From what I am hearing, new ponds have been popping up (or should that be ‘popping down’?) in gardens all over the country during lockdown, which can only mean good things for garden wildlife. And one of the big questions when putting in a pond is always, “What should I plant?”
[If you don't yet have a pond, then the RSPB now stocks a pond liner kit in three different sizes, which comes with a simple guide for how to make it. Check it out here.]
So, I thought today we’d look at what’s hot and what’s not in the pond plant world at this point of the summer, so I headed straight out to my pond, camera in hand.
The real plant-of-the-moment is Water Mint. It only starts flowering as August arrives, and even thought the little pink pompon flowers aren’t dramatic individually, en masse they can create a pink haze around the edge of the pond. It grows to about 30cm (1 foot) tall, and spreads rapidly via horizontal runners.
However, what it also has to offer is that many of the leaves are red-tinted that look especially good with the sunlight behind them.
What’s more, it is simply brilliant for a wide range of pollinators, including various bees, hoverflies (below) and flies, and even some butterflies.
A plant that has been ‘giving’ for two months already and which continues to sparkle is the Purple Loosestrife. Its flowers are definitely more fuchsia pink than purple but it, too, is great for pollinators. I’ve found it to be especially good for some types of solitary bee.
It is a tall plant that can grow to 1.5m (5 feet) or more tall, but everything about it is rather slender so it doesn’t have great smothering leaves at its base. It could seem rather out of proportion in a small pond, but it can cope with its feet both in water and in rather damp rich soil, so you might want to try it alongside a small pond rather than in it.
Another plant that has been flowering non-stop for weeks, in fact even longer than the Purple Loosestrife, is Gypsywort. The whorls of flowers up the stem aren’t showstoppers, being small and whitish, but the leaf-shape with its neatly serrated edges is very attractive. It only grows to about 30cm (1 foot) tall and seeds itself around to create fine-looking stands.
It is also attractive foliage – and its reflections – that Marestail brings to the pond. Its scientific name is Hippuris vulgaris, not to be confused with Horsetail Equisetum arvense which is a pernicious weed of drier places. Marestail loves shallow water and creates what looks like a mini conifer forest poking up through the surface. Mine has its roots down in just a few centimetres of gravel on the bottom of the pond with no soil at all, which helps curtail its vigour.
If you have a large enough pond, you’ll have room for a water-lily, and my White Water-lily opened its first flower on 24 May and today is still going strong. It is such a glamorous flower that you’d be forgiven for thinking that it comes from somewhere rather exotic, but it is a true native. Plants that keep on flowering for that length of time are rare and treasured.
It is the issue of invasive non-native plants that needs to be on every gardener’s mind when planting up a pond. There are too many introduced pondplants that have made it into the wild and are now clogging our waterways, crowding out native wildlife and costing a small fortune to control.
To avoid this issue, it is best to buy any pond plants for a reputable dealer, only buy British natives, and resist the temptation to take plants from existing ponds. It only takes the tiniest shard of some invasive non-native such as Canadian Pondweed or New Zealand Pygmyweed to give you an ongoing headache.
Planting the right plants, and avoiding the dodgy ones, will give you a pond that is heaving with life.
This has been a really useful read. We're looking at creating a small pond early next year and we'll need all the help and advice we can get! Thank you.
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