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Water is a substance that calls to all of us, and its importance in the garden is understandable, since water appeals to all of our senses. In many specialty gardens, water plays a very large role. For example, in Chinese gardens, the yin is water, and a garden without water is said to have no eyes. Even in small contemporary gardens, there is a place for water features.
New types of pool liners are coming out every day, and advances in fiberglass, plastic, concrete and natural bottom pools make the options greater. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of pool liner, and the choice must be made based on your individual site and needs. If you decide to use concrete for your pool construction, be sure to let it leach before actually planting and adding fish. Concrete may contain toxic chemicals that will harm or kill the fish or other critters around your pond.
The site chosen should incorporate as many of these properties as possible: a level area, lots of sun, distance from tall trees, and the possibility of electricity nearby. You need a level area to avoid runoff from the grounds surrounding your new pond. A lot of sun is necessary to keep the plants and animals happy. Locate the area away from tall trees which drop possibly toxic leaves into the water. Electricity nearby is good in case you want to add a fountain or other moving water accessories. Also, in choosing your site, consult your local building codes to ensure you are within the law. Laws vary tremendously about pools, ponds, and lakes, so be aware of them.
The first thing to do is decide how much room you have to plant. If you only have a whisky barrel, then you need to consider something that isn't going to grow overly large. However, if you have constructed a half-acre lake, then you can think a big larger. There are three types of plants that can be considered water plants. Aquatic types (example, water lilies) have roots that are either growing in the pond floor or are potted and placed in the pool, with leaves above the surface. Submerged types (example Elodea) are also firmly rooted, but their stems and leaves are beneath the surface. Floating types (example, fairy moss), like the name implies, float along the surface, not attached to the floor at all, with stems and leaves above the surface.
There are many good books that have details about particular plants that are very helpful in making plant decisions. Remember when planning your water feature, that you need to include plants that live along the edges as well as plants that live in the water for your feature to look like it belongs in the landscape. Ideally you want a pool where the foliage will only cover 2/3rds of the water surface. This is an important part of deciding how many plants to place in your pool.
The Creative Water Gardener by Andrew Wilson, Ward Lock Books, London, 1995.
For Your Garden, Water Gardens by Carol Spier, Michael Friedman Publishing, Inc., New York, 1993.
The Water Garden by Anthony Paul & Yvonne Rees, Viking Penguin, Inc., Canada, 1986.
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