Container water gardening is a rapidly-growing garden hobby and provides a whole new opportunity for an exciting group of plants. Not to mention, you can even add small fish to your aquatic container, thereby creating your very own mini pond to enjoy without having to pick up a shovel. These mini ponds are fabulous for folks who don't have a whole lot of space, like condos and townhouses, etc.
Plants are what makes your container water garden a garden. They add interest, texture, and a splash of color to the spot you choose for your mini pond. They also help keep the water clear of algae, while providing perching spots for birds that seek out the water.
To make choosing plants easier, we’re sharing our list of favorite aquatic plants for mini ponds. And what’s more – you can add any of these plants to any pond, large or small!
Feathery heads on sturdy green stalks create a striking vertical element in container water gardens. Dwarf papyrus enjoys a little shade but can take full sun, too. Use this charmer as an annual in colder climates.
Feathery lime green foliage on vibrant red stems creates a mat that will spill over the edge of your container. It grows 3” to 4” tall and is a great choice for both small ponds and container water gardens. Place it in full sun to part shade. And keep it pinched back to make it grow fuller.
Add a bit of height and color to your mini pond with the impressive pink or purple pickerel rush plant. This easy-to-grow aquatic plant rewards you with bright blue flowers atop lush green foliage. Prefers full sun to part shade and grows 24” to 30” tall.
Taro, Green or Black
Glossy green leaves on deep purple stems add a stunning effect to your container water garden. Each leaf is a work of art atop 36” high stems. Choose Taro when you want an especially tall plant for your container. Enjoys full shade in Phoenix. Available in standard green or black (pictured below).
Looking for a smaller plant that blooms all summer? Look no further than this dainty white flower with a cone-shaped center. As they age, the flowers get pink spots. This plant is actually an Arizona canyon native plant. The Native Americans use it in a tea form to relieve digestive issues.
Soft and velvety, this floating plant performs best in shady to partly sunny locations. Each “flower” sends out shoots to create more rosettes. If your container gets crowded, simply thin them out.
Nymphaea ‘Pygmaea Helvola’
Helvola is the smallest of all the hardy waterlilies with delightful 2” to 3” star-shaped blooms and heavily mottled 1” to 2” pads. Prefers full sun to partial shade and blooms all summer long
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these can get you started off on the right foot. Check out our page on pond plants for your backyard!
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Beginning a landscaping project is the first step towards creating the outdoor sanctuary you have always dreamed of having. Japanese-inspired gardens offer a distinctive tranquility in all seasons. A lovely Japanese theme can be created through the strategic inclusion of Japanese water features. These water feature ideas can be applied to any outdoor space and add a soothing air of tranquility to your backyard garden.
Fun fact: a "Zen Garden" does NOT include water. It is a "dry landscape" garden, usually relatively small, surrounded by a wall, and is meant to be seen while seated from a single viewpoint outside the garden.
Japanese Water Feature Essentials
Since Japanese garden design typically aspires to mimic natural growing conditions, Japanese water features are generally rustic or rough-hewn. However, like anything else in a planned garden, the rustic appearance is carefully cultivated. The following are the four primary features typically found in a Japanese garden:
Japanese Ponds & Waterfalls
Of the four primary water features included in traditional Japanese gardens, ponds and waterfalls are most likely to be found in backyard gardens. These features are very flexible in terms of size and design and are generally simple to create and install. Like any garden water feature, these require some basic maintenance. This is especially true of ponds with goldfish. Japanese goldfish, or koi, are kept healthy through regular pond upkeep. Koi pond maintenance needs depend in part on how large the koi fish are, how many are in the pond, and what additional plants and animals are present in the water feature.
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When you want to enjoy your water feature as the sun begins to set, be sure to add outdoor lighting. During Phoenix summers, it's pretty much the only time we can get outside without melting! Most people think to add landscape lighting around a deck or patio, but don’t neglect your water feature for optimal nighttime viewing! Here you’ll find pretty backyard lighting ideas for your pond, waterfall, or fountain.
Adding underwater lighting to a pond helps you enjoy watching your fish swim at night. It’s almost magical watching them dart in and out of the lights.
Waterfall and pond lights add an ethereal glow to your water garden, creating a memorable moment during the evening hours.
For water feature owners, backyard lighting ideas include both pond and landscape lights. Underwater lights allow you to see fish in the evening, while garden path lights accentuate the architectural elements of terrestrial plants.
Underwater pond lights are a must for those with recreation ponds.
