; I figured that I may as well continue using the treatment – at least until the bottle is empty. As I can’t see any noticeable effect, I wouldn’t buy this product again – unless the algae in my wildlife pond starts visibly increasing when the treatments stop. I’ve also added packs of barley straw to the pond, which I am happy to continue doing.
I am always a little anxious about scooping algae out of the pond. Although I’m absolutely desperate to remove the algae and I’m incredibly interested and utterly fascinated to see what’s living in the pond water; I really don’t want to do anything that might disturb or distress the newts or any of the other pond dwellers.
When tending your pond, it’s especially important to be mindful of your activities in springtime, as newts, frogs, and toads, are all courting and mating at this time of year. In recent years, I have only seen newts in my pond, but tadpoles of frogs and toads, and efts (baby newts) are currently developing in ponds across the country and beyond; as a result, do please limit your actions and interventions in your pond during this critical time of year for amphibians. Even if you’ve not spotted any newts, toads, or frogs in your own pond, these amphibians are likely to be present; left alone they could breed successfully in your garden. Newts are usually active under the cover of darkness, and when they are around in the daytime they can easily go unnoticed, aided by their excellent camouflage.
Another anxiety I have when clearing algae from my wildlife pond is a fear that I might accidentally scoop up water dwelling wildlife, like a small dragonfly larvae, and leave them tangled up in the algae, trapped out of the water at the side of the pond. To minimise this risk, we check the net thoroughly after using it, dipping the net into into the water to look for movement or any signs of life in amongst the algae, before we remove the algae from the net. We also only collect small amounts of algae at once; this is another precaution I take to avoid trapping wildlife within the algae we remove from the water. Any pond life that was unfortunate enough to be gathered up during our collections would find it easier to escape from a smaller algae deposit than a larger and heavier tangle of blanket weed.
When collecting more than one section of algae, I take care to leave the algae in at least two separate areas – usually on top of stones in shaded areas, at the side of the water. I never deposit a dose of algae onto another freshly deposited algae stash, as this could trap any pond dwellers inside the algae, making it more challenging for them to return to the water; instead, I gently spread the algae onto various stones right at the edge of the waterside.
When removing algae from your pond, choose a rainy or overcast day if possible; as this will ensure the algae will remain wetter for longer, after you’ve removed it from the pond. This will be beneficial for any pond life caught up in the algae.
The algae we remove from our wildlife pond is always left in a shady position, on top of the stones and pebbles, at the water’s edge, but away from bright sunshine. This is to prevent the sun from drying out the moisture in the algae too rapidly, which might also dehydrate or harm any pond life that could be embedded inside.
Whenever algae is removed from my wildlife pond, I document it in my regular pond updates – using my updates, you can find out what methods I’m using to control algae, see pictures of exactly how much algae I’ve lifted out of the water, and discover how successful or unsuccessful my efforts are. Another method that I recommend for removing algae is to simply twirl a stick or a bamboo cane around the algae – this is another quick and effective method that we regularly use later in the year. We’ve used the net on this occasion, as in springtime I find it easier to spot dragonfly larvae and other smaller creatures in amongst the algae when using the net. When we use a stick, I am concerned whether any pond life might be accidentally bundled up within the swirl of algae!
I took one tiny scoop of algae, which was lifted from the surface of the water, on the 15th March 2021.
If you’re planning to use a net to remove algae from your own pond, try and keep the net in the upper water levels. Don’t be tempted to dip into the deeper water, as you could knock or unbalance your aquatic plants from their positions; or worse still, you could end up dredging the base of your pond – which wouldn’t be good for wildlife!
I fished out this Vallisneria spiralis leaf that was floating on the surface of the water to show you these water snails eggs (I put the leaf back in the water afterwards). Water snails lay their eggs all over the place, but newts are more particular. Newts lay their eggs under the water on aquatic plants with foliage that allows the newt to wrap a leaf around her egg to protect it. Newt eggs are laid singularly.
