Water gardening and ponds have become popular trends in home yard design over the last several years, and their popularity as a home improvement is gaining ground every day. The backyard pond has become the favorite space outside the house for relaxing alone, with the family, or entertaining friends. Similar to having a swimming pool in your backyard, there’s more to having a pond than simply digging a hole, filling it with water, dropping in a few fish and surrounding it with some greenery. Some basic pond maintenance is essential to the longevity of your water garden. A little regular pond care and the installation of pond filtration systems will keep your backyard oasis thriving and beautiful for many years of enjoyment.
Pond maintenance can be low once you understand the basics. The main concept for maintaining a healthy pond is the understanding that caring for your pond requires managing animal and plant waste, such as fish excrement and the growth of algae. Rivers and streams naturally renew themselves with nutrients and fresh water; however, a man-made pond is a closed ecosystem. This means that nothing is organically added in or taken out by natural outside forces (except for maybe that ocassional dust storm). For successful pond maintenance, manual intervention is necessary to take care of what nature isn’t and to keep the ecosystem of the pond in balance.
In a closed pond system, as opposed to an open, natural ecosystem, waste and algae needs to be equalized, and for this reason a proper biological and mechanical pond filtration system is needed. By caring for your pond, filtering out organic materials and not letting them break down and decay in the water, a healthy balance will be maintained in the pond. The best way to ensure a healthy pond is by installing a pond filtration system. A professional pond designer/builder will install a filtration system that is adequate for the size of the pond you have, and add appropriate water plants to help with the filtration process.
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Aquatic plants are a very important step in achieving a truly balanced ecosystem pond. Regardless of why you got into the water gardening hobby, adding aquatic plants to the pond is an important part of the water garden. They provide beauty and naturalization with a huge array of plant choices.
Most importantly, they help balance the pond’s ecosystem, as well as provide valuable biological filtration that removes nitrogen, ammonia, nitrates and other minerals from pond water. These excess nutrients are often the cause of unsightly water conditions. The end result helps to minimize pond maintenance, leaving more time to enjoy your pond. Without aquatic plants, your pond would not be able to function as a complete ecosystem.
Pond Plants in a Backyard Koi Pond
Aquatic plants can be classified into a few main categories: water lilies, marginal plants, floaters and submerged (also known as oxygenators). Plants can also be put into two basic types known as “tropical” and “hardy.” Hardy plants will over-winter in colder climates and tropical plants are more suited to warmer climates, although tropical plants are often used as annuals in colder climate zones.
Water lilies are among the most popular of aquatic plants and are often the centerpiece of the water garden. A water garden never seems complete without a few beautiful water lilies. Not only are water lilies breathtaking, but they provide valuable shade (a respite from our summer heat), which helps to keep the pond cool while providing refuge for pond fish. Ideally, only thirty to fifty percent of the water surface should be covered with aquatic plants.
The marginal plant group is the largest aquatic plant group by far, containing both hardy and tropical plants. Marginal plants serve many functions such as adding beauty and providing valuable filtration. They are called “marginals” because they typically grow around the edges or “margins” of a pond or lake. Marginal plants thrive in wet soil or standing water that covers the crown or base of the plant by as little as two inches and up to as much as six inches. Some examples of marginals include Yerba manza and Creeping Jenny.
Floating plants do just as their name indicates: they float on the water’s surface. Their roots dangle beneath the plant absorbing all their nutrients from the water. Most floating plants do a great job of filtering ponds by removing nutrients directly from the water, as opposed to the rock substrate where most other aquatic plants are situated or planted.
Like the name implies, this group of plants lives below the water surface. They are commonly referred to as oxygenators. Submerged aquatics do produce oxygen during most of the day. Submerged aquatic plants live entirely under water, almost. Some oxygenators bloom and the flowers often rise to the surface. They include plants such as elodea, anacharis, hornwort, foxtail, cabomba, and vallisneria. For the most part, submerged plants absorb their nutrients directly from the water. This means they compete with algae for nutrients, thereby helping to balance the ecosystem.
