The sight and sound of water has always drawn the interest of people. Water adds an appealing element to a garden. Water gardens can include fountains, waterfalls, small ponds and elaborate combinations of rockwork and lighting. Basically, a water garden is just a pool of water that is home to plants and possibly fish and other water creatures. Natural ponds or large spaces are no longer needed for a water garden. They can consist of a concrete dish, half barrel, plastic tub or anything else that can hold water.
Perhaps the most important consideration in water gardening is to choose the right spot. Most aquatic plants and fish need plenty of sun, so a site that gets 6-8 hours of direct sun is best. Choose a site away from tall shrubs and trees for best light and to prevent the accumulation of leaf debris.
Plan your water garden using some basic principles. Consider the size of your property and the ability to maintain the water garden. Small ponds are best for small properties. A container on a deck may be all that is needed and add just the right feature for your space. Features like waterfalls, rockwork, lighting and fountains depend on your budget, style of your landscape, and purpose of the garden pond.
When choosing aquatic plants, keep in mind that the plants should cover no more than 50 - 60 percent of the water surface. There are many types to choose from. Some are free floating while others are marginals to submerged. Selection depends on the size of the pond and the kind of look you want. Water lilies can add drama and fragrance even in small tubs. Some plants provide oxygen and help keep the pool healthy. Fish can be a beneficial addition, because they are good scavangers, cleaning up debris. They also can help control mosquito larva, and other insects.
All garden pools regardless of size will need maintenance throughout the year. With proper planning you can ensure a healthy balance between living and decorative features of a water garden that can almost care for itself with simple maintenance inputs from you.
This online resource is sponsored by the Illinois Extension Office.