New England gardening: Diving into the world of pond gardening

Ottelia ovalifolia: The swamp lily, is a tufted aquatic perennial with floating and submerged three-petalled flowers.
Ottelia ovalifolia: The swamp lily, is a tufted aquatic perennial with floating and submerged three-petalled flowers.

A few gardeners are fortunate in having a natural watercourse in their gardens. The rest of us have to create our own water features. A body of water is a restful addition to domestic landscapes.

A pond in the garden has rewards. They increase our horticultural opportunities by allowing a new and interesting range of plants to be cultivated. Ponds also provide habitat for frogs, probably our most endangered group of animals.

Ponds come in a range of materials. There are flexible, long-lasting liners, pre-formed fibreglass ponds and some gardeners are using round, ultraviolet stabilised tubs that are usually containers for stock water.

Gardeners in suburban areas should contact their council before installing a pond, as there may be regulations governing size and depth of ponds.

Dense groundcovers should be planted around the pond perimeter so that foliage grows into the water. Many ponds have smooth sides and juvenile frogs may have difficulty leaving the water. Foliage growing into the water allows easy exit. Myoporum parvifolium, creeping boobialla, is an ideal pool-side ground cover.

A pond will add interest to your garden, increase the variety of plants that may be cultivated and provide habitat for frogs.

There is a wide range of native aquatic plants that are suitable for local ponds. Some of these plants may die down in the depths of winter but they return vigorously in spring.

Azolla is a floating, aquatic fern that will cover the surface of ponds. This fern has small fronds that may be green or deep red in colour and give the pond surface an interesting texture. If azolla becomes too thick, then the surplus may be removed and use as mulch or added to the compost bin.

Ottelia ovalifolia, swamp lily, is a tufted aquatic perennial with floating and submerged leaves and flowers. The visible leaves are strap-like, up to 16cm long and 6cm wide.

The three-petalled flowers are held on long, emergent stalks, up to 5cm across, creamy-white with a red centre. They appear between November and March. This is an attractive aquatic plant with large leaves and eye-catching flowers. 

Myriophyllum is known as water milfoil and is an emergent aquatic plant. Multiple stems grow from the roots and will reach a height of 30cm above the water. The leaves above the water are small, tightly clustered around the stems and light green. The leaves below the surface are soft and deeply divided.

Water milfoil is grown for its foliage and has proved to be hardy and fast growing in local ponds.

Vallisneria is known as ribbon weed and is a local aquatic plant that is found in many New England watercourses.

Ribbon weed is a submerged perennial with ribbon-like leaves that may reach a length of 1m. Male and female flowers are inconspicuous and carried on separate plants. The long leaves provide shelter for developing tadpoles. Ribbon weed is an aquatic plant that is propagated by division.

A pond will add interest to your garden, increase the variety of plants that may be cultivated and provide habitat for frogs.

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