In my wildlife pond, I’ve grown plants that I know to be popular with newts, like: Potamogeton Crispus, Ceratophyllum Demersum, Vallisneria spiralis, and Vallisneria spiralis, as I want to create the perfect habitat and encourage newts to lay their eggs in my wildlife pond. Each year we see young efts in the water, but I’ve never seen a newt egg. However, I’ve never made any attempt to see a newt egg – I wouldn’t wish to take the risk in case I moved a leaf and harmed the egg, or discouraged a newt from laying eggs.
There are lots of dragonfly and damselfly nymphs or larvae in our wildlife pond. We found this damselfly larvae in the net on the 15th March – I quickly snapped this picture and then we popped him safely back into the water.
Choosing the right pond planters to achieve a pleasing and natural look for your aquatic plants
When I planted up my pond, I purchased a few longer, curved aquatic planters. These arch shaped planters can be planted with a number of plants, which meant they worked out as more cost effective than purchasing individual planters and the curved planters enabled me to grow more plants in a smaller space, which seemed simply marvellous at the time! However, in hindsight, I deeply regret buying and using these planters, as the lovely curved shape I was envisaging in my planting has not transferred over to the pond; instead I have what looks distinctly like a strictly regimented and unnatural long line of Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ plants growing in single file!
This stern looking planting is nothing like my naturalistic planting style – it’s not a look I admire at all. However for the time being at least, I will have to leave the planters as they are, as I’m already over my gardening budget for this year! Certainly, when an opportunity arises to move these plants into individual or more pleasing planters I will take that chance. I mention this in case you’re thinking of setting up a pond or you’re looking for new aquatic planters – I wouldn’t recommend the curved planters I’ve used, as a far more pleasing effect can be created using individual aquatic planters.
Thankfully, I also have at least two Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ plants growing in smaller, individual aquatic planters. I feel really fortunate to have these plants, as I adore Marsh Marigolds and I am especially fond of this dainty white-flowered form. This plant comes with a huge benefit, as Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ produces flowers early in the year, before my other aquatic plants are ready to even consider showing themselves.
Adding a stone stack and planting another clematis
Since my last update, we’ve planted another clematis to cloak the fence in summertime and we’ve created a simple stone stack, which has twigs and prunings hidden in the centre. I hope this stack of stone slabs will provide another habitat for wildlife; perhaps it will become a refuge for newts?
Spotting a newt!
I was very excited to spot this newt swimming down to the bottom of the pond! I actually saw this newt from the other side of my pond; I was looking onto the water when I noticed this newt’s beautiful tail as it swam against the current created by my Oase AquaSkim 20 pond skimmer. I must say that in my photograph, you can really see just how effective the newt’s camouflage is – this newt perfectly blends in with the stems of the aquatic plants, being the same colour and displaying a similar texture, too.
Growing spring flowers in and around my pond
I’ve got quite a few Primula vulgaris plants peppered around my garden, as I am very fond of these dear little plants. I grow primroses near our wildlife pond and I also leave dandelions, daisies, and other wild plants that have self-seeded themselves in this area. Faded plant stems make excellent homes for overwintering insects and decaying plant material actually benefits our plants, helping to protect them from the harshness of the winter weather, so to pass these benefits on to the plants and insects in my garden, I delay clearing up any dead plant material until springtime.
In addition, I’m growing plants for summer flowers. I hope with all my heart that the fence behind my pond will eventually be covered with climbers this summer. I simply cannot wait to dress my fence with plants – I am so tired of seeing my fence! Cloaking the fence with plants will enhance this area, it will also provide more shelter and food for birds and insects.
Here’s another view of my Marsh Marigolds growing in their curved planter – as you can see, the curve of the planter hasn’t transferred to the planting – these Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ plants look very regimented and unnatural in their arrangement. Planted in individual planters these aquatic plants would look so much more pleasing!
