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Creating a peaceful backyard water garden
Beth Hyatt | July 26, 2017
water garden full of colorful lilypads

Photo: yoshio9989/

Water features have been popular items to have in a landscape for years now, but something customers may not think of asking about is a water garden.

Unlike water features that just have water with plants surrounding it, such as fountains, water gardens actually provide an environment that can sustain and promote plant life growth within it.

For example, instead of your customer just having a pond installed in their landscape with plants placed around it for looks, why not talk to them about adding in aquatic plants that can grow inside the pond?

Adding water gardens in the landscape can help your customers relax at the end of the day by giving them a very natural and peaceful place to go.

While water gardens may have a reputation for being high-maintenance, we’ve have a few tips that are sure to help your customers get the most out of their water garden experience.

Start simple

If your customers are not quite ready to jump headfirst into a large water garden project, that’s okay. Talk to them about starting small and building more or expanding later down the line.

A small fountain with aquatic plants inside can be a great starter pond, and it can still give off the ambience your customer are searching for. Adding a few small plants around it then making the surrounding area fit the scene can create a beautiful little piece of paradise without taking up a large portion of the yard.

Make it a natural design

When it comes to designing a water garden, always keep nature in mind. Try to keep the design as close to ponds found in nature to help create a more natural topography. This idea applies to the visual and functional aspects of water gardens.

Water gardens that have a naturally flowing course, ripples, broad pools in naturally low spots and small cascades in deeper areas harken to waterways found in nature, while those with artificial hills and waterfalls tend to come across as gaudy.

Some water gardens can even incorporate small sandy beaches and small boulders around the edges, such as a scene found by a mountain stream.

Blur the edges

Having the rubber or plastic edge of the pond visible can destroy the peaceful and natural illusion you are going for, so be sure to keep the edges out of sight.

One way to keep the edges out of view is to create a flagstone lip that overhangs the pond liner by an inch or so. Using plants along the border is also an attractive way to hide edges, and it gives customers the chance to have a few more beautiful plants around the yard.

Using the plant method can also help with the natural look of the water garden, and it will help it blend in with the rest of the landscape. 

Add shade and aeration

Having the area shaded will help your customers enjoy their water garden more, and it will help keep the water clear since algae growth is driven by the sun.

Keeping the water from becoming stagnant is another important task for water gardens. Aerators, waterfalls or bubblers help keep the water moving and allow oxygen to feed the aquatic life cycle. This keeps decomposing plant matter from forming and clouding up the water.

Create diversity with plants and fish

Different types of plants will thrive in different levels of water, therefore you should consider adding in at least one of each type of aquatic plant: marginal, emergent, submerged and floaters.

Having a few of each type will help maintain balance in the garden while also adding balance to the water’s chemistry and keeping turbidity at bay. Marginals are used from zero to 12 inches deep, emergents are used from 12-24 inches deep, submerged are used from 24-36 inches deep and floaters live on the surface.

To keep the plants from becoming unruly, consider putting in aquatic benches or planting strips at the appropriate depths to place the plants in.

Along with plant life, water gardens are known for having their fair share of fish around. Fish not only keep those pesky mosquito larvae at bay, they also help keep nutrients cycling by eating the algae.

Different fish will need different amounts of attention, so check with your customers about how much time they want to dedicate to fish care before choosing which, if any, will inhabit the water garden.

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