Wednesday 10 June 2020

Winning with water (2)

Before we take another look at the thrills and spills of bringing water into the garden, pause for a moment and take a look at this rose. Isn't it beautiful?

It is not surprising that the rose remains the nation's favourite. Codger is so glad that he was persuaded to grow roses in the mixed border. They now form the main focus. The other flowers have to fit around them. He is still learning what works well and what does not look so good. For example, we have found that peonies need their own place. With some varieties, the form of the flower is similar to the rose and competes aesthetically if planted next door

Of course, this is a matter of taste. From a practical point of view the rose wins on what you might call the work/beauty ratio. There ought to be a name for this. With roses you get a great result with the minimum of effort. What you might call B4B - Bang for Bucks

Water lilies & B4B
Disappearing soil due to fish activity
As readers will have picked up, Codger also likes water lilies. I think this goes back to my youth. I remember encountering a small lake on a solitary walk. It was prolific with water lily flowers set off by a raft of lily pads. I quickly slipped into the water, swam out and picked one. It did not occur to me that the lake might belong to someone and be private property. I grew up thinking that, what we called 'nature', belonged to everyone. It's good to hear of readers becoming interested in trying to grow them

Rhizome with roots
In one way, water lilies score well on the B4B scale. They are wonderfully easy to propagate - as the illustrations show. Get 'em out, chop 'em up, put 'em back! That's fine with a small water feature. But if you go in the pond direction then, what you might call the cost of ownership, can be considerable. They are hard work. Rather like Mrs Beeton's "First catch your rabbit"! - First dig you pond!

So Codger has a little message today: water in the garden looks great, is great but it can be a whole heap of hard work (like two big skip loads) if you want the full works. Once you move beyond the simple water feature, you are quickly into serious construction and plumbing in pumps and filters. At least, that is our experience. I'll spare you all the gory details and just give you the highlights - or, should that be, lowlights?

Re-potting the root cutting - in clay soil (NOT compost!)
How we got started
Our two boys were at the fishing stage - and a younger version of Codger lacked the requisite patience for fishing. So, together, we dug a pond. This was in our previous house. I've just zoomed in, courtesy of Google, and see that it has been filled in - sad. But I understand why - it took up about a third of the garden area. Tiny ponds tend not to work. You need a critical mass in order to achieve the balance necessary to have clear water. Otherwise, you can end up with a stagnant breeding tank for mosquitoes - not good

Our Ghost Carp - all 36"!
Fish help
Fish add lots of interest. And they gobble up mosquito larvae. Problem solved! Not quite. If they breed - and mine do - they change the balance of the pond. Mainly for good but they naturally pollute the pond, there being no such thing as a fish lavatory to my knowledge

Enter the filter!
So, anyone venturing into the garden pond saga soon reaches the filter stage. A good filter is amazingly effective fulfilling exactly the same function as the large circular filters in sewerage works - but on a tiny domestic scale. The water is purified by bacterial action. Codger has messed with may different types over the years with varying degrees of success. The current set-up, shown here, works really well. It has a mechanism that permits cleaning in situ which is a great boon - you can see the handle. I do this at least once a week in the pond season. The gunge - basically, fish manure - accounts for the wonderful flavour of our renowned rhubarb. Beautiful!
The filter - replete with highly nutritious gunge  

If you have a filter, then you need a pump to circulate water through it. Being a penny-pinching improviser, Codger has tried every trick in the book. His advice? Cut your losses and buy a decent one. As far as I can tell, nearly all are now made in China - and despite different brand names most of those seem to emanate from one factory. A tip here: keep the purchase info and claim if they pack up. Good pumps are expensive to replace. One other thing about pumps and filters: you learn a lot about plumbing - and YouTube enthusiasts love to tell you about it (I think it must be therapy - the glint in the eye)

[Note: the photo above shows the filter not the pump. The pump is at the bottom of the pond, out of sight. However, you can see the flexible pipe that connects the two]

The planting gradually evolved over the years
This is the biggy. Black plastic is unsuitable - not made for the job. You need butyl - much dearer and guaranteed for 30 years (has anyone ever claimed - now where did I put that receipt?). But you need to know how to lay it properly. Again, the web to the rescue. The pond shown here - in our garden - is of concrete construction. A lot of work but, amazingly, not indestructible as I discovered when I introduced an invasive bulrush which chobbled the concrete where it was planted. Too painful a memory to relate here but really, a wonder of nature. Roots that can penetrate solid concrete!

Not easy to construct so it does not leak. Can you see the sparrow?
Looking back
Our pond is a great asset. What does Codger value most? The way it brings wildlife into the garden. Last week we spent 10 minutes watching a sparrowhawk bathing in the stream. The stream! Yes, my design incorporates a stream which the birds love more than the pond itself. It took several attempts to get it right but we would not be without it

Did you spot the sparrow by the stream?
Were I to start again would I have a pond? Yes, but I would probably go for a rectangular design with the edges softened by planting. And, I would construct it in rendered blockwork rather than, again, run the risks of poured concrete (all that shuttering bending and bowing!). I even can think of a way incorporating a stream in to the design. Now, that gives me an idea: Chelsea 2021, here I come!

Another offer
Well, that's enough of ponds for one blog - and, I've only told part of the story. But I've just thought of something that might help if you have already got a small pond or are thinking of doing something along the lines we set out on Monday

Codger has fish to spare. You are even welcome to come and catch your own! They are all young koi carp - and mostly one colour, a delicate shade of black. They tend to change colour as they grow - you might even end up with a goldfish! And we still have water lilies and Siberian irises available, if you are interested

You are welcome to get in touch
Best wishes from the old Garden Codger

You know what I said about wildlife ...

Here's the proof as of yesterday morning - which was a dull one but water brings in the bees and other insects

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