Tweaking the waterfall
I’d be fiddling about with this waterfall much more often if I could get to it more easily! We usually work as a team, with my husband moving the stones around to assemble the waterfall, while I make suggestions and give directions.
The waterfall is better than it was, but it’s still far from perfect! I hope to make some improvements soon.
Behind the waterfall, we have another log pile and ivy – Hedera helix – a superb plant for wildlife!
It has been a cold spring so far, the cooler temperatures we’ve experienced has meant that fewer insects were active in these challenging conditions. We set our moth trap up for the first time this year, on the 22nd March 2021. We found these three moths inside the trap on the morning of the 23rd March 2021….
Adding new aquatic plants to my wildlife pond
Springtime is the perfect time of year to purchase any new aquatic plants for your pond from your local nursery, garden centre, or online. I’ve looked longingly at a number of aquatic plants online for sometime and I decided to order a couple of additional aquatic plants for our pond in March 2021. The plants I’ve ordered won’t be visible in my pictures of my pond, as they all grow underwater. After planting these aquatic plants, my pond won’t look any different when viewed from above the waterline in my garden, but under the water, in the newts’ watery world, hopefully these new aquatic plants will make my pond a more welcoming and happier place for newts.
On the 27th March 2021, I introduced a Potamogeton crispus plant and Ceratophyllum demersum. These plants are both oxygenating plants that grow submerged under the water. I’ve left the Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) to float in the pond; while the Potamogeton crispus plant was potted into a container of aquatic, peat-free compost.
I chose to buy Potamogeton crispus, as I know that this is a plant that newts like to lay their eggs on. Potamogeton crispus is a submerged aquatic plant that grows in the wild in natural UK ponds. My plant is growing in an aquatic basket, which I’ve lined with hessian, filled with peat-free, aquatic compost, and positioned in the deepest area of my wildlife pond. My wildlife pond’s deep end is in the centre of my pond, where the water is around 90cm (just under 3ft) deep.
I just adore growing plants for wildlife. I grow as many plants as possible that provide food for insects. In the daytime, it’s easier to gauge how successful garden plantings are for bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and other pollinating insects; whereas at night, it’s more challenging to establish how popular our garden plants are with night-flying moths; as we tend to be indoors whilst they’re active.
Since my winter update, we’ve only set our moth trap up twice. The weather has been cold and frosty; these are difficult conditions for moths. I knew that few moths would be flying in these temperatures and so I only set the moth trap up during two of our warmest weeks. Here are the moths we caught in our second moth trapping session of the year….
Searching for branches to add to my wildlife pond
I enjoy creating wildlife habitats and I’ve set up log piles in every garden I’ve created. I’d like to add some new logs to my log pile; I try to add new wood to our stash of logs every year, as doing this allows me to supply a wide range of ages of wood for all the different insects that live in dead and decaying logs. I am currently on the lookout for branches or logs to become this year’s additions to the log stack around our wildlife pond.
In years gone by, when I had a much larger garden, it was easy to source any materials I needed – as with more space I was able to grow trees and a much wider range of plants and I could find or grow almost anything I needed for my own garden. However, these days I have a much smaller garden and I have to find alternative methods to source materials. This year, I am looking out on social media for any neighbours who might have branches they’d like to get rid of. I’d also like to source a branch to place directly in the water, as some species of dragonflies lay their eggs in wood that’s decomposing in the water.
Hard frosts and another spring drought
This has been such a cold and dry spring! We experienced just a few hours of light rain in the entire month of April 2021 – the only rainfall we’ve enjoyed this month fell in last few days.
As well as experiencing a drought, we’ve also endured later and harder frosts than we’re used to. Daytime temperatures have also been incredibly chilly. The Met Office’s official records confirm April 2021 as having the lowest average minimum temperatures for April, since April 1922.
The colder weather and frosts haven’t harmed my aquatic plants in the slightest – these are all hardy and resilient plants. However, the low temperatures have held back my plants a little. Last year, my Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ plants began flowering in early February, whereas their first flowers to open in 2021 were unveiled at the beginning of March. This doesn’t matter, as the low temperatures would have meant that it was too cold for almost all insects to be flying, so by flowering later, these Marsh Marigolds have ensured their flowers were available for the insects that pollinate them. A smart move!
