||Water features and decking
There is no doubt that one of the greatest joys in a garden is water. You just have to sit by a pool and spend a few minutes watching fish, frogs and the other forms of aquatic wildlife to feel immediately that there is peace in the world. If you have a pond and you have installed a pump, you can also gain from the relaxing sight and sound of a trickling fountain or a cascade of water tumbling over well-placed stone.
Just because your garden is near to the sea, and maybe even with a view of the sea as a feature, there is no reason why you should not enhance your gardening pleasure – and views – with some sort of freshwater feature.
Ponds in the formal style of a circle, square, rectangle or oval are, perhaps, the simplest you could choose. Informal ponds, in irregular shapes, are better placed in natural-looking or wild gardens.
You do not need to limit yourself to ground-based ponds. Water features can be raised, and they can include wall fountains, barrel containers, rockery cascades and even contemporary jets that ‘spurt’ dramatically from one ‘reservoir’ to another.
It is not compulsory, obviously, to edge your pond with wooden decking – but it does seem somehow fitting if the garden is close to the sea, and fairly essential if you want to create a garden with a maritime theme. Traditionally the decking is in natural wood tones but, as can be seen in some of the pictures on these pages, owners of wooden decking can experiment with colours.
Decking creates a distinctive look in the garden and will make a refreshing change from ordinary paving. Narrow planks look best in a small or enclosed garden, but in a larger, more open area use a wider plank.
All timber used for decking should be thoroughly treated with a wood preservative. Some preservatives also come in a range of colours, including dark brown, black, grey, green, blue and various shades of red – but be careful if you choose the brighter colours, as you can easily ‘overdo’ it, with the result that the decking is gaudy and garish.
If you want your decking to have a long life, special pressure-treated timber is the best choice; however, the range of available colours is more limited. In some countries there are building codes and regulations that may have to be met. If in doubt, seek professional help with the design, even if you build and install it yourself.
Plan: Water and decking Garden
This small seaside garden (inset picture) was created specifically to include water, planting and a deck area for relaxation. Groins, so much a feature of traditional coastlines, have been emulated using treated railway sleepers placed on end. The planting needs to be fairly dense, to provide plenty of interest, so for this reason you should not choose vigorous subjects, or you will be forever pruning or thinning out.
C Table, chairs, parasol
F Sleeper groins
G Lobster pots
H Mixed low shrubs
I Large phormiums
J Colourful perennials
K Lobster pot
M Shrubby pine
N Mixed grasses
O Water flow pump
P Safety rope
Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina
Founded in 1931, Brookgreen Gardens are a spectacular part of South Carolina’s coastal community. To start with they are simply enormous; then there is the zoo, and the fact that it is the first public sculpture garden in the US. Plus it boasts more than 20 water features, fountains, ponds and lakes.
Situated south of Myrtle Beach and north of Georgetown (see page 188 for details), the land surrounding the gardens is a mix of forested swamps, salt marsh, sandy ridges and fresh tidal swamps. The gardens have effectively preserved the natural heritage of the area, yet at the same time manage to offer the visitor stunning display gardens.
Also known as the Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington Sculpture Garden, it was first laid out by Anna Hyatt Huntington in the shape of a spread-wing butterfly. On entering the Diana Garden, the breadth of this magnificent place is fully revealed. The Live Oak Allee garden is framed by massive 250-year-old live oak trees that were planted in the early 1700s when the space was a thriving rice plantation.
One of the most recent gardens is also the most whimsical. The Fountain of the Muses Garden (pictured below), designed to display the sculpture of the same name, takes garden design to another level.
Only ponds and sizeable water features with areas of still water can really accommodate plants, for it is generally accepted that plants need room to develop, and relatively still (not persistently splashing) water.
Floating plants include the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and water violet (Hottonia palustris). Duckweed (Lemna spp) and fairy moss (Azolla spp) are sometimes purposely introduced to a pond, but they can quickly form a carpet over the surface, blocking out light and debilitating submerged plants, fish and wildlife.
Then there are the flowering aquatic plants that grow in a depth of water. These include plants such as golden club (Orontium aquaticum), pickerel weed (Pontaderia cordata) and, of course, the many different forms of water lily. For lilies, consult a specialist to help you, as the range is so great and they do demand quite specific conditions.
Lastly, there are the marginal plants which grow in mud or containers at the edge of the pond. Familiar plants for this spot include the arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica), bog arum (Calla palustris) and cotton grass (Eriophorum angustifolium).
Keeping pond fish
Once you have a pond installed, and filled with tap water, the urge to put some decorative freshwater fish in it straight away can be enormous. Resist it! A new pond must settle down, even for as long as six weeks, before fish should be introduced.
Whatever species or variety of fish you choose, you should know just how many fish, and of what size, your pond can accommodate safely. Allow 24sq in (155cm2) of water surface area per 1in (2.5cm) length of fish – excluding the tail! Once the calculation has been made, reduce it by 25 per cent, to allow for the fish to grow.
When selecting fish at the shop, follow these six rules:
1. The fish should look lively and be alert.
2. The fins should be well extended, not collapsed.
3. The scales on its body should all be present and intact.
4. The eyes should be clear.
5. The colouring(s) should be vivid and clear, not dull or cloudy.
6. The swimming technique of the fish should be considered – the fish should not be floating or sinking, rolling or losing balance.