For a truly pretty effect add a waterfall light. You’ll find your water feature takes on a whole new look at night.
Water takes on a glowing effect when spilling over rocks. It’s easy to be mesmerized by this peaceful scene.
A small spotlight showcases a fountain in a front or backyard.
No matter what type of water feature you have, you can enhance its beauty well into the evening hours with the addition of pond and garden lighting.
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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?
Technical information for this article supplied by our friend and colleague, Bernie Kerkvliet of Skyland Ponds in Lake Arrowhead, California.
What is a Wetland?
Ecologically speaking, it is known as an Ecotone. An Ecotone is a transition zone between two diverse communities. It contains organisms native to each overlapping community, as well as organisms characteristic to the Ecotone itself.
In a wetland, life is very dense and variable. Every ounce of water from a wetland environment contains millions of organisms that make up a highly diverse community.
The Plantonic community includes algae or phytoplankton, zooplankton, and bacteria. Together, they are the plants, animals, and scavengers of this unique, aquatic ecosystem. The scavenger-like plantonic bacteria, along with fungi, clean up the corpses, wastes, and organic debris present in the water. The algae transforms sunshine and inorganic nutrients present in the water into food so it can grow and reproduce. In a nutshell, the bacteria, fungi, and phytoplankton all feed on impurities in the water and clean it as it flows thru the wetland. These are the base consumers of the ecosystem, or the base of the food chain. The amazing thing is the phytoplankton and bacteria can produce another generation in a matter of hours to days. Pretty cool, huh?
Simply put, the phytoplankton represents the grass and herbaceous plants in a meadow. The zooplankton which are protozoans, rotifers, and tiny crustaceans are the animals that feed on the plants in the meadow (Phytoplankton).
This basis for the food chain in turn provides food for insects, fish fry, larvae, etc. Aquatic plants also get their nutrients from the water and decomposing sediment in the wetland. The food chain continues to grow to include larger fish, frogs, reptiles, and eventually mammals and birds.
What do Wetlands Do?
Wetlands are also good for slowing the water down. In a constructed wetland, we accomplish this by the size of pump supplying the wetland. Slowing the water down allows for sediment to settle out. In nature, after hundreds, or even thousands, of years, sedimentation continues until a meadow is formed. The sedimentation process prevents soil from washing downstream. Since the water is almost stationary, it allows water to percolate down into the water table.
In a constructed wetland, the nutrient rich sediments are periodically pumped out on to the surrounding landscape.
The sedimentation process in both cases produces water clarity.
Wetlands, whether natural or man-made, are the most effective water purification systems on earth.
Where do Wetlands Come From?
Wetlands can be created in many ways. They can be built by rivers in slow moving waters and deltas that create wetlands. Lakes and landlocked basins can develop into wetlands, as well.
Aquascape has developed a very effective arificial wetland system that is very effective. Whenever water filtration is required, we prefer to use a constructed wetland if possible. This does require a bit of extra room on the property, but the results are well worth it – and it’s pretty!
One of the best ways nature has for building wetlands, man has destroyed in multiple ways. The best natural builder of wetlands is the beaver. All the industrious work the beaver has done in the northern hemisphere, man has slowly destroyed all in the name of two things: a hat and “progress. “ We hesitate to go too far into the history of the fur trade and beaver felt hats that became so popular in Europe, but the fact is that’s what started it all. But let’s fast forward to a little more current time in North America.
The total land area in the contiguous United States is 2.96 million square miles. It is estimated that there were some 200 million beavers in the US at the time white man came from Europe. It is also estimated that there were about 300,000 square miles of beaver ponds at that time. Can you imagine the benefits that brought to the land? Better plant and animal biodiversity, slow moving water meant better water percolation and recharge in the water table, flood control, clear unpolluted water -- and those are just some of the macro benefits.
What Can I Do AS JUST A HOMEOWNER?
In the pursuit of fur, hats, farmland, industry, and “progress,” our land is not what it used to be. That is why the work that we do is so important. Each pond, pondless, patio pond, fountainscape, stream, and waterfall we build creates another little island of biodiversity in our individual private back yards.
The bonus is that it also creates ambiance to help us decompress, to bring us back to nature after being “plugged in” all day, to teach our children about the nature world, and to use this natural world to teach a multitude of other subjects from biology to math to art to music, and beyond. And then there’s just the pure enjoyment of a backyard oasis – something that takes minutes per week to maintain, but provides hours upon hours of simple pleasure.
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