Early flowering bees and insects that fly during January, March, and April, search for flowering plants with accessible flowers, which aren’t always easy to find. Gardeners can help bees by including single-flowered forms of Galanthus (snowdrops), Mahonia, Crocus, Primula vulgaris (primroses), willow (Salix), Sarcococca confusa, dandelions, celandines, and other early flowering plants in their gardens.
We’ve endured some crazy weather this spring; I’d never thought that I would see snow in April, in Surrey! I took this picture late in the day, but in the early morning the whole of my garden, including my pond, was dusted with snow.
Blanket weed algae update
We couldn’t resist the temptation to remove a gentle scoop of algae on the 13th April 2021. We discovered a dragonfly nymph in our net and so promptly put the dragonfly larvae (and the algae) back in the water!
Celebrating Marsh Marigolds!
This update from my wildlife pond celebrates Marsh Marigolds! By the middle of April 2021, my Caltha palustris ‘Honeydew’ flower buds had started to open. This is a variety that forms a much more substantial and more sprawling specimen than Caltha palustris ‘Alba’.
Caltha palustris ‘Honeydew’ has much larger flowers than most Marsh Marigolds; the blooms are a gorgeous sunshine-lemon yellow colour – they’re very glamorous!
Adding more barley straw
Another pack of barley straw was released into the pond on the 15th April 2021. I don’t like the fact that barley straw comes in what looks to be a plastic pouch – I’d rather have a plastic free alternative. I planned to cut open the netting and just add the barley straw to my pond but I was advised that this wouldn’t be as effective as adding the barley in its netting.
Spotting hoverflies is always fun! Hoverflies often have a similar appearance to bees and so it’s easy to muddle them up.
I spotted a number of these hoverflies around the middle of April; these are Eristalis pertinax – also known as tapered drone flies.
Watching crane flies
I’ve not seen a dragonfly yet, but I’ve spent a few days watching crane flies laying their eggs in the algae.
I hope that the developing crane fly larvae will consume algae. Any algae eating creatures can benefit from a twenty-four hour banquet available seven days a week, in my wildlife pond!
Bees,hoverflies, and other insects I’ve spotted around my pond
I adore bees, hoverflies, butterflies, and moths. Observing butterflies and moths, bees and hoverflies is my favourite pastime; it’s so relaxing! I do all I can to encourage insects into my garden. I grow as many plants as I can with accessible pollen and nectar – I am always looking out for the most popular plants for insects.
When I moved here, I set up Red Mason bee nest boxes, these have been very successful. I love watching the bees collecting pollen and making nests. These bees don’t sting so they’re safe for children and pets. Unlike honey bees, solitary bees don’t make honey; however they are incredibly valuable pollinators.
Observing a Peacock butterfly
I adore butterflies and so I was thrilled to spot this Peacock butterfly on the 20th April 2021!
Due to our cold, dry spring, insects are searching for alternative sources of moisture and food. This Peacock butterfly spent time among the old portions of algae deposited around the edge of the pond, probing with his proboscis looking for moisture and nutrients.
There’s still plenty of algae in my wildlife pond. Algae often reaches its peak in spring or early summer with a large and very noticeable algal bloom. Many strains of algae change tact and decrease over the summer months when they’re much less visible, but blanket weed can be a problem throughout the spring and summer months.
Marsh Marigold blooms
My wildlife pond is enlivened by Marsh Marigold flowers in springtime. These vivacious flowers have such a cheerful and upbeat vibe; I love Marsh Marigolds!
Watching shield bugs, bees, butterflies, and hoverflies around my pond
Short-lived and long-lived aquatic plants
The Marsh Marigolds have been a great success in my wildlife pond! I’ve been growing these aquatic plants for many years – they are totally reliable and form long-lived plants that flower reliably, every year.
