Water Gardening


If you gave me several million years, there would be nothing
that did not grow in beauty if it were surrounded by water.
–   Jan Erik Vold, What All The World Knows

When I roughly designed my current garden, I knew I wanted a water feature.  I wasn’t sure what kind (although it had to have a waterfall), where we would put it or how big it would be, but I knew I wanted the sound of water in the garden.  As more of the design was teased out in my mind, I wanted a pond built off the patio.  One reason was to have the sound of water close to the house and the other was to soften the 90 degree angles and hardscape of the patio.IMG_1948

A friend recommended someone who was very good at building ponds that looked natural.  So we met, chatted about what I wanted, where I wanted it and I left the details to him.  In retrospect, I am shocked that I didn’t have a detailed drawing for the project.  But it just felt best to go with it.

The project was started and completed over the week of Thanksgiving about 7 years ago while we were away visiting family. The pond came to life though in the spring of the following year when the plants were planted, and the waterfall was plugged in (we finished the electrical part of the project-burying the cable and using conduit to feed it to the plug).

This what the pond looked at the start of its second spring (one year after we added plants around and in the pond).

pond beginning

Not knowing anything about ponds, we went into the adventure with little information.  I would say, in hindsight, it may have been a bit smarter to have read up on ponds and planned a bit more.  I have no complaints and love our pond, but it is not low maintenance and takes continual work as it matures.  In my quest for more knowledge, I found a wonderful book that encompasses everything you need to consider when you decide to have a water feature in your garden.

I am joining in with Holley’s Garden Book Review as I share this valuable resource.   Holley said this month will be her final post of the meme, but I plan to continue to review garden books monthly.  Thanks Holley for hosting the meme and encouraging me to read and share all those garden books I buy.



Water Gardening for the Mid-Atlantic and New England



Author:   Teri Dunn 
Paperback:   176 pages
Publisher:   Cool Springs Press (January 2, 2006)
Amazon Price: $16.59







In A Few Words

This comprehensive book on water gardening is written by Teri Dunn.  You may also know her as Teri Dunn Chace.  She has written a series of these water gardening books for all over the US besides the Mid-Atlantic/New England area.  You can find other books in the series for the Southwest, West, Midwest, South and Northwest.

The book goes into the joys of water gardening first so you are aware of the things to consider before you jump into such a big IMG_2437endeavor….and building/maintaining a pond is a big endeavor.  Each regional book considers concerns for that regions.  For instance here in the Northeast we have a short growing season which influences the plants you grow in the pond like this native iris.

The other sections go into choosing and installing the water garden, stocking it with fish and/or plants and caring for the water garden.  The last section is a plant directory.  Additional resources can be found at the end with such information as a seasonal checklist.




What I Liked

This book is ideal for beginners, those who already have a pond and those who want more information before they make the decision to water garden.  Each section goes into great detail with easy to understand instructions and guidance.  There are specific tips scattered throughout the sections with special features too.

IMG_2435I really liked the installation directions and recommendations for using either pre-formed or flexible pool liners.  You get enough info to make a decision as to what kind of pond you might want as well as above ground ponds, streams, waterfalls and fountains.  One big tip is to keep your pond away from trees.  Leaves, flowers, nuts and roots and wreak havoc on a pond.  I was lucky that I had already heard this tip, and knew just where to put the pond so it was away from trees and in a sunny location.

We made a decision to not have fish, but there is lots of information to consider before you make your own decision.  And plants…I am thrilled to find so many more to consider.  You can learn the differences between the tropical and hardy water lilies, and how to take care for water plants.  Also what marginal, floating or submerged plants to consider adding.  And watch out for those invasives.  Of course there are tips on dealing with algae too.




Not So Much

The book was thorough and even after 5 years of water gardening through trial and error, I found tons of great tips that have already given me less maintenance in the future.  The only issue I had was the idea that some critters are water garden pests.  While I understand that DSCN1421some critters can damage plants or eat fish, I would not consider these animals pests.  And as the author states in the beginning, if you build a pond you will get dragonflies, butterflies, hummers, birds, frogs and turtles.

But I guess to each his own.  I want the critters to come including the snakes.




Final Thoughts

I have looked at several water gardening books but this is the one I would recommend.  Besides the great pictures and easy to follow tips, it is an interesting book to read.  I really enjoyed each section as I read it cover to cover.





How often it is that a garden, beautiful though it be, will seem sad and dreary and lacking in one of its most gracious features, if it has no water.   
-Pierre Husson



I hope you will join in now and tell us all about how you are celebrating the new season especially around this very special solstice   Just write a post and leave a comment with your Seasonal Celebrations link.  


Come Join Us:

Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time.  I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether winter or summer or something else.  Share your traditions, holidays and celebrations in pictures and words.

And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme.  What lessons have you learned this past season of autumn here in the North and spring in the South.  Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.

The rules are simple.  Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations.  If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts.  Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post.  Make sure to include a link with your comment.

Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the solstice (around the 21st of December).  And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog.  Your post should be linked in the weekend before the solstice to give us enough time to include your post in our summary.  And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page (which I still have to create).  The badges here can be used in your post.   So won’t you join in the celebration!!



Next up on the blog:  Next Monday I will be highlighting my final herb for GBBD.  Then it will be time to reveal your Seasonal Celebrations on the 20th.  The end of the month brings a special Christmas post and the last Wildflower Tale.

I wrote a guest post over at Vision and Verb.  I hope you will visit this wonderful website of women writers.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my next post on the 10th.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

sharetheloveI am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

61 Replies to “Water Gardening”

  1. Donna thank you for an informative and honest post about the water garden, I would like a pond but as I read (I have read many of the books my local library has on ponds) more about having a pond in the garden I realise getting the pond built in only a small part of the work involved, your pond having moving water I understand helps a lot with problems like algae, like you I too would welcome the additional wildlife in the garden, a sterile pond would be dreadful, the wildlife is one reason I would like a pond, thanks again, Frances

    1. So glad the post was helpful Frances. My number 1 reason for having the pond was wildlife too. Yes the waterfall helps keep the mosquito larvae out and the algae a little less.

  2. The guy I work with specializes in ponds and the one I featured on my blog a long while ago is large and deep with many koi. The koi keep the pond clear. His parents do skim the pond of leaves but it really does not have that much maintenance. Once in twenty years the pump needed replacement. The waterfall is important and they do have a heater to keep a hole open for the fish in winter. You are right to advise getting familiar with pond ownership first. There is much to learn to keep it healthy and running.

    1. Thanks Donna. Yes if you have koi and a deep enough pond, I believe you have less maintenance. I remember the post you referenced in your comment…loved that pond!

  3. I love your pond, Donna. Your pink & white water lilies are so pretty. I hear you about the critters — it must be fun to have little visitors like frogs, birds & butterflies. 🙂

  4. I have always wanted a pond both for the sound of flowing water and for the creatures it attracts. The perfect spot would be not unlike the spot you have set yours- at the edge of a patio, but in my case the pond would be under a tree that drops nuts and not in the sun at all. Before I go forward I need to do some research and planning. This book sounds like a good place to start.

    1. Yes I think this book would be a great resource for you Jennifer….I hope your wish comes true!! A pond would be fabulous in your garden.

  5. I have wanted a water feature for forever! Not only for aesthetics, but the birds would always have a fresh water supply. As always, a great, informative post. 🙂

  6. You have a lovely pond…it does look so natural.

    All of my life, since I was little child, I’ve built ponds, the first ones were nothing more then quickly receding water in a hole dug with a sand shovel. But I soon advanced to using my Grandfathers tobacco tins, and a piece of pink skipping rope to make running water. I couldn’t figure out how to make recycling water at that age, but it didn’t stop me from my love of ponds.

    When I worked at the nursery it was like gardeners heaven, we built ponds, indoors, outdoors, in small containers, and large areas….I love ponds, lol.

    I even had a huge one on my condo deck, which of course the raccoons loved to dump each night.

    Yes they are a lot of work, but so worth it. I’m not sure if we will ever be able to have one here, even the water bowls are filled with insects, and fir needles every night.

    But I can live vicariously through the photos other bloggers share, like the ones of your lovely pond.


    1. I am glad my pond also brings you pleasure Jen. Having a waterfall has kept the bugs to a minimum especially the skeeters. I have a feeling someday you just may have that wonderful pond…it sounds like it has always been part of your destiny.

  7. Excellent book review! When we lived in Massachusetts we also had a pond that we installed ourselves, that ended up being way more maintenance than we anticipated. Ours looked very similar to yours in those first couple of years when the plants were new. I too would take issue with the concept of animals attracted to the water being pests. I’m so glad to hear you even enjoy the snakes, they were one of my favorite water garden visitors.

    1. Thanks Susie….I take so many pictures and when I was searching through my library, this one popped up. I also really loved it and couldn’t believe I had not used it already.

  8. Sounds like an interesting book. I pine for a more extensive water feature. All I have is a small fountain/birdbath. Oh for a small pond with a waterfall! Oh for frogs and dragonflies in the garden!

  9. Your pond is nice Donna and you were trusting of the fellow that installed it. I can’t imagine my yard without a pond and we do have goldfish, dragonflies, frogs and much more wildlife. We found the less we fiddled with the water, the better it was. I know many people clear out all the guck at the bottom but that’s where much of the pond life over winters and we try to leave a good, undisturbed layer.
    Good review of the book, those starting to make a pond need a good source for info.

    1. Thanks Judith. I agree, if you clean out all the gunk at the bottom and make it pristine, the wildlife will not be happy and many will not stay or survive. They do need that muck at the bottom.

