Saturday, 9 July 2016

Pond Life

In January this year, we dug a pond. You can see the lovely thing below.

 The idea was to make our backyard more enticing to wildlife. A pond is the way to go, apparently, if you're interested in doing that.
     We laboured over our hole in the ground for many a day. It was cold. It was muddy. It was unattractive.

Just to make it even more unattractive, we added a black plastic liner. I can't remember if this was the original which sprang a leak after a couple of weeks, or the later one which is still bravely holding water. We weighted the liner down with pots and bricks, to prevent it thrashing about in the frequent gales. In the picture above, it's frozen solid.

Here it is a little further along, still looking unlovely. We've covered some of the liner with earth, and added some plants at the further end. They came from my old pond in a pot (which also sprang a leak and will probably have a tree planted in it at some point.) The pond here is brimming full from the winter downpours. At the moment, it is brimming full from the summer downpours. A couple of weeks ago, the sunshine was so liquid, we had to bale the pond out for fear of flooding.

This picture was taken earlier this week. Those tall, pointed leaves in front of the blue periwinkle are yellow flags donated by Karen Bush aka Madwippit. They are excelling at the tall pointy green leaf bit, but have so far declined to flower. But the wild strawberries Karen gave me are flowering and fruiting. You can just see one of their white flowers above the potted rosemary in the foreground.

Here's one where you can actually see the water.

We were promised that if we did the work and made a pond, we would see more wild-life and the promise has been kept. I have seen more birds in the garden this year than in the past sixteen years I've lived here. Previously, they just flew over, even when I hung feeders out.

There is always a wood pigeon. Whatever kind of food is put out, Woodie is in there first. Here he is yearning after the niger seed which isn't intended for him. But we also have a little family of dunnocks, a wren, a robin, blackbirds, bluetits, great tits, starlings and house-sparrows.

A newcomer was spotted the other day: buff-coloured with marked white wing stripes and a darker head. It's suspected of being a chaffinch, but as yet, this is unconfirmed.

I've become very fond of the sparrows. They love the pond. They come down in a swirl, like falling leaves, and land around its edges, where they drink and bathe.

I'm very fond of this brute - 'Touch Me Not With Impunity' and it tells no lies. I was given this by my auntie, who had put on gauntlets and potted it up for me. It spent the winter lying flat in its pot. Then, one spring day, I noticed that all its spiky leaves had lifted themselves up and were pointing at the sky. So I put on armour and planted it against this wall. Since then, I swear it has grown an inch a week and, when the weather warmed up, a inch a day. It is now as tall as I am and you cannot get near it. In Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman there is a lance with a point so sharp that its end is invisible and it stabs you while you think it is still inches away. Old Touch Me Not is like that. Its flower buds look soft and velvety but touch one and you leap back across the path with your spiked fingers in your mouth. - But we hope that the seeds will attract more birds.

This is the 'wood' at the top of my garden. There is a dogwood, a crab apple, some towering ferns and lots of brambles. And foxgloves.

The marsh-marigold in the pond. There is a large bud on one of the water-lilies but it's taking an age to open.

I end with Woodie, getting stuck into whatever it was that was scattered on the step. He's the only bird who hangs around long enough to be photographed.

     The pond was worth the work. We've had more fun and interest out of it in these past months than almost anything else.


Joan Lennon said...

I love your garden!

Katherine Roberts said...

I have been thinking of replacing my old corner bath and burying it in the garden to make a pond... would that work, do you think?

Susan Price said...

Thanks, Joan. I love my garden more than I ever did. First thing, every day, I look out to see what's going on out there.

Kath, yes, for a wild-life pond. Anything that holds water will work. Ideally, a pond is 75cm deep at one point, to provide winter shelter for amphibians and insect larvae, but it doesn't have to be. Nobody went around measuring natural ponds, after all. They just form wherever conditions are right.

You'd need to provide ledges for shallower planting around the edges, but you can do that with upturned flower-pots or old kitchen pots you don't want - or anything that will make a ledge for a plant to grow on. A brick, for instance. Fill it with rain-water as much as possible - shouldn't be too much of a problem in this country. Then bung in a few oxygenators (water-lily, mare's tails, duck-weed.)

Make a shallower hole at the edge of your pond, line with a waterproof tarpaulin that you've bodged a few holes through with a garden fork, fill with sub-soil or aqua compost (because it's low-nutrient) and you've got a bog-garden. The wild-life will start piling in.

madwippitt said...

Looking fab, it really is ... and glad the flag and strawberries are thriving :-) If you want it, I have some aloe vera for your kitchen next time you visit ...

Kath, if you use a bath make sure there is some kind of ramp provided to enable wildlife to escape if it falls in - hedgehogs and birds etc As Sue says, you can use pots bricks etc

Sheila Hess said...

Oh, a good reminder, Madwippit! Yes, some kind of shingle beach (a heap of gravel) or big stones or anything to offer an escape.

Katherine Roberts said...

The bath has a ready-made ledge - I use it for prosecco and candles at the moment. Guess it would be a bit deep, though, so an escape route sounds good in case I fall in while rescuing the boy-next-door's football...

Penny Dolan said...

Love this pond and the story of the pond and the pictures and all the newly arriving wildlife. I've loved hearing about the adventure of creating it and am admiring all the effort needed. That first muddy hole looks very deep, so well dug to all hands involved.
HOWEVER please, please be wary of Mare's Tail!
If it is the same plant as the mare's tail we have in our garden, it is an invasive weed that gets just everywhere. It is possibly a plant that has survived from prehistoric times which tells you everything. I asked someone at RHS Harlow Carr Gardens how to get rid of it and was told "Move house!" I am not someone who minds weeds much but with this one, I just had to say. To all else, my good wishes.

Susan Price said...

Thanks, Penny. The pond is 80 cms deep at its deepest point which means that amphibians and aquatic insects could hibernate down there, safe from the worst of winter.
I checked, and the stuff in my pond is mare's tail but I'm not sure it's the same as your 'mare. Mine's an oxygenating plant that grows underwater and absorbs nitrates. You buy a bundle with a weight attached and just chuck it in. It grows until its green whorls poke above the water's surface. It IS pretty invasive, but when it grows too much, you just hoik a few handfuls out and throw it on the compost. I don't think this variety can grow out of the water, but I might be wrong. I shall have to check. And maybe not throw it on my compost if it turns out to be one you have to move house to escape.

Susan Price said...

Just checked, and the plants are different. Mares-tail is an aquatic plant, though it can sometimes be found in very marshy soil.
Horse-tail, which is sometimes called Mares-Tail is the nightmare of which you speak, Penny. The roots go 7 feet deep! And every time you pull one up and break a root, more grows from the break. As your man said: move house.

Penny Dolan said...

I am so relieved for you, and that there's a difference between Marestail and the devilish Horsetail. (Couldn't bear to give you all those horrible details in one go.) Unfortunately, we can't move - but there are worse things in life than prehistorically cursed greenery.

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