Putting it All Together
Just like their soil counterparts, a good mix of aquatic plants lends the best visual impact for your water garden. Marginals help to blend the pond into the surrounding landscape, while water lilies provide pops of color at the water’s surface. Take some time to familiarize yourself with all the wonderful options out there and you’ll soon find what most appeals to you. For your convenience, we have a page on our website dedicated to the aquatic plants that we know work well in our Sonoran Desert.
Did you know there’s a scientific reason why a shower feels so refreshing? It’s the same reason why people flock to lakes, oceans, and waterfalls for vacations. Falling water from fountains, waterfalls, and even your morning shower releases negative ions into the surrounding atmosphere. And these ions have a profound effect on our physical well-being!
When you’re in an environment where the concentration of negative ions is greater than positive ions, it will have a positive effect on your body, mind, and spirit. There’s an increase in blood flow and oxygen content to your cells; it lowers blood pressure and stabilizes respiration creating a calming effect. Increased oxygen content in your blood is critical for all metabolic functions which in turn effects your mood.
Hospital patients who have a view of natural landscapes recover faster from surgery and require less pain medication. In addition, heart rate, blood pressure, and other measures return to normal levels more quickly when people view natural rather than urban landscapes after a stressful experience.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative. Standards and Guidelines: Preliminary Report.
It’s no secret that water features provide soothing sights and sounds that help you relax and de-stress in today’s busy world. Now more than ever, we need the healing effects that water provides.
Whether you’re dealing with stress, illness, or simply wish to improve your overall outlook on life, consider adding a pond, waterfall, or fountainscape to your outdoor living space. Experts agree it can be extremely therapeutic!
As landscape architects and experts in healing garden design, we specify water features in most of our projects. We’ve had great success with using the Aquascape product line. Their natural pond systems fit perfectly into our design solutions and offer our clients a sustainable solution that adds a positive distraction to the healthcare environment. We also design water features in unusual locations like roof decks. Aquascape sculptural water displays add a nice balance to the healing garden aesthetic.
Geoff Roehll, Senior Vice President, Hitchcock Designs
Our patients and their families find peace and tranquility when visiting our beautiful water features. We receive a great deal of positive feedback on the addition of the water gardens to our facility. Even the staff and board members have found the water features to be beneficial for relieving stress and improving their daily outlook.
Nancy Vance, Executive Director, Living Well Cancer Resource Center
Ready to get your own piece of paradise?
We all know by now that an organic living water feature on your property benefits the local and migratory wildlife. We also know that it greatly enhances the enjoyment of your outdoor environment. And it's well-known that it tends to be the focal point of a garden, as well as a gathering spot for family, friends & neighbors. But does this kind of home improvement actually add value to your home?
Yes, Water Features DO Add Value to a Home!
Studies show that Phoenix ponds & water features have measurable value! The garden/landscape/outdoor environment is the center of what is most likely your biggest asset: your home. According to Dr. Charlie Hall, Texas A&M University, landscaping is now the only home improvement project that actually nets you a return on your investment. You will receive a 9% increase in home value for well done landscaping expenditures! That's right, for every $1 you invest, you can expect a return on investment of around $3. That might be better that some stock market options right now. You also get curb appeal, a great outdoor living area, and you help improve the look of the entire neighborhood! Conversely, a poorly conceived, neglected garden can adversely affect your home value by as much as 8-10%. Yikes!
How do I cash in on this added value?
If you don't already have a great living water feature, you might be interested to know that an upgrade of adding a pond, waterfall, stream or custom fountainscape to your outdoor environment can increase your home value by 10.8%. AND it's an investment that lasts! In fact, it gets even better as it matures -- like women and fine wine.
If you have an old pool that no longer is in use, it can be converted to a fabulous Koi pond!
How can I get more proof?
Need more evidence? Check out what our customers have to say about theirs -- and feel free to contact them with your questions or concerns!