Not all of my aquatic plants have been so successful though, my Aponogeton distachyos plant has died – it didn’t appear this winter and there’s no sign of this plant in the pond. I’ve also lost my Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis), which is a great shame, as I’ve been looking forward to seeing Ranunculus aquatilis all year. Ranunculus aquatilis is a short-lived perennial, which explains its absence – these plants don’t go on for ever . As gardeners, we continue to add new plants to our gardens each year; so, when spaces open up, we should also continue adding new plants to our ponds. I’ve been itching to buy a replacement Ranunculus plant, but I’m on a tight budget at the moment so haven’t purchased another plant yet.
I grow both holly (Ilex aquifolium) and ivy (Hedera helix) in my garden, these are the food plants for the Holly Blue Butterfly, so I see lots of these butterflies in my garden. Can you spot the Holly Blue Butterfly in my photograph above?
There’s something inspiring about watching fern fronds unfurling and new leaves developing that fills me with excitement! It’s lovely to be able to share this joy with you in my pond updates.
I’m hoping that the birds will gather up these strands of cat hair from my rhubarb leaves, to use in their nests.
Comparing Marsh Marigolds
I adore growing Marsh Marigolds! If you’re looking for plants to include in your pond, I’d recommend these easy to grow marginal plants. I find that Marsh Marigolds can cope with almost anything. These hardy and resilient plants’ main flowering period is in springtime; they’ll then go on to produce a number of flowers during the summer months. Marsh Marigolds really make an impact – making these aquatic plants good value for small ponds.
My Marsh marigolds are planted in plastic aquatic planters, which I’ve lined with hessian and filled with peat-free, aquatic compost. Since I planted up this pond in the spring of 2019, I’ve not re-potted any of these plants. All of my three varieties of Marsh Marigolds are positioned on a ledge at the edge of my pond. Here the water level just covers the top of the plants’ pots. Caltha palustris are quite easy going plants when it comes to water levels, they’ll grow happily in water a little deeper than this and will also thrive in wet and boggy soils – so you don’t need a pond to grow Caltha palustris – but you do need plenty of moisture.
Last year I didn’t manage to administer any fertiliser to my aquatic plants, as my pond is challenging to access and I was anxious about harming or disturbing the newts. Thankfully, most of my plants had a fertiliser tablet popped into their compost earlier this year. My Marsh Marigolds flowered their socks off last year, whereas my waterlilies were not as floriferous as they could have been, had they received fertiliser in springtime.
I try to show pictures that allow you to differentiate between the different plants I grow, as you may not want to or might not have room to grow all three. Here’s another photograph I’ve taken for you of my three Marsh Marigolds – Caltha palustris, Caltha palustris ‘Alba’, and Caltha palustris ‘Honeydew’.
Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ is the first of my Marsh Marigolds to flower. This is a naturally small and compact, demure, white-flowered Marsh Marigold.
Next to bloom is Caltha palustris ‘Honeydew’ – a much larger, spreading plant with larger, slightly more olive green coloured leaves and significantly larger, soft yellow blooms that glow and sparkle in the sunshine!
Last to flower is the wild species, Caltha palustris. This plant is noticeably larger than Caltha palustris ‘Alba’, but a bit more compact and contained than Caltha palustris ‘Honeydew’. The loudest and brightest of the bunch, Caltha palustris produces large, intense yellow flowers. Caltha palustris blooms are smaller than Caltha palustris ‘Honeydew’ flowers, but they’re larger than Caltha palustris ‘Alba’ blooms.
To see the birds that are nesting opposite my wildlife pond, please click here.
To see the next update from my wildlife pond and view my pond in early summertime, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you…….
For gardening advice for May, please click here.
For ideas of gorgeous scented plants to grow to help butterflies, bees, and other pollinating insects, please click here.
To see every article I’ve written about my pond, please click here.
For more articles about wildlife and wildlife gardening, please click here.