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Before creating a pond, we did have several water sources in our yard, including some dog dishes on the ground and a bird bath. These were a lure to birds and other wildlife, especially during our hot, dry summers. Having enjoyed back yard ponds when I was a kid, I wanted to have our own.
We began work on the pond garden in 1993. We decided on a preformed liner (shown above with a protective tarp covering it) that we bought at Home Depot. The standing water in the hole shows how poor the drainage is in our clay soil. We built up the area around the pond so that it wouldn't flood every time our yard did.
By the end of 1993, the pond was in the ground and the dirt built up around it as shown above. Although it started out level, it eventually settled a little lower at one end. Rocks that had been removed during the digging of the hole awaited their placement in the surrounding garden. The tree in the background is one of the fruitless mulberries.
We created a waterfall made out of a pile of rocks and run by a submerged electric pump. In the above photo taken around 1994, our dog inspects some of the workmanship. The border of the garden, as well as the pathways and seats were also made from our ample supply of stone. A few plants were purchased and planted, such as sedum and horsetails. Other plants were obtained during a trip to a local river. These included arrowroot, water hyacinths, elephant ears and water weeds like hydrilla. The pond received plenty of sun and the plants thrived.
The above photo shows the rock waterfall close up. The rocks are not secured in any way and plants tend to grow between them. The spaces within the waterfall are favorite haunts of toads, who also used the pond regularly for egg laying until the big pond was installed. When given a choice, they always prefer the bigger body of water. When tadpoles were present in this pond, they would get sucked into the pump, so I covered the intake with fine screening to prevent such accidents. The sound of the trickling water adds a delightful touch to our back yard gardens, making them sound cooler than the actual scorching temperatures we endure.
The above photo shows the pond garden well established, around 1995 or 1996. A combination of invasive plants like horsetail and native weeds was enjoying the recently disturbed soil and adequate sunshine. During this time, though, numerous young trees were growing in this garden.
The east tip of the pond garden is shown above, around 1994 or 1995. The afternoon shade in this end of the garden was provided by a large tree in the neighboring yard. We keep the small dish with a couple of rocks filled with water. It is a favorite with birds, who can practically empty it in one day of drinking and bathing. I regularly cleaned it out with the water pressure from the hose until I found dragonfly larvae living there. Since then, when I add water, I keep these small beasts in mind and don't attempt to wash everything out. They continue to thrive in the dish, along with quite a number of water loving plants that grow around the edge. When this picture was taken, plants were only growing around the outside of the dish, including a carrot plant on the right, primrose on the left, and boneset behind the dish.
The trees did grow quickly, in part because several of them extended roots over the lip of the pond right under the waterfall. During hot weather, they draw water at such a rate that it will go down several inches a day. The sun-loving plants have gradually died out, or remain as a much smaller portion of the flora. When the above photo was taken in 1999, it was just before the sumac in the near right corner died. It was also the last year that the horsetails did well and they have died out because of extremely hot weather, drought, and lack of sun. The garden today does not want for plants, though, and many species are still healthy.
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