Site Selection for Water Gardens

In selecting the site for the garden, consider the plants that you intend to grow in the pond, the soils on the site, how level the grade of the site is, surface drainage of the site, the view of the pond site from the house, the overall fit of the pond in the existing landscape, and anticipated maintenance requirements.

General site selection requirements

A water garden should be located:

  • In full sun, or as much as is available.
  • At the most level site available.
  • Within easy access to water and electricity.
  • Where it can be appropriately viewed from the house.
  • Where the water can reflect the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

A water garden should not be located:

  • Where it is in a position to catch leaves falling from trees.
  • In a low spot in the yard where heavy rain could flood it.
  • Where soils are prone to saturation which could cause the liner to float.

Effect of plant selection on the location of the pond

If you want any flowering aquatic plants such as water lilies in your pond, these dictate the site be in full sun for optimum flowering. Some exceptions are such water lily cultivars as ‘Comanche’ and ‘Graziella’, which flower with as little as 3 hours of direct sunlight. For the best growth and establishment of all of your water garden plants, a minimum of 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day is recommended.

If none of these conditions can be met, then consider a quiet, cool bog garden. Far from a dark, dank, mosquito infested swamp, a properly designed and maintained bog garden can be a cool green retreat in a shady summer garden.

Effect of the existing soil and grade

For the best results and ease of construction, a site with a well drained surface and subsoil is best. A sandy loam textured soil will prevent soil saturation from floating the pond liner. If the area has good surface drainage there will be fewer problems with runoff of chemical pesticides and fertilizers into the pond from the surrounding land. The more level the site the less work in constructing the pond.

View of the pond from the house or decks

When deciding where to place the pond, consider the place from which you will most often view it. If this is a deck or patio, be sure that this view is not obstructed by hedges or other tall landscape features. Remember that the pond is in the ground and even tall grass or ground covers can completely obscure the view.

How the pond fits into the overall landscape

Once the exposure, soils, drainage, and views have been worked out, consider how the pond will fit into your existing landscape. Are there any tree roots nearby from shallow rooted plants such as elms (Ulmus spp.) and willows (Salix spp.), or trees that do not tolerate root disturbances like post oaks (Quercus stellata)? Will there be any trees close enough that leaves, fruit or twigs will present a maintenance problem? Are any of the trees walnuts (Juglans spp.)? These trees have a chemical in their roots that inhibits the growth of neighboring plants. Will the reflection of existing plant materials in the pond add to or diminish its overall appearance? Will the surrounding plants eventually grow large enough to shade the pond? Will construction of the pond necessitate construction of a fence? Will the pond cause problems in the overall pattern of surface and/or subsurface drainage?

Maintenance concerns

The site of the pond should facilitate its management. If the pond is sited too close for its size to a wall or other obstructions, this could cause a problem reaching all of the pond’s surface for cleaning and removal of dead leaves. If the pond is to contain tropical water lilies or other nonhardy plants, it is helpful to locate it close to the selected storage facility or close to a level hard path leading there. The site should have access to water sources for filling and “topping off” the pond and close electrical outlets if there are to be any lighting or filteration systems included in the design.

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