You can also check out some before and after pictures for ideas about improvements to your own garden.
Though the term "water garden" is normally used to describe a particular type of natural or man-made water feature that is used for a relatively specific purpose, there are many other types, styles and designs of water feature. And it seems most people want water in their garden in some way, shape or form -- it just doesn't seem complete without it.
History of Water Gardens
Water gardens first originated in ancient Egypt when the Egyptians channeled water from the Nile into their palace gardens. In their water gardens, they primarily grew lotuses, a primary source of medicine and a plant considered to be sacred. They also grew Papyrus and kept fish in their ponds – over 3,500 years ago!
The earliest planned gardens that included ponds were probably in Egypt, documented as early as 2,800 BC. They were also great garden designers. In most of their garden designs, the water garden or pond was the central focal point of the entire landscape! The gardens were created around the pond with blooming aquatic plants like lilies, lotus, and papyrus. Ornamental plants and trees came right up to the edge of this oasis. To top it off, they would create lots of space to lounge and enjoy the outdoor area. So, outdoor living environments are not actually a new trend.
Decorative ponds and fountains were a major feature in gardens of the Middle Eastern civilizations of Mesopotamia, as a result of the need for irrigation canals. The design tended to include four water features in the form of a cross, thought to stem from the four rivers of the Garden of Eden and the concept of "flowing to the four corners of the earth."
Water gardens, and water features in general, have been a part of public and private gardens since ancient Persian and Chinese gardens. Water features have been present and well represented in every era and in every culture that has included gardens in their landscape and outdoor environments. Up until the rise of the industrial age, when the modern water pump was introduced, water was not recirculated, but was diverted from rivers and springs into the water garden, and then exited into agricultural fields or natural watercourses. Historically, water features were used to enable plant and fish production for both food purposes, as well as for ornamental aesthetics.
It’s pretty cool how similar people and civilizations are over the millennia, and how we all want and need a connection with water. These ancient people surrounded themselves with water and beautiful plants, and pioneered concepts and things we still use today – like irrigation, garden design, arbors, edible ornamental’s, and even ornamental fish keeping.
Aquatic Plant Development
Aquatic plants were among the earliest flowering plants. Fossil evidence places an early form of waterlily at 125-115 million years BC! One of the most important plants of the world (and an aquatic!), rice was domesticated 4,000 years BC, based on evidence in Thailand. The value of many aquatic plants as food cannot be underestimated.
The lotus appears in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics as early as the First Dynasty (2,950-2,770 BC). Legends, myths, art, and physical evidence bespeak its importance in ancient Egyptian culture and religion. How and when lotus reached Egypt is not really known, but the Greek historian Herodotus wrote of its presence there in the fifth century BC. Lotus seeds were found as a part of the Hemudu Culture in ancient China as long ago as 5,000 BC, and presumably were native to that region. Chinese poetry from the Zhou Dynasty (1,122-256 BC) also speaks of lotus. It is indeed a mystical and sought-after plant even today!
Ponds & Water Gardens Today
Fast forward to present day. Water gardens can be defined as any interior or exterior landscape or architectural element whose primary purpose is to house, display, or propagate aquatic plants. Despite the primary focus being on plants, most also house ornamental fish, calling it a fish pond. Most people, though, just refer to water gardens, ponds and fish ponds as “ponds.”
Water gardening is basically growing plants adapted to ponds. Although water gardens can be almost any size or depth, they are typically small and relatively shallow, generally around 24” in depth. This is because most aquatic plants are depth-sensitive and require a specific water depth in order to thrive. And what better place to garden when it’s 110 degrees outside than standing in water?
Ponds and water gardens are what you make of them. Luckily, The Pond Gnome just happens to create custom build-to-suit water features. Tell us your dream, and let us help make it a reality for you! Or, you can peruse our pricing and use our cool Build & Price Tool to select your options and build to your budget. It’s easy and fun!