  10. Someday I would love to see your pond. From your photos, it looks perfect! I’m sure it’s a ton of work, but I can tell from your words and your thoughts that it’s a labor of love. And such a wonderful habitat for wildlife!

  11. Hi Donna, “with all its drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world”, haha Desiderata. What i only mean is even if you have some complaints, it is beautiful so natural. I love water features too, but it is not just possible in our garden without expenses. So when I visited the area of my college batchmate, i am so awed that there is an actual running stream that she can manipulate to produce natural sounds. And she made a business from the area by having a massage parlor at the 2nd floor and a small private restaurant at the ground floor. What a relaxing atmosphere. And i am so envious.

    1. Andrea your friend’s water garden sounds amazing. I have always wanted a stream nearby. Yes a pond is an expense especially to start it. But we wouldn’t have a garden without one. I am very thankful we were able to create this one.

  12. Sometimes it is good to take a leap of faith and in others it is better do do the research beforehand. Your posed looks splendid now and a garden that takes no effort to maintain is pretty sterile. Isn’t it the work that we do in the garden that keeps us fit, healthy and cheerful?

    1. Arija it was a leap of faith as the gentleman who created it certainly had built many natural scapes before. I agree gardens are healthy in so many ways and sterile ones don’t bring me much pleasure.

  13. You have a beautiful pond, and I’m sure all the little critters are grateful for it. I wish I lived on enough property to have a pond. We did have a couple of small wall fountains at one time, but they just didn’t work out for us.

  14. I love the natural look to your pond! It is a beautiful attraction, the wildlife must love it. You have a lovely yard. Great post, thanks for sharing. Have a happy day!

    1. I really am grateful the pond has continued to be such a wonderful source of pleasure for us and the critters…and now for you.

  15. Your water garden looks so very natural, Donna. I love it. I have this book, but like you I didn’t purchase it until after our pond was installed. Ours doesn’t look so natural — I envy yours. We have fish, which makes it more work, but that was the main reason my husband wanted a pond — he loves his koi. The best part for me (apart from the sound) is the wildlife it attracts, as you mentioned. The frogs are more entertaining than the fish.

    I did my Seasonal Celebrations posting. Stay warm. Our schools are closed with a snowstorm. P. x

    1. I hope you have been keeping warm Pam. My husband wanted fish as he had to give up his aquarium when we moved here…but he decided against it I think mostly because of the work. For me it was the fact that the critters who prey on the frogs would have gobbled up our fish if we had any.

      PS-I love your pond…it is stunning!!

  16. Donna, Your pond does look natural and is so beautiful. I would love to have a pond, but I have filled my yard with plantings and don’t want to remove any. So, next yard, if we ever move, I will try to site the pond first!

    1. Well if you ever do move or you have a change of heart with your present garden, your garden would be perfect for a pond…so glad you enjoyed visiting our pond.

  17. As always an interesting review. I smiled when you said your water feature wasn’t low maintenaince. Unles you have a concrete or stone fountain with water that has chemicals added to it, a water feature with plants is ALWAYS high maintenaince. Water plus plants equals growth! I think that perhaps water gardens need even more time than a vegetable garden. However the joy of all the extra creatures it will bring to your garden cannot be overestimated.

  18. I know someone who lives in very close proximity to me who would LOVE having a chance to plan a pond like this, Donna. Actually, she’d love to have space to plant whatever she wanted, too! I can imagine the thrill this has been for you!

  19. Our plants grow year round, so yes there’s maintenance and cutting back to keep up with. But frogs and dragonflies, and birds bathing make it all a delight!

    1. Your pond does not freeze over Diana so I can imagine the work all year. But the delight of watching critters far outweighs the work. I wish we could delight in critters year round.

  20. About time someone wrote about how high maintenance ponds are! I do miss mine, and hoep to have one again eventually, but they are work if you want them to look good and not allow them to be covered in pondweed. hard to beat them as a wildlife magnet though, and I love the plants you get to grow in and around them. Sounds like a good book, I bought about 5 when I was planning mine, and they all helped to some degree or another but it is amazing how few talk about dealing with overflow or ongoing maintenance!

    1. Glad you really liked the post…I remember your pond fondly Janet. This is one of the best water gardening books I have found as well and I read at least 5. Perhaps someday you will have another pond Janet. 🙂

  21. Sounds like a great book! When I was putting in my pond, I looked for a great pond book – they’re really very hard to find! Even though my pond is years old, I think I’ll put this book on my wish list, as I feel like I still don’t know everything there is to know about ponds. And even though ponds can be quite a bit of maintenance, I think water features take gardens to another level. Your pond really transformed your garden, and set the stage for a natural wildlife garden, didn’t it? It really is beautiful. Thanks for joining in, Donna. I look forward to reading about other garden books you recommend.

    1. You will find the book helpful Holley…I agree ponds and water features do change gardens for the better…and yes my pond was perfect for a natural habitat….I will miss your meme but will keep it going on my blog with books to recommend.

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